Recap: Utrecht Half Marathon Thoughts

I wrote a post earlier this week but have decided to try again in another way, at least giving my impressions for anyone who may be interested to do this in the future.

But I’m going to be honest, it wasn’t the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I didn’t feel “amazing” at the end. I did it, yes, and I’m proud that I did, but I didn’t have an experience that will propel you into signing up immediately after reading this post.

Leading up to the Half, I knew I wasn’t fully prepared; I hadn’t done all of my runs as my training indicated I should do and my head has been playing games with me for weeks now, so mentally I also wasn’t ready. I figured I would just keep going – I’d done 16KM a few times and figured it’s “just 5 more”, surely I could do it if I could do 16? My last 16KM training, which included walking, I did in 1:50, I figured I could do the half in 2:30. I was so wrong.

The weather was against me actually. It had been very hot for at least a week leading up to the event. I had to go out and buy new running clothes because I pretty much only had winter gear, long pants, that sort of thing. I also bought a belt to put my phone and iPod in, and that held two 20oz bottles of water. I should mention I am not a fan of carrying anything on a run and, regardless of function I really hate those water belts in general. I had taken Tara’s advise a while back to carry water with me and it seemed to help with the headaches to keep hydrated (I mention Tara, but actually several people said it was dehydration that was giving me the headaches; Tara showed me a type of bottle she carries and I bought something similar). With the temperatures as they were, I knew I would need to have water with me, hence the belt.

I prepared for the race like I normally do. Lots of water a few days before. Carb-loading. On the morning of the race I had my big bowl of oatmeal and packed a raisin bun with peanut butter and banana for later. I also had a Luna Bar with me (I stocked up on these while I was in the States) and a PowerBar that I’d bought the day before the race when I went to pick up my race packet.

This race was in Utrecht, only 35 minutes by train (as opposed to the races I normally do in the North, more than 1 hour drive/train) but I wanted to be early just to try and relax and get into the spirit. Hubs and my friend Melissa were there with me to support. We actually arrived at around 12:15 but I wasn’t due to start until 2pm. We sat in the “party area” and watched the Marathoners running on the big screen. I drank more water, ate my PowerBar, did some warming up and tried to get my head in a good place.

After several trips to the toilet “to be sure”, it was time for me to say so-long to M and Hubs and line up for the race. There were no corrals which kind of confused me. I think I made it towards the start at about 3 minutes past 2 o’clock. And… we were off.

Just after starting I felt so incredibly thirsty. This happened to me at the last race too and I put it down to nerves. I was surprised at how quickly we’d reached 3 kilometers, right before the first bridge we had to cross.

I felt really good then, my legs felt great, my head was calm but I was thirsty. I didn’t want to start drinking too soon as I had no idea if there were toilets along the course (turns out there weren’t) and I didn’t want to have to go before I’d reached the half way point.

It was incredibly hot out. I don’t know where the first water station was, but it was a welcome treat to have a drink. At this point we were out of Utrecht and in De Meern (I think) where the locals were out cheering and spraying us down with water hoses. I was so happy to see these people. In fact all along the way people were supporting us to keep us cool.

I must have been around the 8KM mark when I walked a minute or two. Here’s where I took a drink of my own bottled water (which was enhanced with some powder that replenished electrolytes). I picked it up again and about 1KM later is where I saw the first casualty – a guy laying on the ground surrounded by First Responders.

Just over halfway I walked again a few minutes. My feet were hurting, my whole body was overheating, I had to just cool down a bit. I sent a message to M and Hubs that I made it more than half but they were actually tracking me on Endomondo so they already knew. We were about to approach another bridge, I walked up that and started running again going downhill.

Around the 16 mark I was starting to feel very lightheaded. I think I had basically used every ounce of fuel I had in my body at that point and was completely empty. From 16 to the end it was a series of walking and running. At one point around 19 a group of maybe 10 people saw me and started cheering for me (I was walking then) “Come on Renée! You can do it! It’s not far now! Pick it up!” I found this very motivating and gave me the boost I needed so I started running again and they all cheered! Was a very nice feeling!

Sadly I could not carry on running the last 2 kilometers. I just continued to walk/run. Around 150m from the finish I decided I had to run across the line and not walk. So I put everything I had back into my legs and went for it. At 50m I saw my husband and M and somehow had the strength to smile and wave.

Crossing the line was actually the weirdest moment of the race. The woman ahead of me decided to run over the line with her very small child and they were taking up a huge amount of space that I couldn’t seem to get through. I had to actually slow down to cross the line! Plus my “finish” photo is basically her and her kid and my trying to get around them. This really pissed me off to be honest.

So. That’s it. I did it. I crossed the line. I got my medal and I felt like complete and utter shit. I found Hubs and M, I got a beer, dug around for my sandwich, but it was too late. I was so empty and feeling so bad that I threw up all that stuff anyway on the train ride home. I honestly don’t feel great about it. I don’t know that I’ll do it again.

Things I learned:
1) You have to train. Don’t be stupid and not train. If you don’t have time to train then don’t do a half-marathon
2) You have to eat more. You need to eat enough fuel that will keep you going throughout the race. And, if you want to do gels and stuff during the race, test them out before a race so you are sure you won’t get sick (I wanted to try some gels but ended up not and was advised NOT to do this during a race. Not everyone reacts to gels well)
3) Look up the course beforehand. No toilets along the way is kind of unacceptable.
4) “Just 5 more Kilometers” is bullshit. It was like trying to cross the frickin Sahara. You can play tricks with your mind and try to motivate yourself into something but be realistic.

I wanted to finish at 2:30. I finished at 2:41. I know that I finished and that’s great, but I’m kind of embarrassed about the time. If I do another Half (ever) it’s not going to be in spring or summer. I would much rather run in cooler temperatures.

I didn’t want to make a negative post about it, this is just my honest feeling about the whole thing. Acceptance is also about admitting things maybe aren’t the best for you – I think my weight holds me back too. For now I will probably stick to 10 – 16KM races. I know I can do these, I feel good at the end, accomplished, proud. I felt nothing like that at the end of this race, just sick, disappointed and like I wanted to keel over.

10 thoughts on “Recap: Utrecht Half Marathon Thoughts

  1. First of all: be proud! I know I am proud of you. You finished this half marathon from hell and I didn’t! You didn’t give up and that’s something to be very proud of.

    I was thirsty right from the start too and it scared me because I didn’t want to drink all my own supplies knowing I still had to go 20K so I didn’t drink: big mistake!

    The first water post was after 5K, I know because I kept checking my Garmin if I already had reached 5K and could drink, had to wait a bit longer.

    I never got to use my gels LOL

    I’m going to try again but not before October because like you I won’t be doing any races in Summer anymore. The heat is not my friend, it isn’t when I’m sitting down and do nothing so it’s definitely not when I’m running.

    Again be proud of what you’ve accomplished! 3700 signed up, only 2100 finished and you were one of them!

  2. Fran I have been thinking about you so much. On the one hand I feel really bad that I am complaining about the race because you are right, I did finish it and I should really be proud of myself. On the other hand it was pretty miserable. I know how you felt and I really don’t know what the difference between you and me was as far as finishing goes. There were several moments where I had to push through and think about other things to get me to the next mark. I walked so much and I’m really mad at myself for that. You were so much more prepared than I and I feel like you deserved finishing more than I did. I should probably stop analysing and feeling bad about things, it’s done, nothing we can do about it now right? Only moving forward.

    I thought the first water station was around 5KM. I was so happy to see it. I too was really afraid I’d use up my water supplies too soon. I was so sick at the end though. My two water bottles only made up about a half a litre, definitely not enough.

    I’m doing a few races, but nothing more than a 10K before the dam-to-dam. I know now what my limitations are, no sense in pushing it at this point, you know?

    Thanks for your comment, I do appreciate it. Maybe I just need a wee bit more time to feel good about the accomplishment.

  3. No bathrooms? That’s NUTS! I would have keeled over just from that. I felt the same way on my little 5k race. I don’t feel I was prepared properly and in the end, it really wasn’t fun. I just felt wasted. I’m working right now to accept my limitations so I can ENJOY my running. It actually sounds like you did a great job at your loooong race (that’s so cool!) but when you don’t do it in the way you personally wanted to, it’s disappointing. Still, it impresses me so much that you took on a race this long. I’m working to admire people’s accomplishments while really considering…do I want to do that or do I feel I SHOULD want to do that? How long is the Dam to Dam race and when is it?

    1. Katie, thanks for commenting. I have to be honest, this feeling of disappointment hasn’t left me yet. I’m not in a very good place now for more than 2 weeks and it just sucks. I’m still having a hard time acknowledging my accomplishments. Well, a little more time maybe? Maybe I got wrapped up in what everyone else was doing and wanted to do it too, even though it wasn’t meant to be like that. It’s good to actually think about these things BEFORE you jump into something you are not ready for. Lesson learned.

      The Dam to Dam is 16K and it’s in September. I did it last year and really enjoyed it. I know I can do it, that makes a huge difference I think!!

  4. You finished! You finished! I know you were disappointed but you FINISHED!! I am proud of you!! I know you said you were nervous about it.

    I KNOW training is key. TRUST ME on that one.

    BUT YOU FINISHED!!!!!!!!!

    Damn. No bathrooms? WTF?

    1. Sarah! Training is so important!!! Who knew just how much right??? and I know, no toilets!! That was pretty awful especially since all guidelines tell you to DRINK AS MUCH WATER AS POSSIBLE before and during the race. What should I do then, just pee down my leg??? ha!

  5. Way to be for finishing though! I can kind of relate to what you’re saying though. I have had runner’s high on shorter runs than my longest (a 14km with Fallon last year). Sometimes you just don’t get into that zone, I guess.

  6. Wow. First off, I thought I had left a comment on this WEEKS ago! Seriously.

    I’m glad you were honest with us here. I don’t imagine everyone will have a good experience with things like this, and it is refreshing to hear the other side of the story, as it were.

    That said, I do still look forward to doing a half of my own one day. I will, however, be keeping your advice in mind. :)

    1. Thanks Elisha! I hope you still will do a half and I will totally support you. I honestly only wish a good experience for everyone!!

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