Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon Recap

Hey-O! Guess who has four thumbs and didn’t die this weekend?

Finishers! (With free bananas. Because we are always about the food.)

These girls!

We may have precariously placed bananas, but WE ARE NOT DEAD. WOOT!
I wanted to tell you all about it yesterday, but my schedule was very full with laying on the couch, taking bubble baths and napping. I’m sure you understand.

Race Day

So Sunday morning started very early and with a very large helping of Pepto Bismol. We don’t even usually keep things like Pepto Bismol on hand, but I had a brilliant moment of clarity that morning and remembered that my mom had given Garrett a gag-gift basket for his 30th birthday full of “Old People Things” like Preparation H and other sundry items. Included: GENERIC PINK BISMUTH. Score. I’m pretty sure it was from The Dollar Store and probably expired. But whatever! I pounded that nastiness like Lindsay Lohan shoots Patron. It was amazing. Nerves, man.

We headed out to the course, stopping for coconut water and coffee (Yep, I had me some half-decaf on race day. I NEEDED IT DAMNIT!) parked the car, donned our bibs and then lined up behind about 1000 other people for the porta potties where we may have had the same conversation over and over right up until the race started.
Shit's gettin' real. (Cc: @homesweetsarah )

It went something like this:



And so on and so forth.


Most of the people around us seemed pretty calm and stretchy in their spandex though. There were even lots of people in costume — like these jail birds and their warden, who apparently were going to run the entire race chained together like it was no big deal.

I didn’t want to be chained to anyone, I was just ready to get this freaking race started because I needed a place to channel all that nervous energy.

And then all of a sudden we were off!

The Course

The course started off so great! We traipsed through the darling streets of downtown Folsom, towards Lake Natoma and down a bunch of small hills. I think at mile 2 I even shouted out “Downhill Forever!” I smartened up though and realized that for every hill I was going down, there would be one I’d have to truck right back up. This will at least give you an idea of the ups and downs of the course.

Man, there were so many! It really kept things interesting while running but since Sarah and I did not run any hills at all while we trained it definitely felt a little different. Around mile 5 I began to get a little nervous because my legs were feeling a little more fatigued than usual with all the ups and downs (DUH) and I still had more than half the race to go. Also, because there were so many downhills I was still running faster than my planned pace.


Hmmm…pacing, let’s talk about that for a minute. So obviously I only had loose pacing goals since my main goal was just to finish. I was hoping to average a 13:30 minute per mile pace throughout the entire race, which would yield a 3 hour finish time. Yes, I know there are Kenyans who run marathons faster than that, but WHATEVER.

I knew my limits and despite that fact that I am comfortably running miles between 10 and 11 minutes right now, 13 miles in a row is a whole different story. And I hadn’t done ANY sort of training beforehand regarding pace so I just picked 13 as my arbitrary number and went with it. At mile 5 I was averaging just about 12 minutes per mile, which was sort of worrisome, but with all of those down hills it wasn’t that surprising. But my little leggies were starting to feel tired. Wait, my leggies aren’t little. Anyway, at that point I just wanted to keep going.

The First Real Killer

Right before Mile 7 though came the first killer hill. It looks so tiny on the elevation map but OHMYGOD I just about died when I saw it (for locals, it is that stretch of Hazel Avenue right by the Aquatic Center. Hmmm…when you are driving up it, it doesn’t seem that steep. ha!) This was the first time I had to walk, and boy were my legs happy to do just that. I had been telling myself “Just Don’t Stop To Walk” over and over because I was afraid of losing momentum, but this hill was just going to be a little too much, so I took the time to engage some different muscles and walk up that thing. Glad I did, because I ended up being REEEEEAL tired later on.

The Summit

At the summit (and the 7 mile marker) I started barreling down the hill so happy to not be going up anymore. But then I suddenly had the sad realization that running on tired legs DOWNHILL isn’t all that much more pleasant than running uphill. Tired legs are tired legs. Pace-wise this is where the race really slowed down for me. And at one point I was really hoofing it and feeling like I was working really hard and I was pacing behind a senior citizen who was SPEED WALKING. Ohmygod, mentally I almost lost it right there when I couldn’t pass the the grandpa with the walking stick, but I kept on trucking.

Luckily this was also where the race got pretty scenic and serene. It was the back side of Lake Natoma and with lots of shady trail areas so it was somewhat enjoyable, if only for the view. This is the thing that I have learned to appreciate most about running — the scenic places that it takes you that you may otherwise never go. There were a lot of those moments during this race where, despite being tired I felt really glad that I was getting to experience this gorgeous place that I live. But even good scenery couldn’t distract me from how slow I felt and how hard I was working for every step.


At the 9 mile marker I stopped to chug a Gu, stretch my hips and look at my cell phone. I had texts from Garrett and my Mom cheering me on and that helped me get a bit of my mental focus back and pick up my feet.


Aren’t they the cutest? My mom’s *may* have made me feel a little weepy for a minute. But it also helped me get a little bit of my fire back! (Or at least what fire I had left!)

Miles 10 and 11 though were a total blur. Everything hurt, all I could think about was crossing the finish line, and I started daydreaming about buying the biggest bottle Gatorade available. I’m not even kidding you, I was having IMPURE THOUGHTS about Gatorade when I hit the 11 mile marker. Luckily there was an aid station at 11.5, so I chugged a little bit of the Gu Electrolyte Beverage that they were shilling and it tasted like Dom Perignon. But then it was back to the grind.

When I got to Mile 12 I started really having doubts about finishing. In hindsight that was so dumb, of course I would finish I only had one mile to go, but in the moment all I could think about was that the last mile was completely uphill and just thinking about that was crushing mentally. The brain ALWAYS gives out before the body does. I began to walk and just feel really bummed and defeated. This is also for sure where my (already slowing) pace really crapped out. But then I came around the corner and saw the last bridge that we would be crossing, and it was a pretty one.

I picked up my feet, shuffled across that bridge, did a hybrid of walking and running when the winding hills to the finish line got hard and then finally spotted Sarah at the top of a big incline. She was wearing her finisher’s medal and I could see the finish line and so I harnessed up every ounce of energy I had in me and crossed it — and it felt amazing!!!!!

Official Time: 3:12:02

I didn’t break any records or anything (My average pace ended up being around 14:39) but you guys I’m just so happy to have finished. It’s a start! And it can only get better from here!

Thoughts for Next Time

(Wait…Next time? My Mom and Garrett just dropped dead over the fact that I’m saying there is going to be a next time. HA!)

I ran this half marathon as an exercise to see if I could, really. I wasn’t sure I could go for 13 miles, I didn’t really put a lot of effort into training aside from my regular CrossFit routine and a few long runs, and hey — I finished. Check Plus!

But in the past couple of weeks, and especially during the race, all I could think about it is what I could possibly do if I had tried a little harder to work on speed, or running hills, or if I really gave some energy to learning to pace myself consistently. This was a challenge that was a lot of fun to tackle, but I feel like the process of this race has helped me learn so much more about myself and my running skills and it makes me excited to do better.

So of course I HAVE to do it again. I mean, right????

But I’m taking the rest of the year off. Not thinking about any crazy events, not doing any major training, just enjoying the fact that I accomplished a big deal goal that I wasn’t sure I could do. I’m proud of that and I definitely took a minute to appreciate that after the race on Sunday. I also took a minute to appreciate this when I was done running:

I would like to tell you I came home and ate a delicious salad or some healthy dinner, but I MAWED a Chipotle Burrito and it may have been the best one I’ve ever had. And then…I slept like the dead! It was a restful sleep free of anxiety dreams and running worries and it was a great way to finish off the weekend. Thanks for all of your kind thoughts and tweets and encouragement throughout the entire process you all. I literally wouldn’t have made it across the finish line without you!

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47 comments to Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon Recap

  • Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan
    October 30, 2012 at 9:48 am

    CONGRATULATIONS, SUPERSTAR! Loved reading your recap. And guess what?! When Dave and I did our first marathon, we ate giant burritos afterward and took monster naps, too.

    Hugs from Austin!

  • Cami Sebern
    October 30, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Very, very proud of you. You are a hero to so many and I know this story will inspire folks to do something hard and finish strong!!


  • Amy
    October 30, 2012 at 9:54 am

    This is so inspiring! I totally want to sign up for a half and hopefully not break my foot before this one. Lol. I’m so proud of you!

  • Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie
    October 30, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Congrats! This is such a huge deal – I’m so proud of you!!! I completely bailed after signing up for my first half marathon. On race day. So ya, you did awesome just showing up!!! :)

    • Holly
      October 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

      Sometimes that is the hardest part. I definitely wanted to bail SO MANY TIMES that morning. Knowing I had to blog about it kept me going. Seriously.

  • Jesabes
    October 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Awesome job! Just looking at that last mile on the elevation map is brutal.

  • Kristabella
    October 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I’m so proud of you! That is an AMAZING FEAT! Stop worrying about time and pace. You ran 13.1 miles! AWESOME! And with all those hills? I can’t even imagine! ROCK STAR!

    • Holly
      October 30, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Thanks! And you’re right. I actually went back and deleted my “UGH” comment because you know…that’s kind of a dick thing to say and why the hell am I saying that. I finished. The end. HOORAY. Thanks for the support, lady!

  • Cara
    October 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Dude! So amazing! Enjoy your “being normal” time now, you certainly earned it.

  • Jill
    October 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

    AWESOME job Holly!!! I loved reading your recap, though your mom’s text may have just made me cry at work. :) Congrats!!!

  • Susie
    October 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Your momma’s text made ME cry. Way to go, Holly!

  • K
    October 30, 2012 at 10:46 am

    So amazing! I hope you are proud of yourself and feel a lot of accomplishment for pushing through and finishing. That is HUGE.

    And those texts made me a bit weepy.

    • Holly
      October 30, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Aw, thanks! Me too. Luckily it was just me and the Senior Citizen Speed Walker and I don’t think he could see me tearing up. :)

  • Lisa
    October 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

    You KICK ASS. Don’t ‘ugh’ that time!

    Your mom’s text made me a little weepy. Then I laughed about your impure Gatorade thoughts.

    • Holly
      October 30, 2012 at 11:22 am

      So I totally went back and deleted the “Ugh” because you are totally right — that’s kind of a dick thing to say and not at all how I feel about the whole experience. So hooray for 14 minute miles. Do you know the saddest part? I didn’t even GET a gatorade afterward. I may have to get one this week just because.

  • Kate
    October 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Congratulations, Holly! I’m so happy for you! That last uphill mile must have been TOUGH (just the elevation chart would scare me for sure), but you did it!! Now that you know you can conquer 13.1 miles, you can set your next goal to conquer running hills, or setting a new PR — this is why running can be so addictive :)

    • Holly
      October 30, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Oh something just really clicked for me over the last few weeks and I feel the addiction. Something about the metrics and the mental focus and the creativity in training methods just has me really intrigued. I can’t wait to run again just for fun.

  • Elizabeth
    October 30, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Congrats on completing the race! And I’m also really excited that while you are talking about doing it again, you are going to wait until after the new year, you deserve a break! :)

  • Elizabeth
    October 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Oh my lord, I sobbed like a baby when I got to your mom’s text.
    Congratulations, lady, you did it! So proud! Yeah!

    • Holly
      October 30, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Thanks Elizabeth! My mom always knows how to give a good pep talk.

      I think we should mark 2013 as the year of the Dipsea…what do ya think????

  • Elizabeth
    October 30, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Ha ha ha you are insane.

  • Erica
    October 30, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I like this story even better because it ends with a burrito.

  • Carol
    October 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Congratulations – awesome accomplishment! I’m not a natural runner at all and signing up for runs/races is one of the only ways I seem to motivate myself. I loved your recap!

  • Becky "MisoB"
    October 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I love the part about the geriatric speedwalker!! I ran (ok, slowly jogged) the NY Marathon a few years ago and all I could think of was to beat Larry the Lighthouse. A man in a WOODEN Lighthouse doing the marathon. Gotta beat Larry. Can’t let Larry get too far ahead…Larry was my mantra!

  • Bre
    October 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Awesome! Congrats!! You will def find yourself wanting to do another and then another! Maybe even a full one day. 😉 I know I got the bug and ended up doing it. Again, great job and welcome to the half club!

  • Kristin
    October 31, 2012 at 4:33 am

    You are just awesome. Seriously! I just finished the couch to 5k program–never in a million years thought I would be a runner–and you are inspiring me to keep up with it. I am very impressed with how you challenge yourself. You deserved that burrito for sure!

    • Holly
      November 1, 2012 at 8:29 am

      Hooray for finishing Couch to 5k. That got me started running a while back and I think it’s so awesome and helpful. Also: 5k is a really empowering distance to be able to run. Once you get comfortable doing that, everything sort of seems possible. In fact, the entire time I was running the half I just kept thinking “Hey this is only 4 5ks, and I love a 5k, so the more the merrier!” (I mean, that is ridiculous, but mentally it kind of worked for me!)

  • Megan @ Mama Bub
    October 31, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I kind of want a burrito right now, but I would rather not run a half marathon to earn one.

    Your mom’s text made me cry. How sweet she is.

  • Snipperette
    October 31, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Hey Holly! I am so happy for you! What an amazing accomplishment! I just committed to running my first half marathon this April, and let me tell you – I’m scared to death! I’ve never been much of a runner, but was a competitive cross-country skier a decade ago. Your journey has been so inspiring to me to get my life (body) back! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    • Holly
      November 1, 2012 at 8:27 am

      You will totally rock it! I think if you just put in some miles beforehand, enjoy the good runs, and learn from the bad ones (because OH, there WILL be bad ones) you will do great. It is so so mental! You can do it!!!

  • Maureen
    October 31, 2012 at 10:57 am

    What a wonderful accomplishment-big congratulations! You are kind of like my role model, got into Paleo after reading your posts, and now we are on Day 10 of Whole30 because of you. I think my husband might live in fear of what you post next :)
    The half marathon is one thing I don’t think he has to worry about, but seriously what a great achievement!

  • Rose-Anne
    October 31, 2012 at 11:29 am

    CONGRATULATIONS! I was looking forward to hearing how the race went for you. The first time is so magical…no, not THAT first time. Your first long-distance race! Get your mind out of the gutter.

    Ditto what Kate said. I love that running has that effect on people–setting bigger goals, more serious training, dreaming bigger dreams. Running literally makes life feel bigger. That’s why it’s so powerful.

    I’m so happy for you. You should be just bursting with pride because YOU DID IT. You did it! Hurray! Bring on the burritos!

  • Emily
    November 1, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Feeling guilty now because I totally mawed a burrito from Chipotle yesterday, yet did NOT run 13.1 miles beforehand to deserve it… CONGRATULATIONS!! I still just cannot imagine running that many miles in a row. You should be so proud to count yourself among the relatively few that can. Awesome job and so inspiring.

  • mellissa@ibreatheimhungry
    November 1, 2012 at 5:58 am

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. Great post! I laughed, I cried (almost), etc, etc. I miss running, it’s been years and I never had the guts to tackle a half marathon – you go girl! And it’s awesome that you have such a great support system! I’m inspired, maybe I’ll finally buy some new shoes and get back out there!

    • Holly
      November 1, 2012 at 8:17 am

      I find new shoes (and new clothes!) always get me inspired to try new workouts. :) Shopping spree, perhaps?

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed
    November 6, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Congrats! My first (and only?) half had a giant hill at the very end. Thankfully I trained on a lot of hills because the park right near my house has some HUGE ones but during the race it felt like a cruel joke!

    Chipotle is the BEST 😀 Congrats again, you rock!





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