First off, thanks for the nice comments on Tuesday’s post. There may be lots of problems with the internet, but it also gives the opportunity to connect. A lot of people both here and on facebook made me feel less alone and more ready to walk back into school tomorrow, where students who think nothing of calling me on a bad hair day are sure to mention my missing teeth. So thank you.
It shouldn’t have been bad. I mean, I ran a half marathon in October (two, if you count the 13 mile training run on the trails), a 30K in November, just 2 miles shy of a marathon at the end of December, and an 11-miler two weeks ago. All but that first half marathon were on trails. With all those races, you’d think I would line up at Saturday’s Frozen Feet half marathon in some of my best running shape. And you’d be wrong.
The problem, as always, is my inconsistency and poor attention span. January has featured a lot more biking than running. In fact, the half marathon was my fourth run of any kind this month; up until Saturday, I’d run a grand total of 19 miles in 2014. I guess that’s why I was so weirdly nervous that morning…all of a sudden, 13.1 miles seemed like a really long way to run.
One awesome feature of the race was that you got to wait for the start (and recover after your finish) inside a school. Though we had a respite from our recent ridiculously cold temps (low 40′s instead of single digits), it still wasn’t really a day you’d want to stand around outside. My Virtus teammates Robby and Adam were there, along with Adam’s girlfriend and son who’d come to cheer us on (and maybe also to hang out with Adam for his birthday weekend). Mickey and my long-time running friend Doug were there as well as several other friends, so I had a nice time hanging out pre-race.
The race was almost entirely on trails, all but around 1 mile of which were paved, so we were spread out in waves leaving every three minutes. My wave, the seventh, left at 8:18. We started way slower than I wanted to run, so I skirted around the people in front of me along with one other girl and headed down the sidewalk. Much of the race was held on familiar territory, and I smiled as we hit the trail and I recognized the spot where volunteers had been set up to send us across the road during the Castlewood 8-Hour.
|We came from the far left, made a right for a short out-and-back, then followed the river until we looped back, turned right for another out-and-back, then headed back to the start.|
The nature of the course, with its three out-and-backs, meant you got to see (and cheer for!) other racers a lot. This was good news for me, because talking to other people is a great distraction. It also gave me a chance to keep tabs on my competition teammate Adam, who’d started in the wave behind me and who I really didn’t want passing me after I’d had a three minute head start.
I felt pretty good for the first four miles and steadily picked off runners in front of me. I hadn’t been on the second out-and-back long when I saw the leaders coming towards me, so I started counting so I could let Mickey know where he stood (14th, though that didn’t take into account the fact that many of the people in front of him had started one wave earlier). It went something like “Looking strong!!…[under my breath]…9…way to go!!…[to myself]…10…”
I had known the hill was coming. At first it wasn’t that bad, just a steady, though relatively slight incline. I slowed down, of course, but I kept running…and running…and running. The paved trail was slightly icy, particularly on the many bridges along the way, so I never completely trusted my footing. I noticed the letter H on a signpost, then a G on a bridge, so I clung to those letters as indicators of just how much longer I’d have to run uphill.
The hill gets steeper towards the top, but I’d seen letter C on a bridge and had hope that I was almost there. The next bridge was unsigned, but it had to be B, right? And then the next one was unsigned as all, but I had hopes that was A and I was almost finished. I rounded a curve and was very sad to see the B sign still ahead of me. I really wanted to walk, but I keep being told that the way to become better at running hills is to actually run them, so I followed directions like a good girl and ran the whole way to the top. My pace for the last mile of the hill, my slowest of the whole race, was 10:48, and I’m pretty OK with that.
At the top of the hill, you had to circle a parking lot past a water station. Someone there cheered “Hey, SuperKate!” At the time I was too deep in still feeling miserable to see who it was, but they definitely gave me a lift as I headed back towards the trail. I’d expected that two mile downhill to be glorious and speedy, but it wasn’t so great. My legs hurt, my feet hurt, my knee hurt…the one thing that didn’t hurt, weirdly, was the hip that had been aching all morning before the race. Gravity helped me hit the high 8′s again, but looking at my watch and doing the math on the remainder of the race told me that another sub-2 half was in serious doubt.
My pace flattened out along with the hill, and I really struggled to keep pushing on the flat trail, even knowing that only two miles were left. Still, sub-2 was in reach if I could just hold 9-minute miles. If. Mile 12 was too slow, and mile 13 turned us directly into a crazy headwind. The wind forecast was in the 20-25 mph range, and I believe it. It was the kind of wind where you looked down to make sure your feet were actually moving. How bad was it? My pace for the last mile, with the finish line in sight, was slower than every other mile except for the second half of the uphill.
|Photo credit: Andrea Boianoff|
|Don’t I look happy?
Photo credit: Michelle
Running the race was one thing, but Michelle, Andrew, and Andrea, who’d come to watch their boyfriend/dad/husband (respectively) all stuck around outside in that cold wind to get pictures of the rest of us too. Very cool. Big thanks to them. It’s always nice to have someone at the end of the race for you, even if it’s someone else’s someone. :)
|Telling Michelle “That was really tough!”
Photo credit: Andrea
Though I was a little disappointed in my finish time, I was thrilled that my stomach, which usually hates me after a hard effort, was quiet. I’m not sure what the difference was from my last two halves, but it was a very nice change. We hung around inside for a while, eating the yummy post-race pizza and talking, then we met up with Bob and Cara for a more substantial breakfast. And then that evening I had more pizza at my nephew’s 9th birthday party. Hmmm…maybe all that eating is why I woke up two pounds heavier the next day?
I’d definitely do this race again. A $35 half that includes a nice, heavy hoodie, and indoor pre/post-race, and a pretty route? Add in quick results and great food afterwards, and that’s a win for sure…even with the nasty wind at the end.
Chip time: 2:01:39