Half-marathon #3 COMPLETE! I am happy to be able to type that sentence, because during last weekend’s Frederick Half Marathon, as the race progressed I grew more and more certain that finishing might just be the end of me. Let me take a few steps back for you…
November, December, January, February – I consistently trained 70+ miles a month. I didn’t let anything get in the way of my mission – and my joy – of running FAST and FAR in preparation for race season. March was my Princess Half Marathon in Disney, where I missed my goal time by 1 minute, but walked away with a PR (personal record) of 2:01, which is pretty respectable for a newbie runner. (I know, I am recapping. Bear with me.) I took it easy for a couple of weeks, mostly using ‘recovery’ as an excuse for laziness. But then work got busy. Not busy, but SUPER DUPER CRAZY busy. I think I got TWO free Southwest round trip tickets between mid March and the end of April. Seriously. And I did what I swore I wouldn’t do. I let running take a back seat.
So fast forward to early April. I get in a few good runs. I run a great 10K (Clyde’s) and set a PR of 9:00 miles. Then I rest for a couple of days and… nothing. I do not run one step for more than two weeks. I eat, drink, travel, stress, sleep poorly and yearn to run. But I don’t run.
So it’s Saturday, May 1st. I head to Frederick, Maryland with my sister-in-law and my daughter for race weekend. We spend Saturday strolling around Frederick, which is a beautiful and quaint, yet artsy city that I could absolutely live in. We head over to VOLT restaurant (if you watch Top Chef, it’s Bryan Voltano’s restaurant) and have a heavenly meal that I won’t soon forget. Oh, and he was there too – stood right beside us for about 3 minutes while I swooned like a teenage girl… but I digress.
We swim in the hotel pool, we have a late pizza dinner and we hit the sack early for a 4:30 wake up call. Nothing odd here, right? So we rise, ready for the race. Head to the Frederick Fairgrounds and my cheerleaders give me hugs and kisses and say all the right things. I line up for the 6:30 start in the 9:00 pace group. I am READY!
Gun. Go. Temperature is about 79 degrees at the start. Humidity 80%. 6,000 runners. Two lane road.
Do you know what 6,000 amped up runners do on a two lane road at the start of the race? FIGHT for position. Elbow, kick, sprint ahead, jump curbs, zig and zag. And by ‘amped up runners’ I mean me. I tore it up. I probably ran a 7 minute mile that first mile, just trying to get in front of all those people who were ‘pacing’ themselves. What a dummy.
Mile 2. That beautiful ‘halo’ I described in my post about the Disney half presents itself again – only this time, instead of looking like a golden halo, each runner in my line of sight has their own personal humidity cloud overhead. We are packed together so tight that I feel like I am breathing hundreds of other people’s exhales rather than actual air.
Miles 3, 4 and 5. We spread out. Finally the air is about 85 degrees instead of the 95 degrees from the first two mile because of the body heat of others around me.
Mile 6. Gas tank is suddenly on empty. I mean, when they say ‘hit a wall’ I hit a concrete, steel reinforced, brick faced wall . It was the oddest thing. I literally couldn’t keep going for a few minutes. I did the ‘mind over matter’ thing – SUCK IT UP I screamed in my head. But the mind couldn’t conquer the body – I had to walk (OH MY GOD!) I hung my head in shame until I realized that I couldn’t catch my breath with my chin on my chest. I wanted to cry.
Mile 7 – my golden mile. I ran it. I started to feel better. My time was 1:00:00 – 8:34 minute miles. Holy crap.
Around mile 9 I literally couldn’t keep going. I had to walk. I was sweating so much I could ring out my shirt. My face was throbbing and (I am sure) red as a cherry. I drank tons of water and PowerAde but I couldn’t seem to get enough gas back in the tank to run but for about a half mile at a time. When I hit mile 12, I put on the jets and I KNEW I could run that last 1.1 miles. Wrong. So wrong.
And the last mile was uphill! The sun was beating down! There were snakes on the road (really)! Oh, whatever. I just didn’t have it in me. I walked about 1/3 of that last mile. But I managed to run the finish and my daughter got to see me cross the finish line RUNNING. There were moments that I thought she might see me carried over that finish line on a stretcher.
So I was humbled by this race. I really thought that I could NOT train, could eat crap and drink right up to the race and let my prior training carry me through. Naive. And so wrong.
Final time was 2:17:32. 10:29 minute miles. A far cry from the sub-two-hour goal or the 9:00 miles from early April. But a learning experience, and in all, an accomplishment to have finished half marathon #3.
Lessons learned: training is paramount. Mental strength is equally as powerful as strong legs. Humidity is draining. But most importantly, don’t be ‘that ass’ who sprints the first couple of miles, or you could be ‘that ass’ that everyone runs by later in the race as you walk your way to the finish.
Run like a girl, but pace yourself.