Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chicago Marathon 2012

The alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m.  I'm in the Allerton Hotel right in the middle of Chicago's Magnificent Mile.  It's still dark, and I'm not ready to get up yet, but the day is not going to wait for me.  Who am I kidding? I wasn't really sleeping that well in the first place between race nerves and sirens on the streets below.  I reach over, grab my phone off the nightstand and check the weather.  Forecasts have been predicting around 38 degrees at race start time.  A little cool, but it will be great for what we have to do today.  Hmmm...the current weather says 44 degrees.  Is that right?  Warmer than expected, but it sounds PERFECT to me!

What doesn't seem perfect is my readiness for this day.  Three weeks ago, following my 18 mile run, I would have said I was ready.  Even though we had a shortened training schedule due to Shane's injuries (plantar fasciitis), several summer trips, lots of weddings and other events that kept us behind schedule, I felt wonderful after the 18.  I felt like I could have done another eight that day--easy.  One week later, during the 20 mile run, it was a whole different story. 

Shane and I at the Chicago Marathon Expo
On the 20 mile run, an ache started at the back of my knee around mile five.  I thought I could run through it, but by mile seven, I had to stop running.  In my two years of running, I have never had to stop.  The pain had spread from my knee up to my glutes and hip flexors and down to my shins.  I think I adjusted my running form to compensate for the knee pain and maybe caused some damage.  Not good.  I turned around at 7.3, and walked a defeated 7.3 back to the car as Shane and Rick (also training for Chicago) ran on.  A few times I tried running on my way back, but the pain stopped me immediately.  This was a huge set back for me physically and mentally.  With only two weeks left until Chicago, I would not have a chance to make up this run.  My confidence took a huge blow.

Fearing that I did some real damage, I iced/ibuprofened daily and laid off the running for four days.  I had three more runs planned before Chicago.  During those runs, I felt my knee pain.  It wasn't bad enough to stop running, and it came and went away during the runs.  So, I determined I would be able to run Chicago.  How well and for how long, I'm not sure.  Originally, I had hoped to follow a 4:10 pace group, but that was no longer possible in my mind.  My worst case scenario is if I have to walk it in, I would do so, and hold my head high for finishing.  I hated that I was thinking worse case scenario, but I had to be realistic.  I got KT Tape two days before the race with hopes it would help stabilize my knee.

Back to marathon morning.  We decided we would ride the bus the 1.5 miles down Michigan Avenue to the race location.  We get outside, and there are so many people walking to the starting line.  Starting to walk toward the race location seems to make more sense than sitting at a bus stop waiting.  So we walk.  Thankfully, it isn't freezing cold.  I am wearing extra layers that I will pitch off along the race course.  We chat with a girl from our hotel all the way to the race location.  This is her third marathon.  She has also ran in San Franscisco and the Disney Marathon. 

We find Rick and Jordan almost right away at the designated meeting place.  We head to the porta-potties one last time, and then find our way to Corral J.  Shane was supposed to be in Corral G--he had a higher finishing time predicted back when we registered.  The first lady doesn't allow him in even though he is going BACK two corrals.  So, he walks to the other side of the corral and they let him right by.  He was worried for a minute. 

This is it, we're here--the Chicago Marathon--in our starting corral, packed in like sardines.  We wait through some announcements and then they move the 2nd wave corrals up to the starting line.  We walk forward toward the starting line for what seems like several minutes.  With the race moments from starting, it's time to lose the sweatpants.  It's weird to just drop them on the ground.  There's so many piles of pitched clothing on the ground though, so I add to the top of one pile.  I am keeping the fleece jacket for a while.  It's still pretty chilly out.  I down my 5-Hour Energy drink and some sport beans.  Breakfast of champions, right? This will get me through for a while today.  Then it's time....after a walk up to the starting line, we start running.

The sheer number of people running, packed in around us, is crazy!  Ahead of us and behind, there are people as far as I can see.  Forty-five thousand registered.  We are going slower than planned.  None of us are feeling at the top of our running game though.  We've all had aches and pains and missed training runs recently.  In the first five miles, we walk through a couple of the water stops as planned.  I'm getting warmed up, so I take off my fleece.  I'm not ready to ditch it just yet.  It seems to get cold when we are between the buildings, so I tie it around my waist. 

We pass a little girl at the side of the road, maybe 7 or 8 years old, who sees her daddy run by. She starts jumping, clapping and screaming, "Go Daddy!". I think of Jocelyn and nearly start crying. It seriously takes me a couple minutes to get it under control.  Damn race day emotions!

We lose Jordan and Rick at one of the water stations.  I think they are behind us, but a few miles later we see them up ahead of us.  They skipped over one of the stops, but we catch them at the next one.  Generally, I feel pretty decent for the first six miles.  We are running slow though.  We still have 20 miles left to go.  That's some real perspective for you.

Chicago Marathon post at 10K:  At 9:14:15 am, Tammy Bumgarner (39577), 10K, Elapsed Time: 01:04:48, Pace: 10:26.

It's a perfect temperature outside for running. I can't believe how wonderful the day turned out to be. The last couple of years it has been hot on race day for Chicago.  People have died of heat strokes and heat related issues.  I guess I'm ready to lose the fleece for good.  I feel so weird about pitching it to the side of the road, but I do it anyways.  Bye fleece!

Around mile nine, a couple of guys in the group need to stop for the bathroom, so we stop as a group.  I don't have to go yet, but I don't want to run on by myself, nor to I want to be the only person who needs to stop and pee later.  I force myself.  We stop on one side of the street and the line is pretty long.  A volunteer points out that there are more on the other side of the street with a shorter line.  Crossing the street during the Chicago Marathon is quite an accomplishment in itself.  I kind of jumped in and joined the flow as I "froggered" to the other side.  The porta-potty is absolutely disgusting.  I can't imagine how many people have used it, and I don't want to know.  I get in and out as fast as possible.  Off we go again.

Somewhere around mile 10, my left hip starts aching.  At first, it's a slight and dull ache, but it works itself up to a decent sharp pain with each foot fall.  The pain lets up and comes back again.  Then various different pains are popping up in places including in my arches of my feet and a slight one in my knee.  I push on, hoping and praying the pain eases up and moves on.

Chicago Marathon post at 13.1:  At 10:30:24 am, Tammy Bumgarner (39577), HALF, Elapsed Time: 02:20:57, Pace: 11:03.

At this point, I find it ridiculous just how bad I feel physically.  Mentally, I'm not doing that well either considering there's still half a race to go.  I take a self-assessment, and I feel worse right now than at the end of any of the four half marathons I've completed at a much faster pace.  Well, maybe not Moab--that one was rough!  It's easy to forget how hard something was when you are not in the moment.  My legs feel like heavy stumps, and I'm worried about my aches and pains.  Our pace per mile has slowed even more.  I'm sure the bathroom break played a role in that, but generally, I think we are moving slower.

As we approach a block in a tree-lined residential area, I see the runners ahead of us waving to the side of the road.  It strikes me as very strange because there's no one standing there. When we get to the block, I see it's a nursing home and the 2nd floor windows are lined with elderly people all smiling and waving at us. I wave back. It reminds me of the book Water for Elephants. It makes me happy and I smile.  I almost tear up again....damn race emotions!

My memories of the rest of the race comes in chunks, so I'll have to recall it in the same way.  I'm amazed at how much my brain is already shutting out.  I was trying to remember funny signs along the road.  I can recall about three now.  I'm sure these memories are not in the order they occurred, but really, does it matter?  I don't think so.
  • Someone is passing out Twizzlers on the side of the side of the road!  Oh, that is so awesome!  My favorite candy EVER!!  I wish I took more than one though.
  • I'm worried about my hip pain coming and going, but I'm glad my knee is holding up fairly well.  I think the KT Tape makes a big difference.
  • I'm getting SO sick of Gatorade.  I don't think I will drink yellow Gatorade ever again.  After the halfway point, I only take water.  The thought of Gatorade makes me want to hurl.
  • Around mile 18, I'm struggling terribly with heavy legs so I put on music.  It totally revives me!
  • We finally see Rick and Jordan's family in the crowd.  I have no idea where this was, but I think it was right before Chinatown.
  • We are all struggling in one way or another.  However, when someone tells the rest of us we can go on ahead, with unspoken words, we decide that we are going to finish together.  No matter what.  Even if three of us have to carry the other across the finish line.  I volunteer to be carried, but no one takes me up on it.  Jerks.
  • We are being passed by the 4:40 pace group. We need to keep moving!
  • We are breaking the race down into two mile chunks.  We'll take a one minute walk break for each two miles we do.
  • That idea was short-lived.  Two miles is too long.  We feel like crap, and we're falling apart.  Breaking the race down to one mile chunks with walk breaks now.
  • A sign at 24 miles says, "Feel free to PUNCH anyone who yells 'You're almost there!'"  There are several times I think about punching people.
  • I really appreciate this crowd in Chicago.  They are so supportive of the runners.  Amazing.
  • At mile 25, we hope to run the race out to the finish line.  Each time we walk, it's harder to get started again.  I just want to run this out.
As we near mile 26, Shane's legs cramp up.  You can see the pain in his face.  I try to distract him from it, but it doesn't work.  He has to stop.  We walk.  We're so close to the finish!  Moments later, Shane is able to get going again. We turn the final corner and run four-wide across the finish line with our hands in the air. 

We are done!!  I'm not sure I've ever felt so much relief at a finish line. 

Chicago Marathon Post:  At 1:09:43 pm, Tammy Bumgarner (39577), FINISHED, Elapsed Time: 05:00:16, Pace: 12:54.

Really?!  We missed under five hours by 16 seconds?!  Ugh.

We celebrate with hugs all around.  We are happy to be done, and glad to finish side-by-side.  I wouldn't have had it any other way today.  I wish we all could have felt better, but that wasn't in the cards for this one.  We walk through the finisher's area wrapped in mylar, collect our medals, post-race snacks and slowly walk toward the exit area.  I feel like we are walking in a post-apocalyptic world.  It's all very surreal.  None of us feels like stopping for the free beer. 

While I'm glad that I was able to finish a marathon, and I always said I was training to finish, I thought "finishing" meant under 4:30.  I know it sounds petty, especially to someone who has never completed a marathon, but I can't help it!  I had expectations (originally 4:10 finish time), and those expectations were not met.  Not even close, really.  I hate that I feel this way.  I should be happy, but I'm left feeling unsatisfied.

We don't hang out long.  Rick and Jordan find their family, and Rick's wife, Becky, snaps a picture for us as we sit near the curb at Michigan Avenue.  We need to get back to our hotel.  The public transportation is running behind or non-existant.  After 15+ minutes of being passed by full taxis and watching the estimated arrival time of the bus keep growing, we decide to start walking. 

Eventually, we would walk the whole 1.5 miles back to our hotel.  It ended up being an interesting experience though.  We talk with other runners walking in the crowds.  We have several people pass us on the street offering their congratulations and smiles.  This is seriously the friendliest environment that I've ever experienced in Chicago.  Everywhere you look, there are people in mylar wraps with medals around their necks surrounded by people supporting them.  It's kind of an amazing thing to be a part of.

I do not regret the Chicago Marathon.  While it has left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, that just means I need to eventually do another one of these.  I know that I will pick something a little smaller.  While the support from the crowds won't be as big, I think that will be okay with me.  Sometimes just getting lost in my thoughts in a run is a good thing.  The next one, I will train for a long time and train properly.  I will also do a marathon in the spring so I don't have to give up summer races for training runs and kill myself on 90+ degree days requiring a long run.  I just don't have the flexibility in my life to always get up and run before the sun comes up. 

I am reminded again that the experiences I have with friends and loved ones last a lifetime and are much more important than great race times and PRs.  I need to keep my focus here.  I just completed 26.2 freaking miles through the streets of Chicago powered by my own strength and endurance (more like 30 miles if you count the walks to and from the hotel).  I am proud of that. 

I don't know how long this link will last, but here are my marathon photos:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Neglected!! And a marathon??

My blog has been so neglected and I feel bad about it.  I know that I love going back reading and reliving experiences I've had along this running journey.  I even enjoy writing them.  It just seem like I can't find time for a lot of things anymore.  So, what's going on with me. 

(1)  I've run about five races that I need to catch up and write about. 

(2)  I got 2nd in my age group in two of them!  Crazy!

(3)  I signed up for the Chicago Marathon!! 

Yep, that's right.  I'm going to try a full marathon!

Okay, so between my day job, my three part time jobs (Realtor, photographer and director of a non-profit organization), and my other full time jobs of wife and mother, I decided to throw training for a marathon in there--after I was done training for the triathlon. 

No wonder I don't have a minute of my day unscheduled.  Without my Google calendar, I wouldn't know if I was coming or going.  I'll slow down in a little while, but for now, I'm going to get this done.  No, I don't fit everything in.  Yes, my home is in total disarray.  But I'm good right now.  Just get to and through to October 7th without injuring myself or losing my daughter by leaving her somewhere, and I'll call it a success!

My goals for Chicago are unclear at this point.  I might jump in on the 4:10 pace group.  While I'd love to break the four hour mark, I don't want to kill myself to do it.  I want to enjoy the experience.  I'll let you know how that works out for me pretty soon.  It's in six and a half weeks, and coming at me at full steam.  I've still never ran more than 13.1.  This weekend's long run should get me over that for the first time ever. 

Wish me luck folks!  I'm gonna need it!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Another Triathlon?? Stoneman 2012

So last year, if you read my first triathlon experience, you'll know I got worked over, but vowed to try it again, and hopefully do better.  With that in mind, I started working on swimming after joining the YMCA in December 2011.  While I loved swimming as a kid, swimming laps seems to frustrate me a little.  It's tiring, I don't ever seem to do better, and I have a tendency to want to give up on things I don't excel at.  The perfectionist in me wants to focus energy into things I'm good at--not this flailing around in a pool trying to get to the other side while not drowning.  Silly, really.

But I keep at it because I had to try this thing again.  I worked on swimming, got a new bike since last year, and the running will always be my saving grace.  As spring approached, most things were getting neglected except the running.  I was training for half marathons, so finding time to bike was ridiculous.  I found myself swimming one lunch hour per week when I felt like it.  It was hard.  I couldn't really go more than 50 yards without running out of steam.  How was I going to do a 500 yard open water swim? 

Eventually, I worked myself up to about 700 yards and tried to not rest very long in between 50 yard intervals.  I would try to go 75 or 100 yards without stopping at times, but it was just so hard.  When I got really tired, I would switch over to breast stroke, which I felt like I could go forever.  A week before the triathlon, I knew I could definitely do breast stroke for 500 yards.  It may not be pretty, and it may not be fast, but it would get the job done!

The days leading up to the tri, I was a nervous mess.  Last year I could proceed blissfully unaware of what was in store for me.  This year--not so much.  That swim was one of the hardest, scariest things I have done in my life.  I don't know if I'm ready.

It is the morning of the race, and I am just nervous.  Everything is laid out and planned out, so I am able to get to the race location without problems.  Since I experienced this all last year, I wasn't as freaked out about getting there and getting set up in the transition area.  We watch the Iron Abe competitors start and a few of them come in before they call our waves to get ready.  Oh, the butterflies!

I am with Sarah, someone I met recently.  Her husband is a musician as well and knows Shane.  We also did a portrait shoot for her kids a couple months back.  This is her first triathlon, and she is pretty nervous as well.  I try to tell her she will do fine, she can rest if she gets tired just like I did last year.  She has never done an open water swim before, and it can be very intimidating.  We head down the boat ramp into the water.  I am waiting for the others to get out ahead of me just like I did last year.  Sarah and I hang back.  It's time to go, they start our wave.

With a rush of adrenaline and splashing water, we are off!  I start immediately with my breast stroke as I planned.  I am suprised how comfortable I am with it.  It is another story for Sarah.  The panic I felt last year, I remember it so well, got the best of her.  It can be clausterphobic.  She tells me she can't do it.  I see fear in her eyes.  I suggest she roll over and float so she can catch her breath, she is still struggling though.  Panic has set in, and I'm not sure if she will be able to calm herself.  I ask her if she wants me to call for help.  She says yes.  I lift my hand out of the water and wave to course support about 30 yards away on a jet ski.  He sees me, and I point over to Sarah and wave for him to come here.  He starts moving towards us.  I tell Sarah he's coming, and that she will be just fine.  I feel guilty for moving on, but I can't stay here and tread water forever.  Our wave has gained considerable ground on me, not that I'm racing them.  I begin moving forward again.

I am going slow and steady and before I know it I reach the turn around buoy.  I'm not wiped out physically or mentally like I was this time last year.  I even caught up and passed a couple people from my wave.  It's a little boost of confidence that needed.  The wave that started three minutes behind me, Shane's wave, is also catching up to me.  This is okay though, they caught up with me last year before I even reached the halfway mark.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.  This year, I don't see Shane when he passes me, but I'm pretty sure he did.

I am about 3/4ths the way done, and I hear someone on a surf board ask if I'm okay.  I'm moving along steadily, so I'm wondering if she's asking someone behind me.  I keep swimming.  She asks again.  I look around really quick and ask, "Who?  Me?"  And she says yes.  I tell her I am fine, and keep swimming.  It makes me wonder if I look like I'm struggling since I'm doing a breast stroke.  Who knows? 

I've got the dock in my sights.  I have no problems with veering off course this year since I can see where I'm going with each breath I take.  I stay to the outside of the course though to let the faster swimmers get by me.  I don't want to mess anyone else up.  I get to the dock and climb out of the water.

Swim results:  18:02.5 - Not fast AT ALL, but I took nearly three minutes off my last year's time.  I'm also not completely wiped out going into the rest of the race!

Wow!  What a difference!  Last year at this time, I couldn't breathe and felt like death warmed over!  This year, I am feeling pretty decent as I run to the transition area.  It seems like there's more bikes left than there was last year when I came out of the water.  Generally, I'm feeling good!

I wore the shorts over my swimsuit during the swim, so it's one less thing I have to worry about this year.  I put on my shirt, socks and shoes.  I grab my bike and go!

Transition 1:  02:03.0.  I take 43 seconds off my last year's time. I'm guessing that's how long it would take me to put on shorts while I'm wet.

I head off on my bike.  I feel much better about biking this year.  It helps that I'm familiar with the bike instead of riding it for the first time.  Instead of forgetting to start my GPS for the first mile like last year, this year, I just forget to turn it on altogether!  So the first mile is a lot of the GPS trying to find satellites.  Grrrr!  Eventually it kicks on as I get on East Lake Drive.  I look at my average speed, and it's consistently over 17 mph, which is very good for me.  I even have miles at 18 and 19 mph.  I'm thrilled!  Maybe I'm finally getting this biking thing.

We hit the hill on New City Road, and I'm still doing okay.  I pass some slower bikers and occasionally get passed by someone faster.  I'm still feeling quite a bit better than last year.  I see Shane heading back the other way.  I'm not as far behind him as I was last year. 

I make the turn around at mile 6, and head back down the hill.  I turn back onto Pawnee Road and it hits me like a ton of bricks....the headwind.  Uphill and into a headwind.  No wonder I was flying through the first half!  Here I was thinking how amazing I was doing, not realizing the wind was pushing me along.  It's crazy how much it can affect you.  I'm pushing hard and barely keeping it over 15 mph now. 

For the last mile, I remember Shane saying to shift into a lower gear and spin faster to get your legs ready to transition to the faster turnover during the run.  I do it, hoping it will work.  Push, push, push....all the way back to transition. 

Bike results:  45:04.4.  I took just over three minutes off my last year's time.  Yay!

I head into transition feeling a little wobbly, but good.  I get to the bike rack and it's kind of collapsed.  Definitely leaning.  My bike won't fit under the rack.  I don't know what to do.  I start stuggling to get it to stand up anyway possible.  One of the volunteers comes over and tells me to go ahead, and they'll take care of it.  I take off my helmet and start running.

Transition 2:  01:05.6.  This was 15 seconds more than last year due to bike struggle!

I take off and I'm anticipating the concrete stumps for legs, but surprisingly, I feel decent.  That's weird.  While I am certainly not speeding down this road, I feel much better than last year, keeping a consistent pace just over nine minute miles.  How I feel at this moment, I don't think I'll need to walk this year.  Last year, my legs were begging me to walk from the first second. 

I'm not sure how far into the run I am when I see Shane heading back the other direction. He looks like he's doing okay, but he just might be in a bit of pain from the tendonitis he's been battling lately.  I keep heading toward the halfway turn-around point.  I have passed a couple of runners, and some of the Iron Abe runners have flown by me. 

Since we all have our ages written on the back of our calves, it's kind of funny how that changes your thought processes when you get passed by someone.  When you get passed by someone 10 to 20 years older than you, it can be a little humbling.  I stick right behind a 40-something woman running around my pace. 

The day is getting hot, and I'm really starting to run out of steam.  Good thing I've got just over a mile left.  I grab some water on the way back.  I quickly walk through and drink some while my 40-something pacer is getting ahead of me.  I throw the cup down and slowly catch back up with her.  I turn the corner to head back towards the lake bridge.  The final stretch.  Somehow I feel like I can go a little faster and give just a bit more.  I pass my 40-something pacer. 

I cross the bridge, and I'm almost to the finish.  My GPS rings out that three miles are done.  My third mile is 10 seconds faster than my previous two.  I really stretch out my stride on the final tenth of a mile and I'm pacing around 7:30 for the final hurrah.  Somehow I can always pull something out when I see that finish line!

5K results:  28:52.7.  I took a full three minutes off my last year's running time as well.

I am so thrilled with how I feel at this moment, I can't even explain.  Not only do I feel so much better than last year, I know I enjoyed it so much more. 

Overall Results:  01:35:08.2. 

That's more than NINE minutes off my last year's time!  Is that an amazing overall finish time?  No.  Do I care?  No!  This triathlon thing is so different than running for me.  It is a much harder test of mental and physical endurance.  I don't want to underplay how tough running is, but it comes so much easier to me than swimming or biking.  I'm sure I'll continue to do sprint triathlons.  I have absolutely no desire to do a longer version.  As long as I'm training right and pushing myself to be stronger, every finish will be one that I can be proud of.  I'm happy with this.  Glowing, really.

As a side note, Sarah didn't finish the swim, but she finished the rest of the triathlon.  She could have taken the easy way out and just called it a total loss, but instead, she got on that bike and went 12 miles and then ran the the 5K.  That's what it's all about!  Do as much as you can do, but don't ever give up! 

I will probably see you again this same time next year.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll take another nine minutes off my time.  =)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

What can I say?  This just sounded FUN!!  Mud, obstacles, trail running--sign me up!  The bad part was that we had to drive nearly three hours to get there, but TOTALLY worth it, and I would go back and do it again.

A friend of mine doing the Couch to 5k signed up for this with her co-workers.  The wave she was starting in was already sold out, so I decided if I could find someone to go with, I'd start in a later wave.  I put the call out on Facebook, and viola!  A plan to run with Tara and Susan came together.  I knew Tara from the DailyMile website, and we had met once to do speedwork at the track. Susan is a friend of Tara's.

That day, as we are driving up to the farm in Channahon, Illinois that hosts the event, we catch glimpses of warriors on the course.  They are running through wooded areas in packs like wolves.  I seriously can't wait to get out there!  I'm a little nervous because I don't know what to expect, but I'm pretty sure it will be fun.  We get parked, pick up our race packets (including Viking helmet with horns), and headed back to the car to start getting ready.  There was a couple parked next to us who just got done, and we asked them for some tips.  They also gave us some of their leftover water jugs for rinsing off later. 

The race itself is not so much a race as a challenge.  It starts with a trail run around some fields.  We went maybe a mile before hitting the first obstacle.  We cross wood planks over ditches, slide down muddy waterfalls into a pit of mud, slide down mud slick hills, climb over wrecked cars, wooden walls and more!  The final half mile has a huge rope wall to climb, fire to leap over, and a mud pit covered with barbed wire.  While ducking under barbed wire, I accidentally stuck my face in the muddy water.  Good thing my mouth was closed!

We stick together for the whole experience, and it is such fun.  I completed all the obstacles, but it kind of left me wanting more.  There was a long wait at each one which made our overall time pretty high, around 51 minutes for a 5K.  I wouldn't mind trying this one again, getting to the front of our wave so you can race through the obstacles without standing in line for them.  I'm curious what my time would be.  I wouldn't mind trying a Tough Mudder too.  That looks fun also! 

Some pictures right when we finished.  Very dirty!

Here we are after we are a little cleaned up.  GO WARRIORS!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Passavant 10K - 2012

Shane is still injured and not running regularly.  I'm doing okay running by myself on my lunch hours, but it was still so much better and consistent when he was running too.  I'm also running slower with no one to push me.  The Passavant 10K in Jacksonville is coming up soon.  The race junky that I've become has decided to sign up for it.  It's a flat course, and I'm ready for a new 10K PR.  My time at Abe's Amble last year was okay, but I know I can beat it now. 

The Tuesday before the race (I hadn't registered yet), I was doing some short intervals in our cross-training class at the YMCA.  Stupid, competitive me, I was keeping up with the guys with sprints the whole way.  This severely wore me down.  The final interval, one of the guys says, "Hey, let's go all out."  Sigh.  Could I say no?  I think not.  Ready, set, go, and we race about 200 yards in an all out sprint.  I tried to keep up with him, but he was so fast.  I didn't lag too far behind, but I could'nt have caught up if my life depended on it.  When I stopped running, I really felt the pain.  I pulled something.  Bad.  Butt muscle.  Gluteous.  Whatever.  It was killing me!  The worst part was I was I still had to jog back to work from here which is about a mile away.

After some extreme Googling, it looks like I have piriformis syndrome.  Crap!  I was looking forward to running the Passavant race, and now it seems like a lost cause.  I'm hoping this is temporary. 

I do a lot of resting and icing over the next couple of days, and on the deadline for online registration, I decide I should be healed well enough by Saturday.  It's still hurting of course, but I'm taking a chance that with two more days of healing that I'll be okay.

Friday, I'm feeling somewhat back to normal.  My pain in the butt is nearly gone, but slightly lingering below the surface.  I'm not sure how an 8:00 pace is going to go. 

Saturday morning comes, and it's a HOT one!  By 7:00 a.m., it's already over 80 degrees outside.  The race doesn't even start for another 30 minutes.  I am by myself today, I'm not sure I even know anyone racing except for a few from the DailyMile website that I haven't met in person.  I park, get ready, and warm up by running around the parking lot and getting some of my race nerves adrenaline burned off.  I end up running into a couple people I know during pre-race annoucements.

We head over to the starting area and it's pretty congested.  The start/finish line has an arch over it, so everyone has to run through it to get started.  I head back through the crowd of people already in line and try to pick the runners that look like they might be around my pace.  I don't want to judge a book by a cover, but I think some of these people have no idea, and they are WAY to close to the starting line.  Eh, I'll just jump in where ever I can squeeze in.  Not long after, we're off!

The race starts heading downhill under an overpass.  The crowd is moving fast, but thinning out just a quickly.  We start winding through a neighborhood, and I'm keeping pace decently.  For a short amount of time, I'm running right next to "Boston Billy", Bill Rogers who has come to town to support the race among other things. 

Mile 1:  7:54, a bit faster than goal pace.

Shortly after the first mile, the piriformis injury starts a slow ache.  Crap!  I back down the pace a bit and start worrying if I'm going to be able to run the full five that I have left to do.  I'm now running somewhere in between 8:20 and 8:30.  An 8:00 pace for the rest is definitely not happening today.  I'm focusing on staying on minimum pace while worrying that I might be doing worse damage by running injured. 

Mile 2:  8:22

Mile 3:  8:35 - dropping pace big time!

I hit the turn around at the half way point.  I've made it this far, I need to keep on pushing.  My pain has gotten a little worse than initially, but it seems to have leveled out for now.  It's so hot today too!  It's making everything a struggle.

Mile 4:  8:32, just over two miles to go.  I can do this!

Right about this time, someone who could be in my age group passes me.  I've decided this is the person I'm going to race for the next two miles.  In seeing the runners ahead of me on their way back earlier in the race, I know that I'm still doing fairly well as far as female runners go.  I set the cruise mode behind this runner and stick close. 

Mile 5:  8:20

Just a bit over a mile left!  The route is deceiving because I knew we were back on the main street leading back to the start/finish area.  We take a turn into a neighborhood, and some nice folks have a sprinkler spraying into the street to cool off runners. It's amazing feeling and so welcomed! It energizes me a bit.  As we take another turn, I decide that it's time to pass the girl I'm following.  I think she is running out of steam anyways.  We've been slowing down a bit.  Less than a mile left to go, and I'm feeling more numb than in pain right now. 

Mile 6:  8:22, so glorious to be so close to done!

I start to lengthen my strides and pick up my pace at bit. I pass a couple of more runners as we get back on the main road with the finish line in sight.  I give it all I've got to get across the finish. 
Official results:  51:32/8:21 pace - A new 10k PR!
I quickly look around for a first aid tent or something.  I need to get some ice on my backside!  Ouch!  The last kicker really did it.  This is painful!  After looking around, I see nothing, so I ask a volunteer handing out Gatorade if there is first aid to get ice.  She says she doesn't know, but gives me a bunch of ice out of the Gatorade tubs in plastic wrappers from the drink cases.  It will have to do!  I stick the ice down the back of my pants and head off to get some food. 

I'm checking out the results as they are posting, and I'm floored when I come up 11th female overall and 2nd in my age group!  I'm so excited and I wish I had someone to share this with!  I wish Shane was here!  While I didn't do as well as I could have, or should have if uninjured, I'm thrilled with these results as you can imagine.  I walk to my car to get my phone so I can at least text Shane to let him know.  I also down a few ibuprofen to hopefully assist with the pain.

I hang around and receive my 2nd place medal.  I'm smiling through the pain.  So, my thoughts on this race is that I am definitely doing it next year when I'm healthy.  I love the flat course with not a lot of turns.  I'm sure I can improve on this time quite a bit.  Hopefully next year Shane will be able to run it with me.  When you don't have loved ones to share your joy, it's just not as sweet somehow.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Part 2: Three half marathons, three states, three months?!

Maybe you remember last December when I asked the question in a previous blog of whether or not I could run three half marathons, in three different states, in three months.  I can tell you now that the definitive answer is YES!  <big smiles>

I noticed this year I didn't get as nervous before a half marathon because it was no longer an unknown.  The adrenaline rush wasn't quite as big or noticeable.  Like most addictions, you have to do a little more each time to continue to get the same high. 

This year, each half marathon had a different "feel" and different challenge.  My runner's high wasn't from nerves.  This year it was from running a much anticipated race and the largest I'd participated in at that time (Moab), or from a new PR (Springfield), or from an amazingly fun time helping to pace and support a friend running her first half (Cincinnati). 

Each race had it's own thrill....some more positive than others.  If you start feeling complacent in your running, pick a race and run it with a different mindset. If you are falling short of PRs, help a new runner do something he or she never thought they were capable of.  You will experience joy through them.  If you are still a new runner, hit the speedwork training to get a new PR.  If you are just feeling blah, pick a destination race and road trip with a group of friends to spice things up!  Or if the pressure of racing is getting to you, go for a run without gadgets or GPS and just enjoy your enviroment.  Take some time off and get back to basics of why you fell in love with running in the first place.

Going back to the fact that just a few months ago I thought three half marathons in such a short time to be an impossible task.  A year and a half ago, I thought ONE half marathon seemed impossible.  So do me a favor--pick something you previously thought was impossible--then go out there and prove yourself wrong!  ;)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Flying Pig Half Marathon 2012 - Cincinnati, OH

I signed up for this race back in October 2011.  I chose this race because I was planning to meet someone from my online moms' group.  I can't explain this well enough to anyone from outside of the group to make it sound like we're not weirdos, so I won't even try.  I'll just say we've all been in contact through the internet since we were pregnant with our babies that were born in or around June 2008.  We've grown to be very close friends even though many of us have not met in person.  We talk about everything from families, kids, health and exercise.  Some moms were already runners, others have started couch to 5k plans, and others are still thinking about running.  It's kind of cool how many runners are now in the group.  It's not strange to hear talk of PRs, long runs and speedwork at any given time.   

So, after nearly five years of knowing each other, we all look for opportunities to do "meetups".  The Flying Pig Half Marathon in May 2012 was one such opportunity. It was a good halfway point between one of the running moms and me.  I also have family in Cincinnati, so it seemed to be a great choice.  I registered not knowing that two months later, I would get in to the Canyonlands Half Marathon in March 2012.  I really only planned to do one half marathon, maybe two, if I included Springfield's.  Turns out I was doing three of them that spring...the Flying Pig being the last of the three.

In the time between when I registered for the Flying Pig and a few weeks before the race, a couple of things changed.  First, a mom (Claire) who originally laughed off the idea of being able to run a half marathon when we started talking about it decided the Flying Pig would be her first half.  Then the other mom (Amanda) I was originally planning to run with suffered a stress fracture in her leg and was told to lay of the running for a while.  So, it is just going to be Claire and me.  Claire's husband is registering as well.  Shane is not registering.  He is still trying to get over the plantar fasciitis.  It's such a stubborn injury!

The morning of the race came REALLY early.  Considering that the race start is 6:00 a.m., Ohio is one hour earlier due to the timezone for us (so 5:00 a.m.), and we had to get up, drive downtown, find a place to park and get to the starting line, we have to get up at 3:30 a.m. central time.  Ugh.  After hitting the snooze on my phone (I wasn't sleeping all that well in the first place), I decide to get moving.

Shane is going with me to cheer me on and possibly join up with us for a little while along the course.  No, he's not banditing the race--I call it mobile cheering.  He will take no running resources from the course and sue no one if anything bad happens.

We arrive downtown and it's still dark.  Traffic isn't as bad as I imagined for 33,000 racers plus supporters, and finding parking isn't bad either.  Now, the tough part--to try to find Claire and her husband Matt.  I told Claire that I would run the race with her.  It would be great to support and pace someone through their first half.  I have already run two halfs {or is it halves?} this year, and this one is so hilly so I'm not getting any type of PR anyways. My goal was to have a fun race experience and get state #3 in my quest for half marathons in as many states possible. 

It's getting closer to race time and we do not see Claire and Matt at the general meeting area we picked {later to find out we were ON the bridge, they were UNDER the bridge}, so we give up and head toward the starting corrals.  At that moment, I almost feel relief.  My competitive nature kicks in and I suddenly want to run my own race.  I battle the need to attempt a PR with every race.  I hate that my brain operates that way, almost selfishly, and I just can't truly enjoy the experience.

Just as we are reaching the starting corral area, Claire and Matt find us in the crowd.  I'm happy to see them in spite of the thoughts I just had.  We head back to the starting corral and shove through the crowd waiting for everything to start.  Shane gives me a good luck kiss and we separate.  I don't know when I'll see him turn up on the course, but I'm thinking it will be around mile six.

There are so many people here!  As far as you can see--people.  I can't even figure out how far back we are from the starting line.  After the national anthem, we get ready to start.  Matt is a fast runner, and prior to a recent injury, he had his sights on competing to win.  His starting corral was A.  We're now back in E.  Initially, he wants to hit start on his GPS and get running, forgetting that there's about 15,000 people between us and the starting line.  It's kind of funny.  The crowd surges forward.  We stop.  Slowly forward again.  Then stop.  Eventually we get moving at a consistent walking pace.  It takes us nearly seven minutes from the start of the race to cross the starting line.

As we start off, we have to get into a reasonable pace in this crowd.  We are going a little fast for what Claire has been training for, so we attempt to get it under control.  It's crowded at every turn, but also pretty awesome to be running with a group this large.  Crossing over the first bridge into Kentucky is something I will never forget.  We are in a sea of runners as far as you can see.  Just amazing.

We wind back and forth across the river.  At one point, someone breaks into a verse Doo Wah Diddy, "There she was just a walkin' down the street..." and everyone around us is singing together...{doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo!}.  This is so funny, and probably a first for Matt.  I'm sure he has not been in a race where the runners all around him broke out into song.  It has to be such a wildly different experience than he's used to considering he would normally be running alone or nearly alone with the lead runners. 

After crossing back into Ohio, I hear someone yelling my name in the crowd.  I look over and see my aunt and cousin cheering me on!  That's so cool that I'm hundreds of miles away from home, yet this is the first time I have had family cheering for me on the side of the road at a half marathon. 

Around mile six as I predicted, I see Shane on the side of the road.  He jumps in with us and joins our group conversations.  It's awesome to have people to talk to during the half.  All the previous ones I've done, I've been alone with my thoughts and/or music for two hours.  This one is just flying by!  It's like I'm catching up with an old friend over lunch or something. 

It is about here that we start the ascent that the Flying Pig is famous for.  We will be gaining nearly 400 feet in elevation in just over three miles.  Claire is pushing through quite well even though she is having a little rougher go of it up the hills.  We get through a couple miles and are rewarded by an amazing view of the river valley at the top of a hill.  There's one more hill after this and then we begin the descent back to the river.  As we reach the final peak and head back down, I am careful to not let my knees take the full impact.  We will be going downhill for several miles and it's fairly steep.  This is rough on the knees and hips.

The course support in this race is amazing.  There are bands and musical acts, people in costumes, clowns, Elvises {or is it Elvi?}, lots of people along the course and lots of signs.  My favorite sign reads: "You have been training for this longer than Kim Kardashian was married!"  I had to laugh--as sad as it was true.

As we near the finish line, Claire is really giving it her all.  She's tired, but still doing wonderfully!  In the last mile, Shane peels off as to not get caught up in the finisher's area.  The crowds are growing thicker and louder as we approach the river.  At each turn, I look for the finish line, but not seeing it yet.  My GPS passed 13.1 already, but I'm sure we didn't run the tangents very well today.

Finally, we are next to the river and the finish line is in sight.  One final push and we all cross the finish line together!  I am so happy for Claire, and so thrilled to be a part of her first half marathon!  It's almost as if I get to experience my first over again--just through her eyes.  If I hadn't found them in the huge crowd of people that morning, I would be standing here alone without anyone to celebrate with.  Running with someone really changed my whole experience.  It may have been slower than my normal half marathon, but this was by far the most fun racing experience I have ever had.  Usually, I'm praying for it to be over.  Today, I just got to enjoy myself, the scenery and the company.  It was a great day!

Official Time:  2:13.42

This was a very cool experience.  What this race taught me is destinations races are so much more fun when you are not "racing" them.  In Moab, I was worried about this arbitrary pace that I did not properly train for that I made myself miserable, hating nearly every second of that race.  Yes, the race ended up being a PR for me (for three weeks), but I spent nearly the whole race wishing it was over.  I enjoyed some aspects of it, but nothing like this.  I finished 13 minutes slower than my Moab half, and I regret nothing of that.  Time and PRs are not everything.  Sometimes you just have to relax and enjoy!  From now on, destination half marathons are for enjoyment, not PRs.  This makes me want to run half marathons again and again. 

And I think I will.  Which state is next??

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon 2012

After much deliberation and some recovery from the Canyonlands Half Marathon, I decided I couldn't miss the opportunity to run Springfield's Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon again. This was my first half marathon last year.  Just coming off my rough experience at the Canyonlands Half, I really wanted a strong half marathon finish under my belt before the Chicago Marathon rolls around in October. Yes, I'm registered for another half next month in Cincinnati {I know, I know, I'm sick....}, but that will be a very tough half with four miles of it going uphill.

I've thought about a a realistic pace for this race. I know that the 8:24 pace I would need to get into a starting corral at Chicago is probably not happening. I'm okay with that. I want to beat my PR, not by a minute and 16 seconds like my last race, but by a definitive amount. I decide that a pace of 8:45 is respectfully tough enough for me, but not too much that I'll not enjoy the race.

Shane is not running this one. After the Canyonlands run, he has decided to take a month off at least to see if he can get his plantar fasciitis under control. He's going to be on the course around mile nine working as a course marshall. It is a bummer not having him here at the starting line with me. I feel pretty alone without anyone to start the race with. Last year, several of our friends were running. Today, no one. 

As the national anthem plays, I'm getting psyched up. I'm not nervous at all.  I've got the home field advantage.  The day is glorious, sunny and just cool enough to be comfortable in shorts and a short-sleeved tech shirt.  The anthem is over, and the Civil War era gun shots ring out to start the race. The large speakers start pump out Van Halen's "Right Now". This song was what the race started with last year as well. It's a good one for a start up mood. The crowd surges forward and we are off.

Again this year, I leave my iPod turned off for a while to take in the atmosphere. I don't overhear as many great conversations this year, but I'm still taking in the great atmosphere around me. I'm hopping around on the pace, and I try to settle in to something comfortable. We run through the usual Lincoln sites starting at Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, then on to the Old State Capitol, Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, and Lincoln's home--all in the first half mile of the race. 

Shane is waiting in the first mile to take some pictures before he heads off to be a course marshall.  He gets a few of me just as I'm running by Lincoln's home. 

Mile 1 - 8:39 pace.  Not bad, slightly faster than goal pace, but to be expected for me in the first mile.

Mile 2  - 8:42 pace.  This is a good pace.  I didn't have to try very hard to hold it.

Mile 3 - 8:52 pace.  Oops, just a bit slow.

We start heading back toward Washington Park.  The crowd clears out a little more, and I'm enjoying the morning.  Again this year, I think about the fact that I don't have crowd support in my home town.  I can't blame anyone though, I didn't ask anyone to come or bring Jocelyn out here.  I will next year for sure. 

As I'm lost in my thoughts, a woman trips on the uneven brick streets we are running on and hits the ground hard.  She immediately yells that she's alright because a bunch of people are stopping to help her.  She tells them to go on.  She seems okay, so I move on toward the park.

As we cross over MacArthur Boulevard into Washington Park, I hear a phone ringing.  The guy right in front of me pulls out his cell phone and starts talking!  He chats for a minute and asks the person if he can call them later.  That's a first for me. I've never seen anyone accept a phone call in the middle of a race before.  Too funny.

Right about this time, I latch on to a group of guys who are chatting away.  He's talking about remodeling his house, vacations, his weight, and whatever. Pretty much non-stop talking for more than a mile.  Some of it's interesting and occupies my mind, other parts I tune out.  He must not be running very hard as much as he's talking.

Mile 4 - 8:42 pace.  Seems to be the average for the day so far.  I've hit this exact pace already once.

Mile 5 - 8:43 pace.  Missed the "usual" by one second!

Mile 6 - 8:36 pace.  There was a long downhill in the park.  Helped me pick up this pace.  We cross a 6.2 mile timing mat in park.  I look at my watch, my overall time is 54:30.  That's slower than my 10K PR by about a minute.  Not bad though.
We turn and head out of Washington Park. As I am getting bored with my eavesdropping and starting to head up the first significant hill, I decide to go ahead and break out the iPod. I'm not sure what is going on with me, but I need some motivation to move fast.  Atmosphere alone is not doing it today. I brought along my Gatorade, and I'm drinking it throughout the run and skipping water stops.  I thought that would help me along the way.

Mile 7 - 8:40 pace.  We head down the long downhill on Lincoln, and two "chatty" guys are gaining a little distance on me.  I push ahead a little to keep behind them.  My idea is to stay behind them, but maybe pick up the pace near the end to pass them.  The one guy is still chatting away, not seeming too tired of it at all.  I've got to be able to beat him, right?

Mile 8 - 8:40 pace.  Barely even trying, keeping this pace.  I know it's a good pace, but the guys are still pulling away from me.  They must be picking it up.  I search around the iPod for some more inspirational music to push me along. 

Mile 9  - 8:43 pace. 

I know Shane will be somewhere in mile nine.  I think it's right when we turn east to go toward the cemetary.  As I approach his corner, I see him.  He's taking pictures.  I run by, turn the corner, and he's gone.  Soon thereafter, I head into the Oak Ridge Cemetary (where Lincoln is buried).  This is the first of a series of bad hills.  I head down and then back up the other side.  It's not so bad.  However, I've totally lost chatty-guys from my view now on these winding roads.

Mile 10 - 8:49 pace.

I had a feeling that would end up a little on the slow side.  I feel like I'm running out of steam a little bit.  Good thing there's only three more miles to go.  It's a 5k.  I can do it!  However, first I must tackle the Black Avenue hill. 

We turn the corner onto Black Avenue and go down, down, down.  Turn the corner and head up, up, up.  People are stopping to walk.  I wish they would make sure they moved to the side or check behind them before they stop running.  It's like dodging moving targets.  I push through to the top.  Entering Lincoln Park now.  I feel like this is the home stretch!

Mile 11 - 8:47 pace.  Eh, not great, but not too bad considering that hill.

We are running through Lincoln Park and I remember the place that John blew by me last year.  It reminds me of how I was able to pick up the pace at the end to finish ahead of him.  I don't have the same challenge this year, so I start finding runners ahead of me and work on passing them.  Not the same, but what can you do?

We approach the final hill of the course heading out the park.  I'm ready for it.  I put my head down and start my "kill the hill" mantra.  People slow down to a walk and I pass a few.  Each person I pass, I'm heading up in the rankings.  This speaks to my competitive spirit, and in no time I'm at the top looking at the final flat mile to the finish line!

Mile 12 - 8:56 pace.

Even though I was picking people to pass, I truly felt uninspired in that last mile and it showed in my pace.  I'm actually kind of surprised that I let it drop off that much.  I'm not going to slack this mile.  There's only one full mile left, so I should make the best of it.  I am more intentional about picking people to pass.  I relax and allow my stride to lengthen.  I'm going for it.
Mile 13 - 8:21.  Sweet.

I'm getting so close to the finish.  I'm overly anxious and still passing some people.  I pass a guy walking.  Walking?!  This close to the finish?  He MUST have hit a wall.  There's no way I could walk this close.  The crowd thickens closer to the finish.  I see the beginning of finish line corral just down the street.  So close.  I turn the corner and see the familiar blue finish mats.  I'm practically alone on the course, so I don't really have anyone to race to the finish.  Still, I do the best sprint I can through the finish line.  Done.

I'm really wiped out!  I'm handed my finisher's medal and head over to get my chip cut off my shoe.  Just then, I remember I didn't stop my watch.  I hit stop and I see my final time of 1:54:39.  Wow!  I don't know how long I let it run before I stopped it, but this is a PR for sure.  I can't wait to see the official time.

The last 0.16 miles shows that I paced at 7:35.  Awesome.  I like that.  What I don't like is that there's no one here.  No one at the finish line to support me.  No one to tell me good job.  That bums me out a little, but I decide to make the most of my time waiting for Shane to be let free of his course marshall duties.  Since he's in mile nine, it will be a little while before they close off the course there. 
First I go have my picture with Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln.  Then I head through the post-race refreshments line and grab a ton of stuff to eat and drink.  They had these frozen fruit smoothies that were awesome.  However, the smell of the biscuits and gravy and chilli they have is turning my stomach.  Got to get away from that!

I finish up some food and head inside to see if they've posted official results yet.  I find the list on the wall and look up my name. 

Official overall time and new PR:  1:54:27.

Wow, I'm thrilled!  I'm so happy about taking more than five minutes off of my Moab time just three weeks ago.  I text Shane to let him know, and he tells me that I beat his PR by a few seconds!  I laugh to myself knowing had he ran today in the perfect conditions, he would have definitely set a new PR for himself as well. 

I'm so happy that I decided to do this race at the last minute.  Being sandwiched in between two other half marathons is not necessarily the best conditions for racing, but somehow it worked for me, and I couldn't be happier about my finish. 

Today is just the boost I needed.  Two half marathons in two states down.  Next stop--the FLYING PIG HALF IN CINCINNATI!!!  Woo-hoo!!  Bring on the hills!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Canyonlands Half Marathon 2012 - Moab, Utah

Back in December, on almost a whim, Shane and I entered the lottery for a chance to register for the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah. If you want to read about the day we we were notified we were in, visit my old running blog (click here).

Fast forward March 11, 2012. We arrive in Moab, UT. On the way into town, we drive the half marathon route through Castle Valley, and Shane snaps this picture:

So, as you can see, the race route is SLIGHTLY scenic. It's an absolutely beautiful canyon--probably one of the most beautiful half marathon courses in the world. We had the GPS set to give us altitude, and the course ran around 4,200 ft. There were rolling hills, but nothing too awful. The biggest hill was in mile nine.

The day after we arrived, we did a test run of about 6 miles at an easy run pace. Altitude didn't seem to affect us much (we live at 600 ft.), but it was dry! I easily downed a 16.9 oz bottle of water in no time and was looking for more. The run itself felt great though.

Another two days later, we did our final run--a tempo run at {hopefully} race pace around 8:20. We went out to a bike trail that runs along side of Arches National Park. We did a warm-up mile and then started running. Unfortunately, the path was uphill the whole way. I set one of my GPS fields to elevation, and we climbed about 100 feet in a mile. It was tough going and we did not make race pace. It ended up around 8:29. The second mile ended up the same, but we had a turn-around at the halfway mark. The third mile was all downhill and after the last two miles, 8:15 seemed easy! We did a cool down mile and it crossed my mind that I could do 8:20 if I wasn't running up a hill the whole time. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Fast forward to the morning of March 17, 2012, and the day of the Canyonlands Half Marathon. We wake up around 7:00 a.m. We have to get to the park at the finish line to get on a school bus to be dropped off miles up the the canyon where the race will start at 10:00 p.m. We're wondering what we will do for the two hours between getting dropped off and when the race begins, but we're sure it's a lot of standing around. We catch one of the buses right away, and it's this driver's first load of people. As she keeps driving and driving down the canyon, she is sure she missed a drop off location. Another runner tells her to look for the huge line of porta-potties and she'll know she's there. We arrive, and sure enough, there's a ton of porta-potties. She asks, "you all are going to run back to town from here?" When she put it that way, we did seem a little crazy, but mostly to people who don't run.

So, we wait... {with about 3,500 other runners}

The wind blowing up the canyon was strong. It wouldn't be so chilly if the wind wasn't so strong. We were getting closer to the start time, so they let us head to the starting line area. This is where we had to drop off our gear bags. Anything you don't drop here, you have to run with or discard along the course. I am freezing, so I really want to keep my fleece. There's still 45 minutes until race time. I decide to keep the fleece and get rid of the gloves and hat. BRRR!! I'm cold!

At the top of the hill, there are more porta-potties. Yes, we already went three times this morning--the last time about 20 minutes ago--but we don't pass up an opportunity to go. The wind was so strong that it blew over five of the porta-potties here. I hope no one was in them when it happened. We get lucky and pick a short line that no one has noticed yet. After, we huddle in masses with other runners behind the porta-potties to stay out of the wind and stay warmer. Did I mention the wind was awful?

Around 15 minutes to race time, Shane and I take a warm up jog down the road and back. Ugh. Legs do not feel good. We push through the crowds and scale rocks on the side of the road to try to get closer to the 1:45 pacer. We are going to try to finish in 1:50, but in the back of my mind, I already know this isn't realistic for me today. That warm up jog solidified it for me.

We stand packed in a crowd, shoulder to shoulder, waiting for the start of the race. I feel a little apprehensive, but not totally nervous like I was before my first half last year. I can see the officials up on a platform with the bullhorn, but can't hear them very well. He points the gun up in the air and fires. GO!!

The crowd surges forward. We slowly start walking toward the starting line in one giant mass of people Here we go! No, wait...screeching halt. I run into the person in front of me. I guess we got over anxious. I'm really hoping that we get enough room around us that we can actually be running by the time we cross the starting line. It spaces out a little. I see the starting line coming, and we are doing a slow jog by this time. We cross the starting line, I hit the start button on my GPS. Here we go.... {for real this time}

This is the biggest race I've been in so far, and it's crowded! I knew the first mile would be congested, but this is a little much. Every step I take, I'm trying to make sure I don't step on someone else's heels.

We cross back by the staging area porta-potties and several people peel off the crowd already. Wow, so soon? Kind of funny, but not. I'm trying to keep next to Shane, but we are weaving in and out of people in an attempt to keep our goal pace. This weaving goes on for at least a half of a mile, but opens up a little more with each tenth of a mile or so. The GPS finally rings for mile one.

Mile 1: 8:37 - Our goal pace was 8:20. Nearly impossible to get with such a crowded start.

My mouth is already extremely dry. The wind and dry climate just seems to suck the moisture out of everything. Shane seems to pick up the pace to make up for the first mile. I'm seeing a lot of 8:05 and 8:10 on my GPS. The sun is coming up over the canyon walls and it's immediately HOT! I wish this wasn't one of my favorite fleeces, because I'd ditch it if I could. I wish I would have gone to that thrift store to pick up a disposable jacket. People are stripping off clothes everywhere. One girl tries to throw her sweatshirt to the side of the road and catches someone in the face. She yells sorry. I chuckle.

Mile 2: 8:14 - I thought so. Fast mile. Will we ever settle in to a pace?

There's a waterstop here so I grab a cup and walk a little to try and get every drop down. I can see dehydration happening very easy today. I'm wishing for a running belt with water bottles or a CamelBak today. I'm constantly thirsty. Shane still seems to be pushing the pace on me. I ask him if he is intending to go that fast. The self-doubt in my head is screaming at me, but it's also very realistic. There is no way I can keep this up for 13.1. We're just starting mile three. There's TEN more to go. No way. He says he is intentional, so let him go. I slowly drift back, but he's not too far away. My mouth is so dry, I am so hot, and that wind is just howling up the canyon in our faces. This is going to be tough.

Mile 3: 8:31 - Ran close to goal pace on this one, but the water stop added some time.

Shane is getting some distance ahead now. I can still see him. I am wishing I had my iPod right about now. It's a beautiful canyon, but the view is slowly changing and similar in a lot of places. This is far different from running a race in an urban setting where every corner has a new view, a new look. I'm not complaining, it just seems that time moves much slower in the canyon for some reason. I watch for patches of shade and run to the side of the road to get some relief from the desert sun on my dark hair. It's nice in the shade. When I'm not in the shade, I'm watching for the next bit of shade around a corner.
Mile 4: 8:36 - Slowing down a bit, and that's okay with me.

Another waterstop--YAY! I walk through it. I take one cup and drink it all. Then I grab another, half goes in my mouth, the other half on my head. I'm so thirsty! I'm sure this will probably last through the whole race no matter how much I drink. I'll make sure I drink two at each waterstop. The next few miles blend together. I am alone in my thoughts and my struggle to keep some semblances of a decent pace. At times, I'm struggling to even keep up with my normal "easy" pace for a long run. Here are the next few splits:

Mile 5: 9:00 - Yikes!

Mile 6: 9:14 - Getting worse!

Mile 7: 9:21 - Oh, man. Seriously?

Mile 8: 9:31 - Yep, this is my long run "easy"pace right here.

Mile 9: 9:16 - A little better than the last.

Mile nine is here...along with the infamous mile nine hill. This is the hill we watched the elevation rise on the way in. For some reason, looming off in the distance, it looks so much worse today. I remember thinking, that doesn't look so bad while we were driving it. For the last mile, my body has been pleading with my mind to walk a bit. Just for a little while. My brain argues back--if I stop, I may never start running again. That would make for an awfully long day. There's still five miles to go.

I make a deal with myself. If you keep running the whole time, except for waterstops, you can walk through the mile nine hill....BUT you have to start running again as soon as you hit the top. It's a deal! I'll take it! I press on to the hill.

As I get closer, I see lots of people walking it. I don't feel so bad. I'm so anxious to walk, I'm seriously craving it. I'm willing to bet that I am speeding up right now just to get to the hill to walk. I reach the bottom of the hill and start walking. My desire is to do a strolling pace, but I know I have to keep it to a fast walk so my time doesn't get ridiculous. I may not be on target to get a 1:50 starting corral at Chicago, but I still have a PR and a finishing time under two hours to consider. Right now, I'm still on a decent enough pace to do both. The walking feels great {kind of}, but the crown of the hill is coming soon. Oh well, here we go. I mentally will my legs to get moving again, and after a short protest, they comply.

Down, down, down we go! At the bottom of the hill, we complete mile 10. Only THREE and some change left to go!!

Mile 10 - 9:53. To be expected with the walking.

My overall time so far is at 1:30:14 according to my GPS. This means I have a little less than 30 minutes to finish 3.1 miles. A little under 10 minute per mile pace. I can do this! I think I can? Right?

Well, hello there voice of self-doubt. It's been a while since you've reared your ugly head. For the past six to nine months, my long run pace has been around 9:40. Of course I can do this! Shut up, voice!

Around this time, I see the foot/bike bridge across the Colorado, and I know we are getting close to town! {An after-thought: the sight of this bridge played a cruel trick on my mind. While it represented being close to the main highway that goes through town, there's still three miles left to run! It made my mind think the race was close to being over. Not even. Little did I know, the toughest mile was still in front of me.}

We run through one of the lowest points in the race as we leave the main road and get on the bike path that goes under the highway. As we head up the other side, my GPS rings out another mile done.

Mile 11: 9:17 (total time, 1:39:31). Not too bad. At this point, I'll take anything under 9:30. It's keeping me on pace for finishing under two hours.

This is where I begin the toughest mile of the course. Not only are we running up a decent incline for the next mile, the wind is roaring straight in our faces, and sand, dust and grit from the sides of the road are coming with it. We're also running next to traffic and totally exposed to the sun and heat. It's getting close to noon now, and the high sun is just cooking me on top of it all. I'm miserable. Totally miserable. I want to stop. I want to be done. This is not fun. Who the hell thought this would be fun?!! Big dummy!

I trudge through the mile, hating every step. I will my mind to focus on the finish line instead of the conditions and how I feel. I run past a guy who had enough--he's being helped by a course marshall along the side of the road. He's asking his name and where he's from. I don't think this guy is going to finish. I sympathize with him. He's made it so far, so close to the end to stop now. He looks in pain though. I keep going. And I keep reminding myself that I have to keep going. There's no option to stop yet.

Mile 12: 9:35 (total time, 1:49:06). That sucked.

Just a little over a mile to go. We turn off the main street and there is a waterstop. I take some Gatorade, but move quickly because I'm getting short on time. {Ugh, warm Gatorade. Gross. Should have stuck to water. Blah!} I only have about ten minutes left, and I know I'm going to have to cover more than 1.1 in that amount of time. Usually the race gets a little longer according to the watch, because I'm not running a perfect straight line route, especially with all that weaving back and forth in the beginning of the race. It's amazing {not in a good way} because I literally feel like I'm pushing hard and when I glance down, my watch is always over 9:00 for pace. I'm just drained!

More people are lining the course now. Cheering, supporting, clapping. It helps a little. I'm thinking of Jocelyn and seeing her at the finish line. The people are yelling things like: "Not too much further! It's just around the corner!" I turn the corner. It's there. Seemingly WAY off in the distance. My watch rings out.

Mile 13: 9:27 (total time, 1:58:33).

I've got less than a minute and a half to get to that finish line! It seems so far away! Will I make it under two hours? I lengthen my stride and pull on every ounce of energy I have left in my body. I start to pass some people. Believe it or not, it's still very crowded.

I'm getting closer. I can read the clock above the finish line. It's already over two hours. I hear my name in the crowd and look over to see Shane's mom cheering for me as I go by. Shortly after, I cross the finish line!

Final GPS time: 1:59:44 - I made it. By 16 seconds. Final 0.16 mile pace was 7:35. I still had something left. I don't know how.'ve never been so happy to finish a race before! I immediately see Shane waiting for me and we hug. I feel like I'm about to break down and cry. I could have just fallen to the ground in a heaping, crying mess if I didn't fight it. For those of you who know me, I don't cry much. When I do, I'm either very hurt, very sad or very pissed off. However you look at it, it's not a good thing when I'm crying. I think this time, they might have been tears of relief though.

I find out later, that the gun time is the official time for this race, which pretty much means I tied my race time from last year (2:01:01 is showing on the clock in the picture above). However, my timing chip time matches my GPS time--so I'm going with that! Since it took us over a minute to even start the race, I don't think that it's fair to count the time it took to get going through a crowd of people. So I have a new PR of 1:59:44 for a half marathon.

Post-race thoughts: I'm glad I did this race. I loved the experience. I don't know if I'll do it again, but maybe--and I'll be more prepared mentally next time. This one was tough! I didn't realize how much climate change and altitude would affect me, but I know it made it much harder. I had originally thought I could do three half marathons in three different states in three different months--I don't know now. I still don't know if I'm recovered from this one, and the next one is a little over a week away. I don't think I will ever "race" a half marathon that is not in my home state or close to home. It's just too hard of an adjustment. I just want to enjoy the experience of running in a new place, not curse the fact that I'm running.

I'm not sure this was the best way to start a running season, but we shall see where this year takes me. I'm ready for it!! How about you? Here's to great races! =)