Ow. That's not the way I was hoping to start off this recap, but I really can't start it any other way because that's the best word I can use to sum up yesterday's race. Also, steep. But mainly ow. Beth recently had a great post on when running fails you. Yesterday my body failed me.
Let me back up. I signed up for this race because I thought it'd be great to run another half-marathon in 2012. I could probably end the year with a PR since I've gotten a lot faster, even on long training runs. And it would be wonderful to have my family there to cheer for me. Oh, and the Pacific Northwest is gorgeous (if it's sunny or, well, not raining) so I thought maybe it'd be a pretty run.
|shameless excuse to post a picture of mountains because I love them|
So yesterday morning I was excited and ready. I had my traditional pre-race breakfast of half a bagel with almond butter and caffeinated tea. I nursed a water bottle of nuun as we drove the 30 minutes to the race course start. After checking in and hitting the bathroom once more, it was just about time for the race to start. I felt extremely nervous as we started, but also excited. I felt strong, I felt ready. I thought I could do something exciting. The race coordinator counted down and then... we were off!
|one of their excellent signs - my sister contributed the penguin sticker|
As it turned out, no one else was along the course cheering. So it was just my family. And while I would have been embarrassed of that at age 13, at age 24 I just think they're awesome for being willing to drive along and stop at each of the three intersections between the trail and the road.
|heading down into the Ravine of Doom|
The first mile felt terrific. My breathing was a tad bit off because it was hovering around 32 degrees, and I tend to get a touch of asthma when pushing my running in the cold, but I ran an 8:55 mile without feeling like I was pushing myself at all. My plan was to keep it steady at 8:55 miles to compensate for any slower hill miles.
In the second mile, we hit the hills. Or should I say cliffs? The trail went deep down into a ravine then up and out. The decline and incline were so steep that the trail was comprised of switchbacks, but the switchbacks were still extremely steep. The total elevation gain for the race was 1,500 ft., but it's roughly 1,300 ft. on the Central Park loop, which is where my first half-marathon was. So going in, I figured that it couldn't be much hillier. The difference is that on this course, almost all of that elevation was packed into 2-3 miles. And while Harlem Hill is an elevation gain of about 70 ft., this "hill" dropped 100 ft. then rose 200 ft.
I couldn't run while going up because I felt the asthmatic breathing starting, so I had to walk. I thought that walking might be fine if I sprinted down the hills, but the downhills were just as steep and I couldn't run without starting to feel myself losing control. Since the trail was wet and covered in leaves and rocks, I was scared of tripping.
|still feeling ok! ish! well enough to understand the importance of good photos|
My Erica Sara Designs Say It Do It Bracelet is engraved to say "run faster, be stronger." Yesterday I couldn't run fast. It just wasn't possible. Every time I tried to speed up, the pain in my right leg got much worse and the left IT band started hurting. Instead, the race became about the "be stronger" part of my mantra.
This race became a mental test. Can I finish when everything is hurting? By mile 4, my abdomen and back were still aching, the pain in my right leg was becoming impossible to ignore, and my left IT band was starting to hurt at the hip. I decided to stop looking at my Garmin around mile 4 because I felt how slowly I was going and looking at the Garmin only made me more upset. Instead, I decided to just make it to the finish line.
|making a VERY attractive face to illustrate how I'm feeling to my dear father|
The pain got a lot worse in the second half and my miles slowed even further to the point where I could barely jog -- I was kicking up rocks because my feet were dragging. I crossed the finish line and went straight to my family's car so I could sit in the heat and stretch out my legs.
|trying to smile, but let's be honest... it's more of a grimace|
Several times yesterday I started tearing up, both from pain and disappointment. Given my training and how my runs had gone, I thought for sure I'd PR yesterday, even if not by much because of a few hills. Despite the gigantic hills, I'd say 2/3 of the course was pretty flat, so I still think I could have PR'd if not for injuring myself. The pain was just a reminder that I hadn't met my goal, that I'd ended the year not with a race demonstrating all my improvement but by hobbling across the finish line.
However. I also learned something incredibly important yesterday. I am mentally tough. So many times, I considered just stopping and calling my parents to pick me up. 10 miles, including the Horrible Hills right again at the end when the pain was at its worst. This year, I want to run a full marathon. It wasn't the running part of it that I wasn't sure I could handle, it was the mental part. And after yesterday, I am sure that I am mentally capable of running a marathon.
It wasn't the race I wanted. It wasn't a good or even ok race. Honestly, it sucked. A lot. But I'm still happy with what it proved to myself.
SO... on to 2013 races!!