Every race offers a unique experience. Some are amazing; I feel great, run well, and enjoy the atmosphere. Others are not quite so incredible; I feel tired, don’t run as well as I’d like, and the atmosphere is less than uplifting. Sunday’s half marathon was an odd mix of the two.
Though I felt I had adequately trained, I hadn’t put in the miles I normally do when training for a long race. I ran between 2 and 4 miles a couple times a week, and ran 5 miles during the week only a couple of times. I did my long runs on the weekends, but never concerned myself with speed. I taught Zumba classes 4 times a week while training, so I was curious as to what, if any, effect that might have on my running. It is definitely a great workout, and I work different muscles, but I wasn’t sure if it would actually improve my endurance or speed.
In the days leading up to the race, I kept telling myself that I needed to be drinking more water so I would be properly hydrated – but Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi found their way to my thirsty lips. I also knew that I needed to eat healthy (non-gassy) foods. But then we went to this great wedding the evening before the race, and not only was there fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and bread, but there was this fantastic dessert spread. I knew it was fantastic because my daughter made the cheesecakes (and someone had to test them), and I baked some of the cookies (I tested those too). There were cupcakes, mini apple pies, cake pops…and on and on! I have always admitted that I have an extreme weakness for sweets. If it’s available, I am going to eat it. No willpower at all. So, we piled our plates with desserts, anxious to try each one. That wasn’t exactly the best pre-race nutrition (but, gosh, it was delicious!).
In my previous post, I mentioned that cleaning out the system is necessary before a good run. When a runner gorges on fried food and dessert, it becomes even more crucial to evacuate. But sometimes it doesn’t happen. It didn’t happen. I won’t go into the particulars, but I had this really heavy feeling the whole time I ran. It was not pleasant. It actually took a couple of days to feel normal. ‘Nough said.
Race morning, Jackie, Kassi, and I left town at 5:00 a.m. It was a cold morning! I had stressed all week over what to wear for this race. We all ended up in running capris and long-sleeved shirts, which was perfect for the temps. Once we all arrived at Reitz High School, the starting point for the Evansville Half, the waiting game began. We waited inside to try to stay warm, all the while contemplating just how our runs would go. We had agreed that we would each run our own race. My first half, I ran with Jackie. I am so glad to have met that goal hand-in-hand with one of my best friends! However, we have discussed how we talked the entire way, and that now we are wise enough to realize that talking takes a lot of energy, and that we run faster when we aren’t chatting. So we all lined up together, but once that gun went off, we were each in our own zones.
I really get into a different zone during a race. I have so much running through my head that I am better off by myself. My goal for this race was to be in the top 20 in my division. In April, I ran the Derby Half in 2:04, which was a 9:29 pace. I wanted to be able to run that pace, but really didn’t think I could run that fast again. My strategy (and I use that term very loosely) is always to run hard – and faster than normal – as long as I can, and if I have to slow down, I will. I figure it will still average out to be a faster time. I took off fast (for me). I didn’t obsess over my time throughout the race. I checked my watch a few times when I hit a mile mark, and knew early on that I was running well. I just knew I wanted to give everything I had so that I would have no regrets. At about mile 7 or 8, the back of my knee began to hurt. A lot. I had never had that pain before, and wasn’t sure what had caused it. The pain remained for the rest of the race. At one point, I thought I might have to stop because it was so uncomfortable, but I just kept going. I knew that I was limping at some points, and my race pictures show a miserable look on my face. I just kept plugging along, and by then, I wasn’t really worried about my time. I just wanted to keep running. I finally got to mile 12, and I looked at my watch. When I read 1:49 and realized that if I could maintain my pace, I would break 2 hours – which is something I NEVER thought I would do – I was determined to push through the discomfort. I could hold up one more mile. I got about a block or two from the finish line and heard my friends yelling for me. I looked at my watch and saw that I was going to make it! I kicked it up and sprinted (picture old-lady sprint) to that finish line. 1:59:43! It was close, but I did it! I knocked 4 minutes off my previous time, and I broke 2 hours. I had also placed 19/119 in my division. I was ecstatic! Though I felt bad for my husband because he was unable to run due to having had surgery, I was surely glad that he was at the finish line to greet me. He is my biggest supporter, and at that moment, I needed him with me.
I still don’t know how I was able to maintain a 9:09 pace for 13.1 miles. I believe that the Zumba made a difference. I also listened to music for the first time in a long race. I found that I liked it, but I don’t think it made that big of a difference. This was one of the hardest, most uncomfortable races I have run, so now I wonder what would happen if I had eaten properly in the days leading up to a race, hydrated with water, had no pain, and maybe even used some of those energy gels. Could I run faster?
I have now run 4 half marathons. My times have been 2:13 (Fall ’10) 2:08 (Spring 2011), 2:04 (Spring 2012), and now 1:59. To know that though I am getting older, I can still improve my speed is so satisfying. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too old to do anything! I am looking forward to continuing to challenge myself to reach new goals. Just a few short years ago, I could not even imagine myself running a mile. Really. It took me weeks and weeks just to be able to run one mile on the treadmill, and then more time to get up to two miles. This coming April, I will be running my 5th half marathon, and with me will be several newbies. I am so excited to get to share this adventure with them because I know how amazing they will all feel when they cross the finish line of their first half marathon!
I cannot post about the Evansville race without congratulating my friends. First, Kim Strobel – my goodness! Kim is a beast! She tied for 3rd place OVERALL in the women’s group. That’s 3rd out of over 1100 women! She is just freaky fast. I couldn’t be more proud! Jackie Fischer beat her previous time by 4 minutes – amazing! Kassi Rogers, who injured her foot a couple weeks before the race, and had to take several days off running, was determined to run the race, and finished with a great time – not the time she had hoped for, but she hadn’t hoped for an injury either. Her determination is so impressive. Jennifer Land had another fantastic race. She has faced injuries over the past year and a half, and wasn’t happy with her time, but we all are. She rocked! Eric Kehl…he worked his tail off to get in at 1:57, also breaking the 2 hour mark. Sarah Kluender fell on Saturday and looked like she had been in a fight (and lost), yet was also determined to run this race. Amy Hollinden and Sophie Fischer ran the race together, and they managed to talk the whole way AND break 2 hours! They came in at 1:57 as well. Debbie Reed ran her first half marathon! Getting in training runs was difficult because of her work schedule and kids’ activities, but she managed to get it done, and crossed that amazing finish line in her first 13.1! I am so proud to call these runners my friends. I have said many times that running is an incredible sport because runners are so supportive of one another. When one of us is having a tough day or feeling bad about a run, there are plenty of friends around to lift us back up. When someone has a great run, we are all sincerely happy for him or her. I am truly proud of all of my friends! Thank you all for inspiring me every single day. Your passion, determination, and work ethic show me what it takes to be a better person.