Saturday I raced my 9th half marathon, the 4th time I've done this particular race. It's usually one of the first cold runs of the season. It's usually a really good race because of that, especially coming off of a brutal summer. And there is usually a fantastic crowd support on the course. Usually is the key word here folks.
This year Mother Nature had something else in store. It was 60 degrees at the start of the race, sunny and temperatures quickly increasing. It was also nice and humid. A winning combo right?
I lined up in Corral B, which only had one pace group of 1:35. I knew I wasn't going to be able to hang with that time. It's a hilly course and then with the heat added into the mix ... well, I was doubting myself from the beginning. My fastest time for this course was just under 1:39, which I did last year. I was really thinking I would end up in the 1:40s, and totally ok with that to be honest.
The race got started and I went out fast. My "plan" was to wing it. Just go with how I felt for as long as I could. Best plan? Probably not, but it's what I tend to do. I tend to be very consistent and stick to a single pace the entire race rather than try to conserve then attempt to increase my pace. With this course, I knew that banking my time was my best bet. Mile 12 is at the top of one of the steepest inclines. Again, my strategy and not everyone else's.
Usually the first four miles fly by. Saturday, they did not. It was a fight from the start. It's bad when you're counting down your miles from mile one. But, I'm stubborn. If there's one thing anyone should know about me is that I am very very stubborn.
I skipped the first aid station but hit up pretty much every single one thereafter with the exception of one more. I actually felt like I had gotten the hang of drinking on the run without waterboarding myself. That's a huge accomplishment right there. But, by the 6 mile aid station, I was fading fast. I started walking through them to try to recoup and get in as much water as possible. By mile 8 I was getting really dizzy and just overall feeling bad. But I kept pushing on.
My Garmin kept buzzing a good tenth of a mile before the mile markers and was clocking me at a 7:29 average. Because it was early, I knew my pace was slower than that, but wasn't entirely sure how much different it was.
I won't bore you with the horrid details of my mental state, which wasn't good as you can imagine. I wanted to stop. I wanted to walk. I wanted to stop again. As in totally stop, pack it up, head on home. Mentally I wasn't in a good place. Physically I was fading.
As I mentioned, Mile 12 is literally at the top of a hill. And at the top, there was a photographer. Really? At mile 12. On a hill. How cruel is that? I wanted to push the photographer over to be honest. Yeah, lots of anger going down by that point. But I knew if I could just force myself to continue, I would finally be rewarded with a big downhill. I expected it to feel easy, fantastic. It was still hard of course. There were two women in front of me. I wanted with all my heart to pass them. I just couldn't. I didn't have any gas left in the tank.
Usually I am crossing the finish with a group of men. But this time it was the 2 ladies ahead of me, then seemingly no one. I even heard the buzz when I hit the first mat then waited to see what they would do with my name. Shockingly, I heard it pronounced correctly, then I saw Amy running up to the finish smiling proudly. This year, she made sure they got it right! How's that for a finish? ;-)
So how did I do? It was a course PR for me with a time of 1:38:41. My overall PR is a 1:38:18 ... so close. I ended up taking 4th place in my age group too, something I had not expected. I'll brag on Amy for a second - she took 1st in age group with a time of just over 1:35. Holy cow right?
Reflecting upon the race, I honestly don't know how I managed what I did. I really don't. It was one of the hardest races I have done to be honest. I wasn't mentally in it. The weather conditions were less than ideal. But somehow I stuck it out and did it. Stubborn? Better trained than I realize? I don't know. I guess I will always be amazed at what people can accomplish when they just stick something out.