The first time I raced this half, I had finished chemo three months prior, so just trying to finish was my solitary goal. The following year I fared much better with a 2:15, but still far from my "wish" goal of 2 hours. So when I signed up for this year's race, I swore that this would be my last attempt at conquering this beast; 2 hours or bust. After some reality checking I decided that 2;05 might be more realistic, but hey, a girl can dream, right?
I have really been focusing on my running. With the exception of my Hilton Head fiasco, my runs were as close to my pre cancer times as they were ever going to be, so I should have gone into this race with lots of optimism, but my first DNF had really rattled me. I was having some serious mental doubts about what type of pace I could throw down, and knowing that there would be gravel the last three miles had left me gun shy. Plus, Lauren was unable to race, so I was going to be tackling this race completely solo.
However, the weather gods seemed to take pity on me and the earlier predicted forecast of 50 degree temps for the race start suddently turned into 25 degree temps. I opted to sleep in my own bed instead of a hotel, so I had to drive up the morning of, but the drive was peaceful and I had the roads to myself. I really struggled with what to wear; I hate wearing running tights, but the wind chill kept me from wearing shorts. Of course, as soon as the race started and I hit the first set of hills, I began regretting my decision, but by the time I reached the back section of the course, the headwind was so strong that I was glad I wore tights. My plan for the first half of the race was to simply run comfortable and not kill myself on the hills. If people passed me, so be it. I needed to save myself for the back half of the course where I knew there would be gravel and wind.
|Look at all those HILLS!|
Miles 7-9 were amazing and definitely my favorite part of the course. The gardens, the stone bridge, the winding downhill, I love all of it. I saw my pace start dropping as I cruised through the downhills. I felt amazing; my legs were strong, my lungs weren't burning, and my stomach was cooperating. I felt like I could run this pace all day which is exactly how I wanted to feel. At this point I had scaled my pace back to nine min miles, and crossed my fingers that I could hold on to this pace.
Miles 10-12. This is where the gravel begins on the course. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the roads were mainly smooth. Either someone had scraped or heavy rains had washed away much of the gravel because I did not have a lot of trouble navigating. Because I had to keep my eyes trained on what was in front of me, I couldn't enjoy any of the views of the river, but this was just as well because it was here that the headwinds were the worst. I noticed that my pace started to slip either because of the wind, because of the gravel, or both. I was on track for a 2 hour half at this point which really had me jacked, but I also knew that the last three miles of this race is where I always blew up. I opted to run this race with my headphones, so I tried to focus on the music and pretend that I was just out for a three mile training run. I still felt really good, but the gravel and wind were starting to slow my pace down a bit. Okay, a lot. I realized that I could easily meet my 2:05 goal, but seeing how close I was to sub 2 really made me want to dig deep and see if I could do it.
Mile 12-13 was a mental battle. This is an out and back section on the worst of the gravel. Since it is an out and back on a fairly narrow path, it is pretty crowded which makes finding good footing difficult. The final quarter mile is uphill and since the course is a little long, I really had to push to get in under two hours. I crossed the finish line in 1:59:22 (chip time) and was elated. Not only had I met my original goal of 2:05, but I had also met my wish goal of sub 2. I have not run a sub two hour half since my diagnosis more than three years ago. I did not expect to set a post cancer PR, especially on this type of course, but everything fell perfectly into place on race day. All my hard work had finally paid off.
I absolutely love this race, but think that this might be the last time I run this course for a while. There are other races to run; other places to see, and other mountains to conquer.
|Coolest finisher medal!|
|The stainless steel pint beer cup was nice swag.|
|Whew, that was close!|
|Top twenty in my age group at this race? Heck, yeah!|
Until next time,