This is the first race I’ve ever done where I slept like a baby the night before the event.
Granted, that’s probably because two nights before the event I went out with the hubs and got completely wine wasted, stayed up till 3 a.m., had to wake up for work at 6 that morning and didn’t let myself take a nap, but I digress.
All things considered, that was actually, apparently, a really smart idea. I fell into bed the night before the race by 8:30, and when my alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go.
The drive from my home to Clearwater was uneventful, and by the time I arrived and found parking, the sun was starting to peek out over the horizon and the day was shaping up to be a beautiful one.
Oh, and I had drank so much water and coffee that I had to poo and pee like, immediately. So I made good friends with a port-o-potty. And YAY, that was the only time I had to get friendly with that stinky receptacle for the day. 10 points for me.
I had done this half marathon before, back in 2011, which was the first year they had it. The course had changed since then, and I was excited to learn we’d be running along the water, and over and back two of the most beautiful bridges along the way.
Going into the race I knew there would be steep bridge repeats, four total, but I hadn’t really planned for how that last one beginning at the 12 mile marker would feel.
And honestly, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t think too much about it on the front end.
The race was amazing. We started right on time, and within less than a mile the herd had thinned out and there was room to find your groove. I even hooked up with a friend of mine, Erin, and we took a running selfie! She and I hung together for a mile or two before her speedy needs got the best of her and she took off. Go girl!
All in all, the race was perfect. Miles 1-10 felt amazing. My 5k time was right on target of my goal pace, and my 10k was trending just a bit ahead of where I expected it to be. My legs and lungs felt great, and I stuck with a cup or two of water at every aid station. The course was beautiful, and the volunteers were amazing.
Mile 10 marked the first of the two return trips across the bridges. On the way over I had run up each, but for the first time in the race outside of taking in some water, I slowed and walked up the bridge. My heart rate stayed under control, but my quads were starting to really not love life.
This bridge is the steeper of the two, and after only about a half mile I was on top. I enjoyed the view for just a moment, looking across the water to the next bridge that awaited me, and started running my way down.
By mile 11 my legs were questioning my sanity, and I started with run/walk intervals. After checking my pace on my trusty Garmin I realized that I was on target to PR by nearly 10 minutes, if I could just keep my last two miles under 14 minutes each. Given that I had kept well under that pace up until that point, I knew I could do it.
Then we hit mile 12, and you know how people say the “wheels came off?” Yeah, I totally understand that saying now. It felt like one minute I was chugging along and the next I was lucky to be walking. My quads were cramping so intensely every step was actually painful to the point that I’m certain I cried out a few times, and the last bridge was really an exercise in will power.
Never once did I think I would quit, but it was absolutely hard to convince myself to keep going.
In the end, that last mile took me 25 minutes. I didn’t PR, in fact, I finished about 8 minutes slower than the last time I did the race.
My husband had been tracking me on my Garmin, and when I called him after I finished the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m so sorry!”
He fully expected me to be devastated, as I had been so close to a huge PR.
Funny this was, and is, that I’m not. Sure, it would have been awesome if my increased strength, fitness, and solid training had resulted in a mile 1 to mile 13.1 strong and amazing race. But it didn’t.
That doesn’t mean I’m not super proud of my effort.
I haven’t raced in years due to a stressful work environment, and a ton of weight gain. This is the first time since 2011 I’ve even been in good enough shape to consider doing a half marathon.
The last time I ran this race I did it “just to finish.” This time, I actually trained and pushed myself to finish faster than before.
Clearly, there were some gaps in my training, and knowing that is going to make me even more prepared for the rest of my races this season. But I’ve gotta tell ya, even with that last excruciating mile, I am damn proud of my effort.
So MEOW kittens!
Did anyone else have races this weekend? How did they go? What did YOU learn for next time?