To you I say, "If I can do it, you can do it." No, seriously. People have said that to me and I've scoffed because I wasn't READY to do that. But you're not ready until you actually do it. On Friday night I wasn't ready. On Sunday morning I am simply because on Saturday, I did it.
To everyone who's asking me when my next one is I say, "I don't think I need to do another one. I had a goal, I achieved the goal, and I feel good about that." As those people look at me a bit incredulously and/or disbelievingly, I remind them that my training focus is now switching to getting ready for a one hundred and forty mile bike ride in June. Who knows what will happen then? I for one don't. I don't have any fitness goals past that time, other than being able to do a pull-up by the end of the year. So I'm not saying "Never." I'm just saying, "Not now."
Yesterday was a success though. As you know, I did the trail version of the half-marathon. That means eight of the miles were on trails. The first three miles of the trails weren't horrible. It's in an equestrian area, so the trails were wide and well-packed. The race organizers had gotten lots of peppy young women (there were some young men also, but they weren't as cheerleader-y) along the trail to keep runners on the correct path and cheer for us as we went by. In the less commonly accessible areas there were mountain bikers and mounted patrol units to help keep us on track and, I imagine, check for fatigued racers as there was no cell phone service for those eight trail miles.
So the first three miles of trail weren't awful. The biggest concern I had was trying to keep my pants up. They only had an elastic band, no drawstring, at I realized at about mile two that I was losing my drawers. But I would rather worry about that than other things I can imagine going wrong during a long run.
My friend Doug was one of the people who helped talk me into doing this race. We ran the first three miles together, which I thought was very generous of him. I could tell he was holding himself back a bit. We had a nice time chatting and catching up for that bit of time.
At mile six there was a water break, which I was grateful for because my hands were sticky from an energy gel pack I had consumed about 20 minutes before that. I stopped for a couple of minutes to wash my hands and dispose of my other trash. While paused, one woman said, "This is where it gets rough. The next two miles are the toughest." As we were in such a scenic spot, it seemed hard to imagine, but I couldn't see past the Mile 6 marker, so figured she was probably right. Sure enough, the trail immediately dropped to a single-file line, steep and lots of ruts and ridges to negotiate. Sometimes the trail got so narrow that even if you wanted to pass someone, there just wasn't room to.
At one point I could hear cheering but couldn't see past the six-foot tall shrubbery. I looked up and saw a colorful line of runners snaking up a hillside and realized that there was another group of cheerleaders at the top of that ridge. The hill was pretty steep, and almost everyone was walking. At first I was lazily grateful for the break, but then realized it was no steeper than a hill I had trained on two weeks before. So I did what I had done then - ran for several yards, walked for a bit, then ran again.
I did more running uphill than I did downhill. We hit the downhill at about mile eight and a half. That's when my knee started chattering to me, and I knew I had to take it easy if I was going to finish. It also felt safer to carefully negotiate the loose dirt and rocks. I was pretty much keeping pace with the same pack of people. As some of them passed me on the way down, they commented on my shirt and said they appreciated the sentiment - that it had helped them keep going. They also remarked they were impressed that I had run up the hill. (They probably wondered why I was walking on the "easy" part.)
The miles passed by much more quickly than they did on my training runs. The scenery was different and more interesting than what I had seen in my own locale, and there is, of course, the adrenalin that comes with being in a race environment.
The downhill did take its toll on my knee and periformis muscle though. But keeping with the idea of just keep going, that's what I did. Pushed through the discomfort and just kept letting the miles tick away under my feet.
Mile 12 was exhilarating and emotional. All the training I had done was paying off and I knew I could finish. It wouldn't be pretty, but it was a clean finish, and one to be proud of.
My original goal was to finish in two hours thirty minutes. I didn't know how the trail would impact that time. My official finish time was 2:33:37, which averages out to a 11:44/minute per mile pace. I feel like it was lower than my training time, but again, I hadn't trained on trails, so I feel really good about that. Especially considering that today a woman told me that someone at the race had told her to expect an extra 15 minutes on for a trail version.
I didn't come in close to first or near the top of my age group, but I wasn't near the bottom either. There were 65 women in my age division, and I was 43rd. BUT - the majority of those times are all grouped right around my time.
I am a runner.
I am a half-marathoner.
I ran thirteen point one miles.