“And in this moment I am happy. Happy.”
I scanned my surroundings and took it all in. It was breathtaking. Not just because I had run (and power hiked) up a 17% hill and was gasping for a full breath, but because the world around me was nothing but vibrant shades of orange and red peeking out behind the fog. This is why I run. This is what makes me happy. That lyric from the Incubus’ song always seems to pop into my head when I’m happy. In that moment, I most definitely was happy.
This past year, I had kind of lost my running spirit. Well, not my running spirit, but more of the racing spirit. Picking a goal race, following a training plan, gunning for a PR – it just didn’t excite me. After spending so much time NOT running in 2015, I wanted 2016 to be the year of a running reset. To be able to run because I finally could.
The Leaf Peepers Half Marathon was just the thing I needed to reignite that racing spirit.
It wasn’t because I had the race of a lifetime, I PR’d, or because I felt amazing through the whole thing.
It was one of the slowest half marathon times I’ve ever run. I had massive calf cramping the last 2 1/2 miles. Sounds like a blast, right?
Actually, it was a combination of being surrounded by strong, powerful, and motivating women during the Rise.Run.Retreat and the race that kicked in that spirit.
Going into the race, I had zero expectations. Everyone kept asking what was my plan. Like everything this year, I didn’t have a plan. I was going to go by feel.
The first three miles were definitely hills. Not gently rolling hills but holy sh!t HILLS. I had Mount Washington flashbacks as I puffed up Perry Hill Road. When I saw a sign about 17% incline, I laughed – this was more than most of Mount Washington. No wonder my heart rate was through the roof! I pulled out my Mount Washington ratio – Run 200 steps/Walk 100 steps – to make it up and over.
Once at the top, I soon found myself alone. I could see runners ahead a bit but there was no one around me at all. I found myself fading and kind of settled into an easy long run pace.
Thankfully, two runners caught up to me at one point and woke me up – HELLO! THIS IS A RACE! I latched on to them and settled into a good pace. I was the creepy stalker that listened in on their stories. I was so entertained with the man retelling the story of a ultra mountain bike race that went wrong that I never realized we were cruising along at a 7:50 pace. And it felt really comfortable.
Around mile 5, Jes spotted me and gave me a shout out. Seeing friends on the course always helps for a little boost.
My boost didn’t last too long. My running buddies decided it was time to pick up the pace. NOOOOOO! I knew that I wasn’t going to hang on for too much longer.
Sadly, they left me in the dust as they powered up yet another hill. This was an out and back section that kind of sucked the life out of me. I can’t stand out and backs. The good thing was that I got to see all the girls – Allie looking relaxed and casual (was she even sweating?!?!), Sarah smiling with her signature braid tailing behind her, Laura and Sandra running together (so jealous that they had company!). I finally made the turn around and soon saw the other girls – Christine looking focused, Kara cruising along, and then Natalie and Sue smiling and encouraging.
I passed Jes again at around the 10 mile mark feeling pretty rough although I tried to put on a happy face. I had been milking a GU for almost the whole race. I just could not get it down. I knew that it wasn’t going to cut it. Soon after that, my calves started to cramp up. It was the kind of cramping that happened mid stride while my back leg came around. I would land on the cramped leg and it would give out. I then would have to stop, try to stretch it out and then walk before running again. This was the routine for the last 2 1/2 miles of the race.
That happiness from before? Completely gone.
I finally made it to the turn into the parking lot for the finish and tried to pick up the pace. My calf cramped up one more time in that short stretch as I gimped it into the finish with a 1:58 time.
Truthfully, I was quite disappointed in my time. Like I said, it was one of my slowest half marathon times ever. It was my own fault though for not following through on fueling during the race.
And then I felt like crap afterwards and was totally out of it. I was totally throwing out the fake laugh for the above picture. I’m so out of practice with fueling. I hadn’t been practicing my mid run fueling at all. Remember when I said I didn’t have a plan? That goes for fueling too.
I know every race can’t be a PR. I know that I can’t compare myself to where I was fitness-wise 2 years ago when I ran my last half marathon.
It’s hard to let go where you were before and where you are now.
After shaking my pity party, my perspective changed.
I felt happiness again. Happy to have been able to run this race with so many talented runners that I call friends.
I felt a fire growing. A competitive fire. I’m done with winging it. I’m ready to challenge myself again. I’ve spent too much time worrying about the potential of another injury. We all need to start somewhere. This was my starting line.
I’ve got goals and dreams floating in my head. I’ll be using the last months of 2016 to work with a sports nutritionist (Jamie who spoke with us at Rise.Run.Retreat) to find the root of my calf cramping (I almost always get it either during or post race) and how to fuel properly for optimal performance. I’m also looking for a coach. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for some time.
Now’s the time to start again.
Btw – Congrats to all who raced over the weekend!
Laura had a HUGE 10 minute PR at Steamtown. I can’t wait to read her recap.
And a special shout out to my coaching client, Dawn, who ran Chicago and scored a gigantic PR by taking 27 minutes off her previous marathon time. Congrats on your 3:36 marathon Dawn!!!!
Have you ever had a race gone bad but still happy about the outcome?
Would you rather run a hilly race or pancake flat?