(Warning: Long post ahead. Only one picture, so you’ll have to count on being entertained by my enthralling prose. Proceed at your own risk.)
Remember that race I’ve been training for? So I ran it last Saturday. And it was good! Ish.
To fully understand what I was working with, let’s talk through the events leading up to the race.
I knew it was going to be hot. Really hot. And disgustingly humid. I did my regular hydration routine beforehand in anticipation of the conditions, but even a well-hydrated, well-conditioned body is going to struggle in the heat. I went into the race with this in mind, reminding myself that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I needed to slow down because of the heat.
Friday night was very low key. I arrived at the hotel with a pretty bad headache, but assumed I just needed to get some food and that would take care of it. No dice. I’m super stubborn about taking medication if I think I can “tough it out,” so I didn’t bother running to the store for anything. I mean, how bad could a headache be? <–foreshadowing
I went to bed around 10 and fell right asleep, but around 12:45 I woke up with an absolutely pounding headache. We’re talking blindingly miserable pain. I thought I could just go back to sleep and it would go away, but an hour later, I was still awake, and my head felt like it was going to explode. I called down to the front desk asking if they had any ibuprofen (acetaminophen has never been good to me), and they said they’d send some right up. And up it came. In the form of Extra Strength Tylenol. I knew I had a bad history with the stuff, but I was desperate, so I took the meds. Approximately 8.3 minutes later, I was retching in the bathroom. It was a sad scene: sweaty fever and blinding pain–and it went on for the next hour. I somehow managed to sleep for another 2.5 hours, but then I was awake–without the headache or vomiting–but also without the rest I needed pre-race.
When it was time to actually get up and get ready, I still felt a little queasy, but I didn’t train for 6 weeks to sleep off some weird illness in a hotel room, so I figured I’d at least try to run the race. I could always drop out if I needed to. We stopped at the store for some ibuprofen and pretzels, which helped any traces of headache and settled my stomach, respectively. Sidenote: when you live in the city, the price of groceries in the rest of the world becomes a source of great joy. Meds, pretzels, and 2 giant Gatorades for under $10. Unheard of. Anyway.
The Decker’s Creek Half Marathon is a tiny race–600 participants, max–and there’s no pre-race expo. Packet pick-up is before the race near the finish line, and then runners are bused to the start. They do this part really well–very orderly and pretty straightforward. I grabbed my packet, dropped everything but my bib back at the car, and hopped on the bus with a handful of gummy bears. Shot blocks, gummy bears–it’s all the same, no? I got to the start in plenty of time to use the bathroom and do a few dynamic stretches beforehand–I just swing my legs back and forth and side to side (one at a time, of course), and I actually think it helps the ol’ hips.
Even though there were only 600 runners, the start was incredibly crowded. They do 2 waves, but with approximately 300 people lining up on a path that’s 8–maybe 9–feet across doesn’t make for an easy start. Oh, and my Garmin didn’t start right away, so my distance was slightly off for the whole race, but that’s not the end of the world.
After the first 3/4 mile or so, I had gotten out ahead of the jumble and found a comfy pace. I was surprised at how good I felt considering how sick I was and how little sleep I’d had, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that adrenaline can do surprising things. I started out around a 7:30 pace, sped up for the next few miles, and then settled to just under 8 minute pace until around mile 10. Despite the heat and humidity, the miles ticked by relatively quickly, and I felt good. Shortly after mile 8, I ate my Gu and actually stopped at the water station to make sure I didn’t spill anything–I needed the hydration. I usually run through water stops, but I needed to be sure I got every drop. When I finished the cup, I remember thinking, that’s it?!? I suppose I could’ve walked back and gotten another cup, but I figured I could wait until the next stop.
I did ok until that next water stop, but by then, I was pretty wiped out. I stopped again and drank 2 cups of water, then plodded through the last few miles of the race. By mile 12, I was at a 9:14 pace and just spent. I stopped once more for a drink, then finished ‘er up.
Official chip time: 1:44:36, 25th of 329 women, 7th in my age group
Honestly? Not mad at that at all. It’s 10 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race (and the conditions were much better that year). All things considered, it was a pretty good run. A tough run, but a good one no less.
Bonus: Manfriend was there (with signage!) cheering me on. This is the first time since I started racing that I’ve actually had a significant other, and it was kind of awesome to have him there. Decker’s Creek is not an easy course to spectate–it’s all on trails that are difficult to access from the road–but he caught me at 3 different spots. Even though I was salty about how hot it was, seeing him definitely made me smile.
Will I run this race again? Maybe. Now that I have more races under my belt, I can see that it leaves some things to be desired, like the congestion at the start, the lack of Gu/gel on the course (they have them for you to pick up pre-race), and the location of the aid stations (it was a little hard to tell when they were coming up, even if you knew the mile marker, they weren’t consistently spaced). I’ve also realized that it’s harder to run a race when there are so few places for people to spectate. I like the energy of the crowd, even if I do have my headphones blasting the whole time. So we’ll see. I really do like the course and the size of the race, so I’ll keep it in my back pocket. But for the immediate future, I want to set my sights on something new. Any suggestions for a fall half?