I've tried to sit down and write this several times. Problem is, I'm in the middle of a flare with whatever my (yet undetermined) health issues are. When I'm flaring, I have huge problems with brain fog, and the words just don't flow or even make sense in my head. So, three weeks later, here is my race report...
Up until the day before the race, I wasn't sure I was going to run. But I went and picked up my packet, figuring if I really felt terrible in the morning, I could still back out. The projected forecast wasn't making me want to tough it out either... 35 degrees and raining... sounded like a miserable almost 3 hours to me. (Neither the weather or my time were that bad, but more on that later.)
I slept fitfully, as is the norm for me the night before a race. When I got up at 5:30, the weather was looking a little more promising... it had already rained and it looked like any more would hold off at least until the final miles. It was still cold, but I was prepared for cold with the throwaway clothes I had purchased at Goodwill the day before. I got dressed, had my coffee, a Hammer bar, and some Skratch hydration drink. I also made sure I prepped a garbage bag with head and arm holes to put in my jersey in case it decided to rain during the race.
We all piled into the car, and my friend's mom drove us to the race start. This is a point-to-point race and in previous years I have parked at the finish and taken the shuttle. Having a driver that is not running (Sharon had run the 5K the night before), is a huge bonus as she took us right to the start and we got to sit in the warm car until just before the start!
Given my lack of training, my plan for this race was to Galloway my way to the finish. I planned to run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute, and make my walk breaks longer at the end as needed.
I have a bad habit of making a race plan and then not sticking to it... feeling good at the beginning and going too hard, then crashing. I knew that if I was going to make it through this race, I NEEDED to stick to my plan. I predicted I would finish between 2:45 and 2:50, with worst case being at 3 hours.
I missed the first walk break... just wasn't paying attention to my watch and suddenly the mile marker was ahead... too quickly. I did get one walk break in just before that first mile marker, but I reached the first mile in 10:44. Way too fast considering what I had been able to run in training. With walk breaks, I should have been closer to 12 minutes per mile. I worried that if I didn't slow down, I would bonk early.
But I have a hard time slowing down once my body has set its pace. And I didn't slow down significantly until mile 11. (The slower miles in the beginning are due to water stops not being at my scheduled walk break or because 3 scheduled walk breaks fell within the mile.)
Mile 2: 10:51
Mile 3: 12:06
Mile 4: 11:12
Mile 5: 11:05
Mile 6: 10:51
Mile 7: 11:55
Mile 8: 11:22
Mile 9: 11:56
Mile 10: 11:12
Miles 11 & 12: 24:23
Last 1.1 miles: 13:18
Finishing time: 2:30:20
I really worried those first few miles that I wouldn't be able to sustain it, that I would get to X-miles and crash and burn. It's happened before and it's happened at this race... But I just kept going, sticking to the plan. I didn't skip any more walk breaks. I did run a little longer interval if it would benefit me (i.e., there's a hill one minute ahead so I ran 5 minutes instead of four so I could walk up the hill) but I did get all of my walking time in.
I was surprised at every mile that I was doing as well as I was and still feeling ok. Don't get me wrong, this was one of my slowest half-marathons, and had I been trained, I would have been disgusted that I was going so slow and walking so much. But I wasn't in good shape, I wasn't properly trained, I've had a ton of health challenges the past couple years, yet my body was performing beyond my expectations. I was thrilled!
I realized at about 10 miles that I had a real shot at breaking 2:30. I concentrated on this for the last few miles, gambled by taking my last full walk break. Arguing with myself in my head... did I really need that last walk break? Hard to say... a walk break can be incredibly rejuvenating and I was able to finish strong. I expressed discouragement at having finished just over 2:30, for which my husband shot me a dirty look. I told him he hasn't been running long enough, he just doesn't understand ;) Really I was thrilled to have finished 15 minutes faster than I had realistically expected!
I also tried out new fuel for this race. I know, don't try anything new in a race, but I hadn't been able to do any long training runs that would allow me to try it out. Besides, I knew I wasn't going for a PR, this race was simply about survival.
About 2 years ago, I started having fueling issues, my stomach just shutting down somewhere between 8 and 10 miles. Anything ingested after that, even just plain water, would just sit in my stomach and I would be bloated and miserable, not to mention that I wasn't absorbing any of my carbs for fuel.
I've been carrying a handheld since my race GI issues started, allowing me to get a sip of fuel every mile for a more constant stream of energy instead of having to wait until water stops to suck down a gel. I've experimented with all sorts of products in my bottle, and this time I finally found one that worked. I used Skratch Labs Hydration Mix in my bottle and ate Sharkies energy chews. I carried extra pouches of the drink mix in the pocket of my handheld, mixing more at a water station when I ran out. (I used 2.5 servings for this race.) I've been using Sharkies before a long swim for a while, but never tried them on the run as I have trouble chewing things during a race. I discovered quickly that chewing them wasn't going to work for me, so I started swallowing them instead. Again, a little bit every mile (1-2 sharks per mile starting at mile 5). I had also eaten most of a package just prior to the race. For the first time in 2 years, I had no GI issues in the race! But it was only one race, so I will be trying it out again before swearing that this regimen was the solution to my problem. (Also, of note: Skratch Labs has a hydration mix that is meant to be consumed hot: Apples and Cinnamon. It was a real treat to have a thermos of nice warm apple hydration drink waiting for me at the finish on a cold day!)
I was extremely glad I decided to run this race. It restored my faith in my body, reminded me that muscle memory is a wonderful thing, and gave me hope that I will be able to complete the next race I am registered for even if my health doesn't fully cooperate with my training: Sedona Marathon Half on February 1. Warm, sunny Arizona in the middle of the winter... anyone want to join me?