If ever a race was about the training and not the actual race, this race was it. I believe that I enjoyed training for this race more than any race I have ever done.
Pre-race, the most notable thing that happened in the morning was that I couldn’t find the wrist strap for my garmin. I threw things around my apartment like…well, like an endurance athete who couldn’t find the wrist strap to her Garmin. I spent about 10 minutes scouring my apartment until I found it already packed in my workout bag. I love giving myself panic attacks before races, it seems to be a trend.
Usually, pre-race instructions are pretty blah, but the race instructions for this race had that incredible combination of being quite funny and very inspiring. Often, while training for this race, I would make the comment that we are so lucky to live here, which is kind of surpring to hear me say. I mean, I often say things like “moving to Australia, going back to the DR,” but the bottom line is that living so close to a National Park with all of its miles of trails and beautiful roads, we are just lucky. Adding to that the story of Regis and his fight with cancer hit a little close to home and made me appreciate the life I get to live.
The course had two loops: an orange loop and a green loop. The orange loop was about 8.4 miles the green loop was 4.7, making a half marathon. The people running the full or the 50k started on the green loop, the rest of us started on the orange loop. In training, I had run the orange loop several times, but I had only run a very small portion of the green loop, so I didn’t quite know what it had in store for us.
As our wave started, I made my left turn and listened to the advice a friend had said before the race, “I am going to run so I can finish.” The course is 1) pretty hilly and 2) was extremely muddy. At times, the mud was so thick, I couldn’t help but walk, there were other times when I was running in the mud, and it literally sucked my shoes off my feet.
For the most part, I ran flats and downhills, walked steps, muddy downhill steps, and places were the mud was just non-negotiable. This plan of attack seemed to work pretty well. Often, the side of the trail was the easiest to navigate so I was usually running there. Having been in the 4th wave, I passed quite a few people, something that still surprises me in running races. I would try to make jokes, pretty stupid and cheesy, like “Hey, I think you have some mud on your shoes.” I always feel like it is important, especially in a race like this one, to say something encouraging to people either passing me or to people I pass. I do this pretty much anytime I run: in a race, in a triathlon, or even when running on the towpath or Sand Run.
Early in the race, I was on some pretty muddy stairs, and someone grabbed my arm to catch her balance. She apologized, and I said that it was no big deal, I made a joke about how I had grabbed a friend’s hips when I slipped on the ice a few weeks back, and that was much more embarrassing. Just as I finished that story, the hand of the man running in front of me hit me in a…let’s say more embarasssing location than the hips. With the mental, “oh geez,” I hurried out of there. Note to self: don’t stand around telling stupid stories, get out of people’s way.
There was one section that I knew was pretty flat and upon thinking about the course beforehand, I thought would likely have standing water, which turned out to be the case. I was slightly over-dressed as I feared getting too cold if it had rained, but I kind of found the water in the shoes refreshing.
As I approached the first aide station, I saw a teammate heading back to the trail. I gave him a high five and made my way out. I was pretty happy when I got to the first aide station. I was surprised that I knew almost everyone there. Espeed, from cyclo-cross glory, grabbed by water bottle from me and filled it for me, and after posing for a from another Elizabeth and saying hi to a few others, I made my way out of there. Although I probably could have used a bathroom break, I opted to get out of there quickly.
I was feeling good, thinking I was running pretty well and continued around
to make my way back up to the Ledges. Now, this portion of the trail has always been kind of a problem for me. If I have been trying to stay up with Janet and that crew, it’s about 5 miles into the run that my body reminds me that I am not meant to run with these people and start to fade (more than I already have). I started to notice that my pace was starting to slow. I told myself that I needed to eat and while I feared how my stomach would handle it, I knew it was not a negotiation, there was still a long way to go and breakfast wasn’t going to last as long as this race. I ate some citrus shot blocks (still from my winnings from Tour of the Valley), and my stomach let me know that a bathroom break would be in order at the next aide station. Kendell Lake
A little bit later, there was a bit of confusion on the course. The course wasn’t marked, and I, along with two others, went to the right. After about a minute, they yelled that they were sure it’s the wrong way, and we all turned around…and I am glad they did. As it turned out, many people continued down that way, including Jen P and fellow teammate Gary B.
Jen P then passed me around mile 7 or 8 and was pretty upset that she had indeed gone off-course, but man, did she fly by me! Shortly after that run-in, I made it to the next aide station. I saw teammates Gary and Ben standing there, so I said hi as I got my final water bottle fill and made my way to the restroom. Yes, the stomach was officially unhappy, but the slower pace of trail running seemed to make it manageable. When I got back out, Ben had already made his way to the next loop and
was still standing there. Gary
As we made our way on this loop,
told me about his frustrations of going off-course, adding a few miles to his day. Upon hearing that, I had two thoughts: 1) you have to be a steller athlete to be able just to add a few miles to an already long run and 2) THANK GOD that wasn’t me! Gary
I was basically running with Ben when my watch beeped for the 12 mile mark. I had told a friend that I had expected to finish between 2:30-2:45, hoping I would be closer to 2:30 than the latter. I knew I wasn’t going to break 2:30, but I knew I could still keep it close. Then, I thought about my friend J. Mack who ran with me at the Cleveland Marathon 10k who said that he had a rule about no walking in the last mile. I told myself that I had nothing else to do today other than finish this race and that running wasn’t going to take that much more energy than walking so I started running and stopped when I hit the finish line. I ended up finishing in 2:33:40. Ironically enough, it is NOT my slowest half marathon, that title still goes to the half marathon at Musselman in 2011 when my stomach was oh so ticked off and the closest I have ever come to DNFing a triathlon.
It was a great way to start the 2013 racing season! It was kind of cool that I was kind of bittersweet the race was over as I had enjoyed the training for it, but then Joey reminded me that many of us had signed up for Barry-Roubaix in March and that we would need to plan training for that race. Sweet! Goodbye mud, hello gravel!