Remember last year when I said I had run my last running race? So that lasted all of 6 months before I signed up for another one. To be fair, I did mention in that post that I was perhaps being a little dramatic.
There were two main changes that led me back to running. First, heart rate based training. Josh got me a refurbished garmin 910 for my birthday and for the first time in my life, I began letting my heart rate determine how fast I ran (or, often, walked). It turns out my "rate of perceived exertion" assumptions were WAY off and I mostly hated running because I was always training in zone 4 or 5 and basically beating my body into submission without ever giving it a break. Zone 2 base building walk/runs were more enjoyable in the moment, gave me a sense of success since I completed the workout as assigned, and actually worked to speed me up over time. The other big change was the start of what appears to be rheumatoid arthritis (though I'm still seronegative). My rheumatologist is happy to have me continue exercising, and I feel better when I stay active, but I have to be careful about how I workout. If I push too hard on one workout, I will pay for it with nearly a week's worth of hand/wrist pain and fatigue (yes, running makes my hands hurt, more on that in another post). This has helped me get pretty darn comfortable with "racing my own race". I'm slow, I know I'm slow, but I also know most of the people passing me don't have any sort of chronic illness. I'm much more content to go at my own pace and very slowly improve. Back of the pack finishes feel like success these days.
So I had been running for triathlon and actually enjoying it when we found out a race series we like was adding a new half marathon to their schedule. There were early bird discounts and promises of good swag. And that is how, less than a year after I swore off running races, I found myself registered for the Nutrabolt Half Marathon.
It rained over 5 inches the day before the race. Race morning dawned a shocking 60 degrees, with rain and 15mph winds. The week prior had been mid-80s and the week before that, mid-90s. So shocking is really quite an understatement. I ended up running with a hat, ear warmer and poncho that weren't part of the original plan. Much like the 30 degree marathon years ago, I had an idea that I'd get rid of the poncho once I warmed up, but that didn't happen until about mile 12.
The walk to the start line was a solid mix of, "man, this is really sucky weather" and "man, I'm really fortunate to capable of doing this race". We timed it just right and arrived at the start line right when the race started, so we had no "standing around getting cold" time. I think I made it about 50 feet before I ended up running right through a deep puddle. It was the first of many and my sock and shoes stayed soaked the rest of the race.
The rain never stopped. The wind never stopped. I did a really good job of sticking to my plan of doing intervals of 10 minutes in zone 4 and 2 minutes in zone 2. It paid off when I started catching up to and passing the people who had gone out too fast. Big Race Fail #1: The description specified there would be brownies at miles 4.5 and 10. Presumably because of the rain, they ditched that plan and only had gels. I don't have a problem with a race only having gels, but since they said there would be brownies on course, I didn't carry food of my own. Around mile 5.5 I pulled out my phone to text Josh (who was ahead of me) how much further I had to go before there would be food. I was STARVING and badly needed solid calories. I even took a gel for the first time in 9 years (I hate the texture/taste). Thankfully he didn't answer because I would've been completely demoralized to learn the truth...there was no food anywhere on the course. Definitely an oversight, they should have at least made a facebook post about that before the race.
The roads we were running on were familiar to me and I thought I knew what to expect, but they'd been recently repaved and had a new, rather drastic, crown to them. We weren't always sloping the same direction, so that was helpful, but one of my IT bands still started acting up a bit around mile 9. I stopped and stretched and slowed down a little, but overall, it was minor. Around this time is also when I got a text from Josh that he had finished. I still had about 45 minutes to go and checked in with him every mile from that point on. I leap frogged for a while with a man about my age and his father. They were doing similar run/walk intervals and we chatted a bit. There was one woman I'd been about 50 yards behind for the whole race and I decided to focus on keeping her in my sights and closing the gap.
After a disheartening pass within sight of the finish, I finished out the final mile and crossed the finish line. Despite the large inside gym at the facility that was hosting the race (and where packet pickup had been the day before, so they had already set it up to deal with water being tracked in), all of the racers, volunteers and spectators were kept outside. Poor Josh had stood around, outside, in the cold and rain waiting for me all that time and never mentioned it in his texts to me. Big Race Fail #2: Despite the weather and lack of any real shelter, there were no space blankets. Since this was a point to point race, everyone had to wait for shuttles back to their cars, there was no leaving right away if you wanted to. We were allowed to have drop bags, which we had put dry clothes in, but there was no where to change.
Given the high quality of races this group usually puts on, the food and space blanket oversights seem odd and I'm not quite sure why they didn't see a problem with those two things. I learned a valuable lesson...never completely trust race directors and always plan to take care of yourself. Next time I have a race in similar conditions, I will pack my own space blanket in my drop bag, and I will always make sure I have solid calories with me.
At the end of the day, my overall time was 2:56:06, that's 01:56 slower than the last half marathon. I felt MUCH better after this one though, aside from feeling frozen to the core. I took care of the IT band issue in the moment and it didn't bother me the next day. My legs only had minor soreness. I took a nap that day to head off the fatigue and I recovered well without setting off an RA flare. All in all, a success that has me planning more half-marathons and thinking maybe a better try at a full is in my future sometime.
No free photos for this race and not many spectators came out in the weather, so I don't have race pictures to share. But I do have the race medal and finisher's mug (it was an Oktoberfest theme)!