My friend Rena was running her very first half-marathon that day, which was wonderful. We got to go to the expo together and talk runner stuff, much to the dismay of all friends and family around us. I have to hand it to Publix - sweet little expo. Lots of samples, lots of food tasting from Publix (a grocery store). I actually bought a gaudy headband there, too, since I like trying new things for races (har har, so smart).
It was also great to have a buddy for the race start. We got up pretty early and I did my coffee and granola bar thing (thank you, expo, since I did not plan my breakfast!). I had a couple of snags at the start - there was NO water, which was weird, and I realized too late that corrals A and B were separated from the others and you had to enter a different way. I managed to actually squirm through a barrier just in time for the start gun.
The elevation profile shows right away that this just can't be a fast course. Yes, there are downhills, but there are plenty of steep uphills that can hurt you. The final few miles are a tough, almost unrelenting climb in the shadeless hot sun, and there are several hills over a mile long.
I struggled to find a pace at first but finally landed at an approximate 3:15 pace (I threw in some fast miles in the least hilly middle section and gave up some time at the ending climb later). The temps were already warm and I was glad that I'd opted to run in a jog bra (The directors did "yellow flag" the race later at 10:15 am).
I don't remember a lot from the first part of the race, probably because of the relative crowdedness and because I was concentrating on navigating these strange lumps in the ground called hills. I do remember that the race thinned out pretty quickly once the half split off at mile 7. It was shaping up to be the kind of race that makes you think, "Darn, it's hotter and hillier than I thought. Wish I'd saved some energy." Nice, strong-looking people were slowing down pretty early on. I missed the mile 7 GU stop because the volunteers had just handed off their last as I approached, which made me a tad anxious. I'd only brought 2 Gels so I knew I'd need more.
The middle of the race I enjoyed quite a bit: It ran through Decatur, which is more mildly rolling hills than steep ups and downs, and the town had printed signs with funny poems on them along the entire course! It was cracking me up! The signs were about running sometimes, but usually about returning to Decatur to spend money. Too much fun.
A local runner at the start warned me that mile 17ish was a brutal hill, and he was right - it was long, and late in the race, and I think my slowest mile was there. I snagged two gels once we finally descended again, and noticed a lady in front struggling a little. She was kind of walking to take her GU, so I passed her while she was slowed down. Then I ran into my fans! David and our friend Kika and some cute kids were there to see me! So fun. Much to my surprise David told me I was 5th female; I didn't expect that in a race of this size.
|Seeing David at mile 20. This little group sort of formed a "pack" as the race thinned out after the half; we stayed pretty close most of the way but oddly did not talk at all!|
This was at mile 20, and it was already plenty hot and sunny. By 21 or 22, I was facing pretty much an uphill climb to the finish, and no shade at all. I was definitely feeling thirsty! On the climb at mile 23 I passed another women. I actually ran with her a little and tried to get her to keep up but she wasn't having it. The half and full course re-converge near the finish (mile 25 I think?) and that was fun; I cheered some halfers on who looked really ready to call it a day. I was pretty much sick and tired of climbing uphill by the time I finally got to the finish chute; I wrapped that race up in a hurry and immediately drank two bottles of water. And a chocolate milk, since everyone keeps saying you should, and it was incredibly gross. I don't like sweet drinks, I don't like milk, and dairy after a marathon isn't exactly a great idea for the GI system. Yuck (you can see I'm campaigning hard for a spot on the refuel with chocolate milk team here...).
I was a little annoyed when I realized I was 4th and the top 3 females win prize money, but I shrugged it off - the top three all ran faster than my PR and I doubt I would be busting out a 3:04 on this hilly course. Next year, Publix, next year.
Rena had finished feeling great and strong! I think I might - just maybe - have a running convert! I assessed my muscle situation and things felt ok: my ankles and quads were mushy, but I was walking. Other than that, I felt good, which is a bonus when you run a race at a training pace. Strangely, a few hours later I suddenly felt dizzy and weak; I had some salt and coffee and got my pressure back up and I was ok.
So, how do I feel about hills now? I am ok with them. I wish I had some here, in fact. They break up the monotony, they use different muscles, and they HAVE to be good for training. I think if I could stay strong on this course, Boston might not eat me for lunch.