Half Marathon #5

June 12, 2016

in Fitness, Training

After six years of running, you would think I’d know by now to never be foolish enough to assume a run will be easy just because the course is “flat and fast.”

For me, there usually is no “fast” anyway, because my pace slowed significantly once I began training for longer distances. But the description, “flat and fast”, can give me a false sense of security. It definitely did for the half marathon I ran yesterday.

The Paul Richey Memorial half marathon in Oil City, PA, was my fifth half marathon. It was an out-and-back on the Samuel Justus Bike Trail, which has both a paved and a dirt packed trail, and it winds along the Allegheny River. Quite a scenic course, and I’m kicking myself a little for not taking pictures. I was looking forward to the new-to-me course, as all four of my other half marathons have taken place at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA (another “flat and fast” course). :)

The race was supposed to begin at 8 a.m. but due to the long line at registration we were about 20 minutes late getting started. That was frustrating because I (along with many others I met during the wait) had driven quite a while and even arrived early for registration and packet pickup. It was a chip-timed race, so we could have started on time and runners’ official times would not have started until they crossed the mats. But, what happened, happened, and we started late. The biggest bummer of that was the extremely warm and humid weather. For a 5k I would have been fine, but for an anticipated 3-hour run…that put us right into the heat of the morning.

I realized I was sweating a little before we even started the race, and had already started sipping at my 16.9 oz bottle of water. I don’t like carrying things when I run but I have gotten used to carrying my phone in one hand and a water in the other. The 16.9 oz is a nice size for my hand. There was a water stop around mile 1, and someone had mentioned before the start that there would be a water stop every mile. They were sorely mistaken and I soon became extremely glad that I chose to bring my own bottle of water. The second water stop was around mile 4, I think, and a third was just before mile 6. Since it was an out-and-back race, those same water stops were there for miles 7, 9-ish, and 12.

The course had a mix of shade and sun, but the sun was STRONG. I didn’t check the temperature but I read later that it was around 83 with 70% humidity. Ugh.

I was only taking a sip here and there of my water; I know better than to chug it down and have it sloshing around in the belly. But it seemed as quickly as I could sip it, I was sweating it out. One of the gals at the mile 4 water stop was amazing and upon my request she graciously re-filled my nearly empty water bottle.

My pace was a bit slow on the first half. I wasn’t mapping my run like I usually do, because I didn’t want to kill my phone battery. I did turn my app on a few times during the first half for 20 minutes or so at a time to track my pace and I would shut it off again. By the time I got to the turn around (which I felt like I would never reach) I was already feeling pretty exhausted. I sent a voice message via Facebook to my two running buddies, Lexa and Lori, and told them this was the first half that I wasn’t sure if I could finish or not. I was just struggling so hard.

I decided to switch to intervals. My Map My Run app offers a coaching feature (which I think is included in the VIP membership) and you can set the coach to communicate with you for pace, distance, intervals, etc. I set it for 3:00 of running and 1:00 walking. I think that’s what saved me. Allowing myself to walk but making myself run for those 3 minute intervals helped me to not lag behind too badly.

The gal at the 6 mile stop filled my water bottle again for me. At the 4/9 mile stop the gal not only was kind enough to fill me up again, but she asked, “Do you want me to dump this and refill the whole thing so it’s all cold?” What a God send she was!

There were a few times when I felt chilly…despite it being in the low 80s with high humidity. I knew that probably wasn’t good so I just made myself take things a little easy. I just wanted to finish.

I prepared myself mentally after mile 10 to not have the chance for another water stop, since the gator had already passed me with the volunteers and equipment from the last water stop I had passed. I figured the mile 12 stop would be torn down as well. I plodded along, doing my intervals, and as I slowly made my way through the final 5k and approached mile 12 I was so happy and grateful to see the final water stop still going strong. There were only about 8 of us left on the course at this point and I nearly hugged the woman who handed me my gatorade. I thanked them for waiting for us, and one man told me to go ahead and fill up my water bottle without me even asking.

So, despite there not being a water stop every mile like someone had mistakenly informed us (another runner, not a race committee member) they did have plenty of water at each stop and that’s super important to me as a back-of-the-pack runner.

As I slowly ran my last mile, one of the gals I had chatted with through miles 4-5 was walking back to find her friend and help her finish. I said, “Please tell me it’s close!” and she smiled and said, “It is! Seriously! Just around this curve you will see the clock!” That was all I needed to hear to kick things up a notch and push a little harder. The curve was longer than I expected so I backed off a bit so I didn’t pass out, but after a few more minutes, there was the clock. I used the last of the gas in my tank for a finishing kick and the beeps of my feet crossing over the timing mats was music to my ears. I happily stood for a minute so a volunteer could remove my timing chip, accepted my medal from another volunteer, and started my three-quarter mile walk back to my car.

After 3 hours and 9 minutes and 23 seconds, my fifth half marathon was finally in the books. No rest for the wicked…#6 is in 35 days.

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