When I woke up for the race yesterday morning, it was 28 degrees. It has been in the 70s and 80s for the last few weeks, and then earlier this past week it started getting cooler. Cooler, not cold; perfect fall weather. However, 28 was a serious shock to the system. As I was walking out the door I made the decision to run in shorts and a t-shirt, rather than capris and a t-shirt, because I figured being cold would be better motivation to keep moving than overheating would. Aaron and I walked from where we parked in Harbor East over to Camden Yards, and we made sure to be more than bundled up for that frigid walk. It was a good warm up though, both for our legs and our bodies, and just a nice walk. It’s about 1 ¾ miles from my fundraising group’s pre-race venue, and about 2 miles from the post-race celebration village. Rather than a tent in the celebration village, Back on My Feet rents out the Sports Legends Museum – heated, with seating, food, and bathrooms!! Real bathrooms with no lines. What more could you possibly ask for on race day? We hung out there for an hour just relaxing and warming up before getting ready to head over to the start at around 9:20am. Even though a lot of the roads were closed, not all of them were – and some of them lead right to the highway. It absolutely amazed me at how stupid people can be. People heading over to the start were just walking in front of traffic, which had right of way, and wondering why they were getting honked at. Why are common sense and basic life preservation skills so elusive for so many? It was a chilly walk, but it was warming up quick. By the time we lined up in our corral, it was probably in the upper 40s. I had packed a throw-away shirt to wear at the beginning of the race, but decided to ditch it just before the start of the race, and I’m glad I did. I did, however, keep the gloves on for the first mile.
During training, I typically use a run-walk method, aiming to extend the run and reduce the walk each time. When I did my last long run, 11.25 miles, 3 weeks ago, something clicked and for the first time I ran almost 2.5 miles non-stop. That was a big deal for me. Going into yesterday’s race, I knew I was going to have to pull on that to get me through under my goal. I ran the first 4 miles with only about 200 yards of walking – some of the early hills were steeper and meaner than I remembered and I wanted to be more fresh for the real hills later. I got through the first 5 miles in just over an hour, which was right about where I wanted to be.
At that point though, the hills got mean. I was able to get about 75% of the way up the hills at this point, and then walk to the crest, then start running again. As we got through miles 6 and 7, I pushed as hard as I could, but I wasn’t able to make it up the hills as well as I had hoped. Mile 7 offers a nice flat reprieve, which I ran about 90% of, with the exception of the time it took me to down a banana and a few chips. I had never, however, made it this far in a race while still being as close to the pack as we were yesterday – that was an awesome feeling. By 8.5 miles, my knees were starting to bug me, but my legs were still feeling good. I was slowing down, but still running. Shortly after, however, the continuous uphills started taking their toll. None of them were steep, but they were just steep enough to be really annoying, and I started walking most of the hills. I remember the course being mostly downhill once we got to the JHU campus, but I clearly remembered wrong because there were still lots of those slight little uphills. Still, we both pushed as hard as we could. At this point, I checked my GPS and it looked like our sub-3 hour goal was out of reach, but we kept plodding along. By the time we made it to the downhills and flats, I was able to just stop thinking, zone out, and let my legs keep moving.
I have literally never run – actually run – this much in my life. I have completed 3 other HMs, but there was usually a lot of walking. Like a lot a lot. Even on training runs, I took walk breaks frequently. I have no idea where it came from yesterday, but my legs just kept running, and I had no intentions of getting in their way. There were plenty of times I wanted a walk break, but I convinced myself that I didn’t need one. By the last mile (which actually, finally, was downhill), I was on autopilot. I briefly looked at my GPS and noticed that my goal may actually be within reach, so we pushed as much as we could to the finish. I was so thrilled to get in under 3 hours, I shrieked and cried a little. It was such a great feeling to finally beat my goal and to finally have a finish time with a 2 as the first number.
Even with the punishing hills and pushing through the discomfort, I feel better today than I have after any of my other HMs. My knee joints are achey, and my lungs are a bit achey from the cold (cold weather and my lungs have never gotten along), but that’s about it. I also know that I now need to focus even more on hills for this race next year. I did hill training, but clearly not enough. A lot of that was because my PT wouldn’t let me run hills until a month out from race day, and even then I could only do rolling hills, nothing steep.
I’m planning on doing another (flatter!!) HM in the spring, and then I’m debating between the half or attempting the full in the fall, but I’ll make that call in the spring, depending on how my training goes over the next 6 months.