Late last year I decided that I wasn’t going to run any early spring races – a wonky winter can totally throw your training off and I had bigger goals for the year. Well, that all went out the door when I heard that Back on My Feet was hosting a half marathon at the end of March. 🙂
When you think of running in the end of March, you think of warm(ish) weather, daffodils, sun, and birds chirping, right? Ha! Nice try. I woke up to snow. Snow! The meteorologist on the morning news assured her viewers it would only be intermittent and pass pretty quickly. Ha! Right.
Knowing it was going to be a cold race, I wore the same kit that I wore for the Father Time Frolic on New Year’s Day, as the temperatures were forecasted to be pretty similar.
Yeah, I don’t care what the thermostat said – it felt way colder than the New Year’s Day race. It was a damp, bone chilling 32 with snow and about a 10-15 mph wind. Even standing around the snow blew right into your eyes and the wind just cut right through whatever you were wearing.
I got there pretty early and only left my car for the portapot and the BOMF pre-race circle.
The race started at 8:30, and I finally crawled out of my car at about 8:20 to do some quick dynamic flexibility warmups, run a quick bit to see how everything felt, and then joined my friends at the starting line. One of the women from my summer and winter training groups was there, as was an old friend of mine from high school.
The first .63 mi of the race was downhill, from the school to the trail. In an effort to warm up and keep up with my high school friend, I (surprise, surprise) went out a bit too fast. My first mile was 9:15, and the second wasn’t too much slower. At around 1.5 miles I decided to try and pull back the pace, but I had a really hard time with pacing for some reason. I honestly don’t know if it’s from the cold or from the wonky winter training season, but I just couldn’t get it under control. It didn’t matter if I went by feel or by Garmin.
We passed by the first relay point at about 3.3 miles – and surprisingly there was a really big crowd! That was a much needed mental boost. The rest of the outbound trip was pretty quiet, as there’s really no where for spectators to stand, but I was well with the pack. The leaders started passing back on their return trip somewhere around mile 5. En route I managed to tie my 5k PR and set a new unofficial 5 mile PR (48:42). Awesome, but not good. This wasn’t a short race.
I hit the turn around point, which was a cone with ridiculously, but much welcomed, large smily face ballon in about 1:03:45 – which kinda shocked me. I’m not sure what happened at this point, but I kind of got into a dark place. My achilles was starting to hurt, my piriformis, which I admittedly have gotten lazy about, was tightening up, and my legs were just feeling heavy. And I was cold. Really cold.
As I watched my pace plummet on my Garmin, that place just got darker. I stopped to stretch two or three times, walked through the remaining water stops, and watched as the pack in front of me got thinner and thinner; and then I got passed, by more than a few people. I presume some of them were relay runners, fresher than I, gunning to get to the exchange, but the sting is still the same. The wind never ceased, the snow kept falling, and it felt like the temperatures were mimicking my pace. I high-fived the racers that were still heading out to the turn-around, but I’m not sure if I was doing that more for them or for me.
I had hoped to see a big crowd again at the relay exchange point, to get that little bolt of energy, but it was pretty quiet. Not that I can blame them – it was #$)@(ing cold. I wouldn’t want to stand around either.
The last 3.3 miles were very quiet. The snow had started to lay on the adjacent fields, and parts of the trail, which had been perfectly clear just an hour or two ago, were now covered. I tried to take a picture, but even my phone gave up – the cold sapped the battery and I was left with a shiny paperweight.
It turned out to be a good and a bad thing that I knew this part of the trail well. Good, because I knew where I was and how much further I had to go. Bad, because I knew where I was and how much further I had to go. But being this close, I couldn’t let that dark place bully me in to slowing down.
In order to distract myself I kept taking sips of water, “in preparation for the hill.” Yeah. That hill that I sped down at the beginning? It’s an out-and-back course.
As I got closer, I could see the other smily-faced balloon bobbing in the wind like some deranged bobblehead, telling me it was time to climb the hill. I swung wide and transitioned from packed stone to pavement, reminding myself that there was only .63 mi to go. Trying not to look too far ahead, I focused on the snowdrops which were blooming next to the road – the only sign that spring might actually still consider happening. As I slowed down, the cold only got more pronounced, so I tried to push harder and faster, making an extra effort to run the tangents, just to get to the finish sooner.
When I came upon the last bend in the road, I could hear the crowd at the finish line cheering people through and I kicked it into over drive. It didn’t matter how much my achilles, my piriformis, or my pride hurt, the finish line was mine. As I turned the corner and hit that slight downhill, I broke out into a sprint – and then I was done.
I didn’t even stop when I crossed the line – I made a beeline for my car, where fresh clothes and a warm second layer awaited. Once dressed for the weather, I went back to the finish area, grabbed some food and drink and chatted for a bit before heading home with dreams of a blisteringly hot shower dancing in my head.
The less-than-stellar winter training definitely took a toll on a few of us, but we had our first half of the year in the books, a good baseline for the rest of the year.
I should be much more ecstatic than I am. I got an awesome new PR – 2:11:21, officially – but for some reason I just feel kind of deflated. That feeling from the second half of the race just took over the joy of the PR. Even today, I just can’t shake it and still don’t feel pride in the PR.