I have so much to say about this race and ironically, this was probably my most low-key race to date.
Pre-race: I drove out to Syracuse with three other gals Saturday afternoon, chatting the entire way because they were all new-to-me friends. By the time we arrived at Fleet Feet, it was raining and much colder than it was in Albany. Packet pick-up was a breeze and I even ran into other teammates of mine, of course having their photographs taken and I had to jump in on the action. Side note: this fleet feet was HUGE compared to ours! But there was no need to shop- I had my outfit and fuel ready to go for race day.
The four of us stayed at the Crowne Plaza in the same room (hello $32 hotel deal!) and I felt like we had plenty of space. Maybe not so much in the full-size beds, but otherwise, I was pretty comfortable. I stayed back to eat the dinner I had brought with me- brown rice with kale, coconut and tamari- and watched a little Food Network to relax. Before I knew it, it was almost 9PM and we were discussing our game plans for the following day. Boss Nark stopped in to give me my last minute pace goal because neither one of us knew what to expect. I’m one month post walking pneumonia and this was my first race of the season. We decided on 10 minute miles. A little slower on all of the inclines, but an overall of 10 minute miles would bring me in right around a 2:10 half marathon, which of course would be a PR (my previous being a 2:21). I fell asleep fast just after nine and slept soundly until my regular wake-up time around 3:30AM.
Race day: I tossed and turned and dozed off a little until our alarm went off at 6AM. I was immediately awake and enjoying my shake- a banana, Vega One powder and coconut milk- and a glass of water and peppermint oil to settle my stomach. Before I knew it, we were dressed and in the lobby meeting the rest of the team for a warm-up. I joined them for a short half mile jog and then ditched them for the porta potties. Right as I was climbing into one, Jen called me to get my location; we had planned to run some miles together for company. To keep a long story short, they delayed the start of the race (I think because a ton of people were still in line for the bathrooms?) and we didn’t get moving until after 8:15AM. It was cold and I was worried that I wasn’t dressed properly… but that thought soon changed.
Miles 1-2: Started off a little faster than I anticipated but we slowed down the minute we hit THE HUGE ASS HILL. It seemed to go on FOREVER. But I reminded myself that I did not get to hike a lot this past winter and that this climb was a lot shorter than any mountain. Unfortunately, by the time I reached the top, I realized that I had lost Jen. Once the road evened out, I also realized that I had a very sharp pain in my left ankle. I never have pain in my ankles and this worried me; for a hot moment I thought that I’d have to stop and got pretty disappointed. Luckily, another hill came into view and distracted me. (9:55, 10:00)
Miles 3-5: I don’t remember much about these miles other than the fact that every single time we turned (specifically to the left), there was a monster hill. At one point we passed a man with the back of his car open blasting music. As I climbed the hill, Uptown Funk was playing and all I heard was “don’t believe me just watch.” I repeated that in my head with every single step I took up a hill from that point on. I kept seeing the miles clock in much faster than I wanted/anticipated and tried to slow down, knowing that after the 8 mile marker, the race would start (less hills). I took a shot blok at mile 5 and powered on. (9:26, 9:28, 9:32)
Miles 6-8: Hills, hills and more hills. This was a lonely section for me because I normally have someone nearby to talk to and I realized during these miles, that I hadn’t spoken a word in over and hour and a half. At each mile marker I would check my watch and knew I was on schedule for a 2:10. At each water station, I’d take a sip of the water I was carrying, to prevent me from stopping; it felt good to fly by the water stations this late in the race while the majority stopped. I refueled with another block at mile 8 but realized I was much hungrier than I anticipated- most likely because I was working harder. (9:36, 9:41, 9:31)
Miles 9-11: I think it was around mile 10 when I came up on a man that was literally shuffling his feet with every step and I became so frustrated. A) because of the noise he was making and B) because I wanted to run past him and couldn’t make my body go any faster. I was with him for about half a mile until I had enough energy to press on. I could feel myself starting to slow down and mentally I just wanted to walk. I kept telling myself that even if I slowed down to what I was running in training on my long runs, I’d still PR, but I refused to walk. (9:12, 9:38, 9:36)
Miles 12, 13 and .1: I started to beat myself up for running too fast too soon but I really hadn’t anticipated all of those hills. I just kept moving and once I heard someone say they could see the finish line, I kicked it into high gear. As I approached the finish and could see sub 2:10 on their clock (knowing the net would be faster), I got a little teary-eyed but kept my pace until I crossed both mats. I found the closest person handing out the finisher’s medals, let them put it on me, and searched for coach: I had done better than we both anticipated and that was a win in my book! (9:52, 9:52, 8:54 pace)
Post-race: I enjoyed some water and orange slices at the expo (they had a huge hot breakfast with pancakes, bacon, yogurt, everything I can’t eat, etc.) and walked back to the hotel with Jess. We both took the longest showers before the other two gals returned and packed up to hit the road. My legs were sore (even more so today) but the ride home didn’t seem to take long at all. I devoured a liter of water, hummus, pretzels, chex mix and then a 24oz. PBR once I got home… I felt that one was well deserved!
I am beyond thrilled with my performance and am looking forward to the Steel Rail Half Marathon in May. This course is much easier hills-wise and hopefully the temperature will be above 20 degrees, but not too hot. I’ve got 2 solid months to work on my speed and I’ve got big goals for that finish time. More on that to come later!