Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brooksie Way Half Marathon

So it has almost been a month since my Half and I am just getting the motivation to do my write up. Life has been crazy lately so I would love to blame it all on that, but for some reason I have lost a little of the momentum I had before the race. I don’t know if is because the race didn’t somehow meet my expectations or if it is because of the sudden stop in running that occurred after. Either way I need to get things back in gear. To start I am going back to the 3rd of October and reliving my first half marathon.

 Since I was part of the official training program I had a lot of opportunities to help out before the race. Many of us stuffed goodie bags and worked the expo. It was a lot of fun and really let me get the full experience. Being the strong introvert that I am, this really put me out of my comfort zone, but I did get a lot of shopping in :) However, unlike other people around me, that were either nervous or excited, I was walking around a little numb. No nerves. No excitement. Nothing. Very different from my last big race and I am not really sure why.

On race day my mom and I got there 2 hours early since I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic like last time. Since it was very cold out we sat in the car for a while and watched everyone roll in. After a while we started making our way to the training tent so I could meet up with my training group. There we did our group pictures and stood around trying to stay warm. Finally around 7:50 we started to get into our pace groups. The wheelers started at 8, the 5kers at 8:10 and then finally we were off at 8:20.

The Full Group 4 Training Team - We split into three sections for the run for slightly different intervals and pace.  I am in the pink and my section's team leader is in the blue and yellow jacket next to me.    Unfortuantly, the others in my section didn't make it so it was just me and the section leader.

It took a few minutes to get to the start and then we were off. The first part of the race was on a two lane road, but after about a quarter of a mile it opened up to the full 5 lanes. Just past the first mile marker I took off my jacket and threw it to the side to be picked up and donated it. This was one of the best parts of the race for me since I was wearing an old jacket from before 90 pounds ago. It was like throwing off the old me and all that meant and finishing the race as the “new” me. It felt wonderful!

Clinton River Trail

About 3.3 miles in we transitioned to the Clinton River Trail – a converted railroad trail. It is a smooth down hill trail covered with trees. The 1.5 mile segment of trail took us across the Clinton River and cut through to the down town area of Rochester where we transitioned back to the roads. At this point (mile 5) we started hitting the hilly portion of the race. Even though this portion is hilly it is relatively fast as there are several steep down hill sections.

Paint Creek Trail
After about a mile on the hilly roads we entered the park and continued to the Paint Creek Trail. Paint Creek is another converted railroad trail and is my favorite part of the race. The 1 mile section we ran was a steady up hill trail, but is wonderful to run – especially in the fall. Once off this trail the fun begins - a 3 mile stretch mostly up hill. I swear whenever anyone talks of this race they talk about this stretch. From what I understand this is what makes this half one of the more challenging ones around. It seems like one unending hill and after a pretty fast start many people are unprepared for the difficultly of this stretch. Luckily after weeks of training on this hill and the other extra hill training I did I was able to pass each person my leader picked out – to her surprise :)

At the 10 mile mark we finally reached the down hill portion – and of course the final 5k. Normally, I love downhill stretches. I can normally push through faster and easier which is great for the last portion. However, with the bad back aches that I have been having this was a lot harder than I ever expected. The easiest part of the race became the hardest. Each transition from run to walk caused pain to shoot through my spine. If I had been able to run continuously at this point I would have, but I knew my legs couldn’t do that either. Towards the end of the race my group leader was trying to speed me up. “There nothing to hold back for at this point” she said, but at this point each step was agony. I was ticked that I couldn’t push through.

Meadow Brook Hall

We finally made the turn on to campus and the thrill of the race finally pushed most of the pain away. I saw my mom at the 13 mile marker and knew that the rest was a quick down hill jog. As I turned the corner I could see Meadow Brook Hall which is where the finish line was. One more turn and a final downhill run and we crossed the finish line with a minute and half to spare on my stretch goal. I grabbed my medal from the finish line official who was playing keep away, hugged the training program leader, grabbed my popsicle, and reveled in the moment.

I felt great – for about 10 seconds. Suddenly, the pain was back and I started the long walk back to the car. Each step hurt and by the time my mom found me I wasn’t in the mood for any photos I just wanted the pain relievers and muscle relaxers the doctor gave me.

I was so disappointed. I mean I finished a half marathon and that felt great. I not only finished, but I finished almost 32 minutes faster than my goal time. I beat my practice time and my stretch goal. I ran under a 16 minute mile pace – which is something I wanted to be able to do eventually so I could run Disney. But I didn’t even realize that I hit that milestone until 3 weeks later.

I think part of my disappointment was due to the lack of excitement which I mentioned earlier. The lack of entertainment on the route (a bunch of people canceled) didn’t help. Plus there weren’t as many people running at my pace so a few parts were a little lonely (I didn’t pass many people, but then I didn’t get passed much either). Granted my team leader was with me, but I just didn’t get the same race excitement as I have in other races. It was more like a practice run.

The rest is that I knew I could have done even better than I did – if my back didn’t act up. It had been bothering me for a few weeks, but typically when I was sitting or laying down. I fact, the only time it didn’t hurt is when I was running. But of course, running 13 miles isn’t the norm so I wasn’t surprised. I wanted to actually participate in the post-race activities this time, but I just couldn’t do it.

All in all it was truly a great race. A great race. I would do it again in a heart beat. A couple days after the race, it hit me that I actually ran and completed a half marathon. *I* ran a half marathon. A year ago this was nothing but a dream. A very faint dream that someday I might run a half. Even when I started the training I wasn’t really sure that I would be able to do it. I told myself that I would do the training and then if I couldn’t complete it before the course closed I would just do the 5k. The fact that I not only finished but exceeded my goals is something I will always value.

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