Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Half-Marathon—On a trail, in a park

On the bus from the parking lot to the beginning of the North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon at Algonkian State Park, I was chatting north-face_thumbwith my seatmate.

I told her, “this is my first half-marathon.”

She looked at me, wide-eyed, and said “and you chose to do a TRAIL half for your first one?”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said, “well, since I am on the bus to the start line, I think we’re kind of past the point for making that decision.”

And so began my day.

When I signed up for the race, they asked “what is your expected finish time?”

My answer: SUNDAY.

After the Tough Mudder, my teammates said to me, “well, you’re already capable of running 9 or 10 miles at once, you can do a half,” and when the opportunity presented itself, I figured I would go for the challenge.

Standing in line for the pre-run bathroom run, we were chatting with a great guy named Bruce who had done a few marathons and 50 mile races. When he asked me why I had decided to do the half-marathon, I told him.

“Wow. Tough Mudder…that is truly hard core.” I’ll take that. Winking smile

Anyway, it was a trail run and the first 3 miles were slow, but fine.

As the race wore on, the heat and humidity picked up considerably. There were no water stations between mile 2 and mile 8, so it was getting tough, and with no mile markers in the middle of the woods, it was a bit disorienting. You just didn’t know how far you had gone.  I don’t have one of those GPS watches.

So, roughly between miles 5 and 7.5, I was in a total groove. The kind of groove where you don’t even think about the fact that you are running. It was Zen-like.

Then, we hit a creek that was full of mud and a muddy bank (almost Tough Mudder-like) and it required me to slow down considerably and use my hands. Killed my mojo.

About a mile later, we came to a water station and I hydrated. The sign there said “8.4 miles” but all the runners with watches said, “no, it’s 9.2.”

I figured I had less than 4 miles to go and since I tend to run about 5 miles per day, I felt like I had it in the bag.

I counted chickens a bit early as we shortly hit two hills that must have been 50 degree inclines. All along, my goal had been to just not stop running, no matter how slow, but on these hills, I had no choice. I had to walk.

Fortunately, my running partner, Yak, was with me, even though he is much faster. He claimed ulterior motives—if I finished, I’d be more likely to sign up for a marathon with him. Fair enough.

Those hills-at mile 10-took a ton out of me and I was soon relieved to hear someone say “only 2 miles to go from here.”

I mentally calculated how much energy I needed (I knew the last 2 miles were flat) and set off. I ran for what seemed like 12 minutes or so and then came to a water station where I was informed I had 1.65 miles to go.


I was basically running on fumes and I still wasn’t done. I had miscalculated the burn. All of that resulted in a pretty long last 1.5 mile of the run.

Yet, that’s the part of the activity that I love the best. In some ways, it’s the reason I do it. The physical challenge is great, but the mental challenge is what makes it special. When your body wants to give up, but you force yourself to go on anyway.

And, so I did.

Then, you hear the crowd (no spectators on the course b/c of the trail) at the finish area and you are uplifted…

They brought me home.

Considering the heat, it was my first time, and the fact that I had a calf spasm that required a house call by a physician friend, icing, and massage on the day before, I am thrilled with the 2.40 time I posted.

Next challenge? Open to suggestions.

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