So this Saturday I ran the Salt Lake half marathon – my fourth road half marathon and my second time running this particular race – and it went pretty well (1.43.43 – how great is that 43-43?).
But first, I have a confession to make. Last Sunday I did my last long run of this training cycle and it went pretty well. On Monday I woke up and OMG I could barely walk. My knees were crazy sore – sharpy stabbing pain – the exact kind you don’t ever want to feel and especially less than a week before your half marathon. In fact, I had prepared a post about my goals for the half (sub 1.45 was my dream goal) but I never published it mostly because I was freaking out that I wouldn’t even make it to the start line.
By Tuesday, I was feeling a lot better. Still sore around my knee and in my left quad. I decided to try it out on the treadmill and made it exactly 3 miles before I had to call it quits. My knee felt like it was going to buckle underneath me and I was praying for a miracle. I didn’t run again for the rest of the week and was icing and Ibuprofen-ing like a maniac. I was seriously contemplating dropping out.
By Friday I was feeling a lot better – still tender around my knee and something weird going on with my quad but I decided I would at least pick up my bib. I went to bed – after a couple of glasses of wine – not sure if I would be running a half the next day.
But as you can guess, I ended up running. I’m still not sure if it was the right decision or not – the next few days will tell. Right now I’m in the grips of post-race muscle pain. And I would never advise anyone else to make this decision. I guess it’s crazy runner logic. Do as I say guys not as I do.
Saturday morning I was feeling OK. I was pretty nervous and this time I wasn’t worried about my finish time but I was seriously worried about seriously injurying myself and having to be hauled off by the medics. I know – not a smart move. Don’t ever do this.
The race start is a 15 minute drive from my house and had a ton of free parking. I got there and had a Gu in my car (Salted Caramel) – how glamorous – before making my way to the start area. They had plenty of porta-potties and a great bag drop area. It was just under 40F and pretty chilly. I decided to wear a long sleeve top and shorts (no gloves) and FREE photos to come this week. With 10 minutes to go I dropped my stuff and headed to the corrals. This year they had set up corrals by estimated finish time. I was in corral B and it seemed to me that it worked out pretty well. The 1.45 pacer was hanging out in the corral and I decided that I would run with him for a while.
The race began at 7 am and off I went – following my pacer. He was really great. Super friendly and chatty (and in the middle of training for an ironman). It was pretty nice not to worry about pacing. In fact I don’t think I looked at my watch until mile 3. This first portion went pretty quick. He told us before hand that he would be running a little under goal pace to start as the first third is net downhill. So that’s what we did – 7:55, 7:59, 7:12 (156 ft drop in this mile), 7:46. 7:56. I was feeling pretty good. Running with a pacer made sure that I reigned in the pace at the start. My legs were feeling pretty achy on the downhill. Not as bad as my previous run on Tuesday but not great. But I made the smart decision of just ignoring any pain. By this time I was pretty certain that my leg wouldn’t explode so I made the decision to leave the pacer behind and try to keep my pace close to 7.55.
The next couple of miles are pretty interesting. There is a mile long gradual uphill followed by a slightly downhill portion and then a b*tch of a short but steep climb. I ran by feel and hoped for the best (smart race strategy, right?). They ticked by in 7:59, 7:41, 8:06. The rest of the race is flat or slightly downhill. After an hour, I had a Gu – chocolate coconut which I thought tasted like German chocolate cake. I also passed the split for the full and was so glad I only signed up for 13.1.
My longest training run had been 10 miles and that really showed in the last couple of miles. My lack of endurance was really telling. It was tough. Mentally tough. My legs could do the work but I had to convince my mind that it was possible. Doing some math I figured I could finish sub 1.45 if I kept my pace around 8 minute miles so that was my goal. Miles 9-13 were 7:55, 7:56, 7:47, 8:04 and 7:57. I turned a corner and saw the finish line and it felt like it took forever to get there. I crossed the line in 1.43.43 and was pretty happy. Well most of me. My calves and quads were super tight. After I picked up my free pancake (yum!) I headed over for a free postrace massage (would recommend after every race). I was sore but pleasantly surprised that I had made it in one piece and withing my goal time. I really enjoy this race – the course is challenging not like most of Utah races which are usually totally downhill through our picturesque canyons.
Then it was time to recover with all the food (and wine). And remember how painful it feels when you give it your all during a race. It has to stop hurting eventually, right?