Well, I now know why the half marathon has become such a popular distance. I really enjoyed running it for the first time on Sunday, October 11th. The Spokane Half Marathon started at 8:45am...and it was FA-REEZING! The temperature at race time was about 24 degrees F (about 19 with wind chill), but the skies were crystal clear. By about mile 3, I was comfortable in my stocking cap, tights, long sleeve tech shirt over a t-shirt, and gloves. My new Brooks Defyance 2's with my old Superfeet Green inserts performed perfectly.
I've been suffering from a head and chest cold for nearly 2 weeks and, as I had feared, it did affect my running. Up until the day before, I wasn't even sure if I'd run it at all. But by 5:30am on race morning, I decided I felt good enough to take a shot at it. I'm glad I did.
The course was very scenic and featured a variety of terrain - road, sidewalk, paved trails, and, briefly, gravel trails. It was also quite hilly, including the infamous "Doomsday Hill", which came at about mile 9 of the race. There were a couple of shorter, steep hills before Doomsday, then a slight downhill (to offer a false sense relief), then over a bridge and up Doomsday for about 3/4 of a mile. As an aside, Runners World ranked Doomsday Hill as the #6 most daunting climb in a U.S. road race. Even upon cresting the hill, there's a gradual uphill for another mile or so. With this head and chest cold, i could feel that hill sap what energy I had left. I wanted to kick it into high gear for the last 5k, but that desire turned into "just hang on". With about 3/4 of a mile to go, there was another short but steep uphill that just about did me in. I fought my way up it, then turned right and ran through Riverfront Park toward the finish with what I had left. As I ran toward the finish line, I started thinking about how, just a few years ago, I thought my running days were over, and about how much I really love running. I got a big, goofy grin on my face and pumped my fist as I ran across the line and into the chute.
Here are my official race stats:
Overall place: 107/804
Age group: 13/34
(7:04 pace for last .1)
Note: You'll notice that my splits are all over the place. I'm sure it's obvious which miles contained the uphill portions.
My dad, stepmom, sister and her husband (the latter two ran the 5-mile race) were waiting at the finish line to greet me. It was great to have them there, braving the freezing weather, and supporting me. Right after finishing, I had a coughing fit for a couple of minutes. While I didn't cough during the race, I did have some "nose issues". Let's just say I left a lot of myself out on the course!
In hindsight, would I have done anything differently? Probably not. I wanted to go out slow, and I did. I had some trouble drinking from the little paper cups, though. I've been using bottles in training, so even when pinching the tops of the cups, I still ended up with more liquid up my nose and down my shirt than in my mouth. How would I have done if I was 100% healthy? I don't know, but if I had to guess, I'd say I probably could have gone about 1:41-1:42 or so. Back when I decided to sign up for this race, my rough goal was to break 1:45, which I did. So I've chosen to be happy with my result, even given the illness. Hey, it was a PR, after all!
A day after the race, my hips are quite sore. There was an uphill section of at least a mile where we had to run on a very slanted paved shoulder. As I ran it, I remember thinking that my hips would probably hurt later because of it. The good news is that my IT bands, which had been historically troublesome, held up just fine.
That was my "A" race for 2009. My plans now are to take the rest of this week off to rest my sore hips and get 100% healthy, then slowly start building the biggest base I can before running my first full marathon sometime next spring. Leading up to the marathon, I'll probably run 1 or 2 more half marathons and a couple of 10k races.
I want to take a minute to say a big thank-you to everyone who has been supportive and encouraging as I've trained for this race...especially with the doubts and worries I've had due to this illness. I also really appreciate the advice I've gotten from so many of you so far this year in the online running community (and, locally, from my friend Arthur). I know for a fact that it has helped me to stay out there, running more or less injury free this year, as I continue becoming a runner once again.
(photos to come soon)