Last Saturday wrapped up the half marathon training and this Sunday was a half marathon with my bestie that lives back in Missouri. Both were pretty eventful weekends.
First up was the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon in Illinois. This was the goal race for the training program that I got to mentor over the summer. A few of the people I had been running with were using the training program for other races and not many were going to be at that race. I hadn’t received any requests to run with anyone during the race, which I felt a little weird about, but figured I’d just run it my way if I was alone. Friday night before the race, I ordered take out from a local restaurant that has excellent pasta, bread, and salad. I headed to bed early only to experience several interruptions from sleep including the sound of my house being assailed by eggs around midnight. I woke up around 5am feeling sluggish.
Upon arriving at the race venue, someone invited me to run with her during the race and said she wanted at least a 2:30 half marathon time. I was glad to have someone ask me to run the race with them and to take my mind off of needing to get 5 more miles in after the race ended to make my 18 training miles for the marathon. The couple of hours we were on the course were cool and overcast, which was a welcome change to the weather we’d trained in. I warm up pretty quickly, so seeing people cheering on the sides of the road looking like they were struggling to keep warm was slightly confusing to see. The person who had chosen me to run with beat her personal best by 4 minutes by the end of the race. She really worked hard and pushed through the race and I got to see her get a personal record across the finish line. I was feeling a little less joyful as I changed my shirt and switched my visor out for a moisture wicking headband and the sun came out and started to warm the air.
Jane and I started to set out for our next 5 miles after a short break for refilling water and changing clothes. Jane chaffed in the chest enough to bleed onto her shirt. We headed out with things over our shirts that labelled us “Barnabas Runners,” which meant that we were to run with people who needed encouragement to get to the end. Our plan was to keep running back and getting people to try to get in the last 5 miles of our training run. I somehow almost lost it during our first mile back out. My body had stiffened and I had to walk for almost a quarter of a mile before I regained my composure. I whined to Jane, “If I can’t run 14 miles, I’ll never run 26.2. This is stupid.” She replied back that I was fine and we’d both make it even if there was some walking involved. When I later apologized to her for that outburst, she told me she knew that it was out of character and that it was probably lack of sleep talking. I admitted I am a bit of a different person when I’m tired.
We went back and found runners to encourage. We separated to help more runners. I ran a couple of people to the finish, which was down a hill. One runner asked me to tell a story to take her mind off of the running and it made my mind go blank of stories. I ran back up the hill for more people each time. Then, I ran into someone on her 20 mile day of training for her first marathon. I talked to her about time limits and mental barriers, then we ran out together to get the very last runner and bring her in. By the time I ran in the last person, I had 17.53 miles for the day. I didn’t want to leave it on the table, but I did scratch the last part of my run to walk back to the post race food and drink area to enjoy pizza, sandwiches, chocolate milk, and water with the people I’d run with. It felt like a party, really. I was in on a great celebration of others’ accomplishment on the day of my longest run to date and it made it from something I was stressing out over into something memorable and happy.
The days following, my legs were sore and heavy feeling. My husband was out of town on business the entire week, so I had the 3 kids to myself. All of my running had to happen during the day while they were at school. On my cross training day, I did intervals on my elliptical along with weights for my upper body strength. I felt accomplished. That was, until I planned to do my 8 mile goal pace run on Friday, but missed it by taking a midday snooze from all the tiredness finally catching up to me. That run was scrapped because Saturday was my travel day to St. Louis for the MO’ Cowbell race. I drove the nearly 3 hours straight to the ExMO (Expo) and passed through the area where I’d lived less than 5 years ago barely recognizing the stores and homes built along the main road nearest my old home.
At the race expo, I got many goodies from different booths. I bought some new sassy headbands with sayings like “Run B*tch Run”. I love moisture wicking headbands and even better if they’re fun in appearance. Then, I had my favorite pizza and salad for dinner, Pirrone’s. I headed to bed early and briefly worried that I would have the same problems as the previous week and lose sleep. I actually didn’t have any problems and got up and ready for the race. When I got to the highway exit for the venue, people were lined up for awhile and not using the open lane on the left. Familiarity with the area came in handy because I surpassed the people waiting, passed the place they were all turning, and went down a side street and parked one block from the starting line without issue. Somehow, I had the intersection where I’d parked wrong and written the name of two parallel streets, which didn’t help me later when I wanted to get back to the van and drink my post workout protein.
I walked around for a few moments after arriving trying to find water to fill the bottles on my belt. Somehow, I’d remembered everything but to put water in my water bottles. I found someone with water coolers who filled the bottles for me and I headed off to the start line to find my spot. My best official race time is 2:19, so I sought out the 2:20 person. She was a young woman with short hair named Megan who was friendly to everyone who approached. Megan was asking people for their names and a little about themselves. One woman was from the area, but had moved to Nebraska and has recently joined the club where they run a race in all 50 states. I told her I knew someone who is doing a full marathon in all 50 states (and DC) and told her about the final race being in Iowa in 2017 for my friend. My friend Liz arrived and lined up with me at the start. I was with the 2:20 pace group and next to the 4:30 full marathon pace group.
The race had a hill within the first mile and I poked Liz and joked that, “we don’t have many of these where I live,” which is actually relatively true for my part of Illinois. We both had headphones in listening to music and occasionally slapped one another on the arm to point something out or make a comment. There was a pink bismuth colored Ford Mustang in a sales lot that had to have been from the 90’s. Cute dogs lined the streets to which we “awed” at each one and probably thanked more than the human onlookers. At one point when I went to take a gel packet, roadkill briefly interrupted my urge to actually take it. Then, when she went to take hers, Liz got to see another animal lying in the road. Nearing the halfway point, she slapped my arm to run on the side of a bridge instead of on the metal grates in the middle. I saw someone who had participated in the half marathon program on the road side and I felt a little energy from being cheered by someone I knew.
I was warned that there was a major hill inside of mile 10 or 11 and I’d been a little concerned. Especially since I’d lost a little ‘gas’ in my attempt to catch the 2:15 pacer somewhere in mile 8. I’d started telling myself how much time I had left to run. I was battling myself intensely in my head. I took a few walk breaks remembering that I need to stay in shape for the bigger race and that this was supposed to just be a training run. When the hill was before me, my music changed songs to “Hero” by the Foo Fighters. What an opportune time to hear that song. I was like “I’m my hero, dang it!” People were honking from the highway and waving at the people racing. That hill was not as bad as I’d anticipated and certainly not as steep as Steamboat (Peoria, IL). I just had to make it a little further and we’d be back at the finish with snacks, water, and beer. During mile 12, Megan and the 2:20 group caught up to me and I tried to outrun them by going full trot. Don’t go full trot when you’re still a mile away. I completely lost gas at 12.75 and tried to ‘speed walk’ to get my breath back. Megan encouraged me as they passed by and I started to jog on the last downhill and turn to the finish. I ran it in, but I had lost Liz in the crowd. I continued walking down the trail a little while to cool down because my legs weren’t ready to stop yet.
I finished in 2:22:26. So close to all 2’s! Not really a personal best for me, but I’m still ok with it. I enjoyed the race and I would do it again. I sat in the grass and had my post race snack and beer after I’d had a chocolate milk and a water. I set out toward my van and went to see if the indoor public restrooms were open. They were! I got to wash my hands in a sink before setting off to find where I parked. I went the wrong way on Main Street and realized that I couldn’t be quite as far from a certain intersection. I finally found my bearings and walked back to my van where I changed into my sandals, discovered my running shoes now have holes in them, and quickly downed a shake while I waited for the GPS to instruct me where to go. I looked around all of the small shops around me in St. Charles, MO and I felt a little sad in knowing that I hadn’t visited in awhile and it was one of my favorite places to go in the winter for their celebration and in the summer for the festival. I think maybe visiting to do this race in the future would be a good way to come back and see it once in awhile.
I didn’t quite do the race right. I didn’t pace properly. I worried during the race that I wasn’t going to make 26.2 miles in November and even thought that I should just back out before embarrassing myself. These are the mental barriers of running. I told myself that I knew I had sufficient training, nutrition, and hydration to finish the race and that anything telling me otherwise was not real. I had to fight off the “can’t” to get to the finish. I had to get myself out of my head to get myself across the finish line. While those things are intangible, they’re real and they’re challenging to overcome.
Do you ever experience the overwhelming urge to give up? How do you break free of it? Do you have a favorite song that instantly pumps you up?