Another race over. My 12th race this year, and I've still got several to go! I did 10 races in 2011, 11 in 2012, and it's looking like there will be 15+ this year!
I ran this race for the first time last year. The first 3 miles are almost entirely flat, then there is a long uphill until mile 5 or 6, then you go downhill til mile 8, and then you run flat. And more flat, and more flat, and more flat. Until you reach the track in Laidley Field and run about 300 meters around the track to the finish line. Last year, I completely rocked the hill, both up and down. Then I hit the flat part and pushed the wall for 7 miles. It was terrible and not fun and I hated it. But I came in 6th place, and walked out with $150. I guess a little bit of suffering on a run is ok if it results in a hundred and fifty bucks.
This year I figured I had better train for that long flat portion. Since I run almost entirely hills, long flat stretches are a completely foreign concept to my legs. And they hate it. I dragged myself through a 10 mile run on the river trail in July, and an 8 mile run on the river trail a week or so before the race. The only thing that kept me going on those 2 runs was the fact that I wasn't by myself. Both times I found people to go with me so that I wouldn't change my mind and run somewhere else.
So I got to the race, and figured that at least my legs had survived other long flat runs and maybe the competition in this race would keep me going. Well...it didn't really work out that way. This year, I got to the top of the hill ok. Instead of passing everyone on the uphill, I actually got passed by 2 girls, but I had a decent pace going and didn't really worry about it. I was in 6th place at the top of the hill. My legs died shortly after I started down the hill. It was super humid out, so a lot of my energy was going towards getting some oxygen out of the air, my knee was feeling funny off and on, and I just felt like crap. So I didn't sprint down the hill like I sometimes do in races, but I managed to keep a somewhat decent pace. I got passed by a few guys, but it didn't bother me one bit cause I'm not competing against them. I was feeling pretty discouraged thinking about the fact that I hadn't even made it to the long flat before I died, but I managed not to give up completely. I kept chugging along. As I crawled along the flat, with the road stretching out endlessly straight in front of me, I kept trying to find a second wind. But every time I tried to speed up, my body just laughed at me. At some point, a girl passed me, going strong, and I had to just let her go. Around mile 11 or so, it started getting dark out and the wind picked up. There was thunder in the distance. I leaned into the wind, and suddenly found myself getting stronger. I didn't have a hill to push against to revive me, but the wind worked just as well. I gradually picked up the pace until suddenly I felt great. I didn't just feel great, I felt like it was time to really pick up the pace and give the last miles of the race everything I had. I went into 5k-mode and practically sprinted the rest of the race. I found myself reeling in guys who had passed me minutes before. I reeled them in, and I flew by them. I could not believe what was happening. I'm a half marathoner. I run 13 miles. I usually start dying around mile 12. And here I was getting a second wind and flying through 2-3 miles that my body should not have been ok with. I had no idea if I would be able to hold my pace all the way to the finish line, but I certainly wasn't going to give up at that point. I gained on the last girl that had passed me, but she was too far ahead to catch. I sprinted down a long straight road that led right onto the track, and then I sprinted that 300m around the track. My breath was getting ragged, but it felt so, so, good to power my way around that track and finish strong.
I finished in 1:47:39, 7th place female, 36th overall. I didn't place top 5 like I had hoped, but I did PR by 1:15. And a PR is always more important to me than my placing, because placing depends so much on who happens to show up that day. I ran faster than last year, but placed further. Luck of the draw.
Last year, I was awarded "First West Virginian" because I was the first after the top 5. This year's 6th place was from WV, so I missed out on that prize and picked up 1st in my age category.
After the race, while hanging around chugging water and waiting for the awards ceremony, I was approached by various guys who I had passed in the last few miles, congratulating me on my finish. They told me how they had passed me and thought they would never see me again, and then I suddenly came out of nowhere sprinting past them. One guy said he tried to stay with me, hoping I would carry him to the finish, but no such luck. They were amazed by my kick, and I told them I was too. I told them that when they had passed me I had assumed they would stay in front of me, but then I got that crazy second wind and just decided to go for it! One of the guys I talked to is someone that I have seen at several races now, and I usually recognize him, but I had been so lost in my world of misery and then my world of flying, that I hadn't even noticed him when he passed me or when I passed him.
I am on the fence about whether or not I will return next year. I probably will, because I want to try for top 5 again, but I'm tempted to scrap this race because the course is just so terrible. It's boring. And it makes me hate running. I'm not sure if it's worth torturing myself with that run again just to try and place top 5. But obviously I'm not going to decide now. I'll wait and see how I feel next spring when it comes time to register. By then I probably will have managed to brainwash myself into thinking it "wasn't so bad after all."