Running Fit Starting Line
I had a great day at the Running Fit Trail Half Marathon on Saturday! My time was slow compared to a road run (of course), but I ran harder than I thought I could through the entire race, so I am very happy.
24th in Age Group, 94th Overall Women, 413/839 Overall Race
2:19:07 Total Time, 10:37 Mile Pace
The hubby and I before the race. I'm ready to run!
I made it to the state park at 7:30am - just in time to wait in the long packet pickup line and then the even longer porta-potty line. I emerged from the john just in time for the race start.
The race began at 8:00am in waves based on expected pace. It was a fun, informal start in which the announcer sort of made up pace groups on the fly. I started with the 9:23 to 9:48 group, which felt perfect. I passed some people, I got passed by others. As our group crossed the starting line, the announcer said, "Here go the 9:23 to 9:48 pacers. Of course, we all know that pace doesn't mean anything on the trail." Every runner around me laughed and said, "So true! So true!"
Starting my watch
The first 2 miles were fast and chaotic as the group worked to spread out. Everyone was polite and in good spirits. That's one of the things I love about trail runners. A good attitude seems to be the norm. At around 2 miles, I latched on to a girl in black shorts with green trim. She was running a speed that pushed me but was sustainable. The perfect pacer!
The half marathon followed the pink loop
Constant elevation change! More hills than I ever run in Grand Rapids!
The trail was beautiful and in great condition. It was damp and well packed, rocky and rooty. I love the feeling of flying down hills, bouncing off the sides of ramped up dirt and trying not to twist an ankle on a missed root. There were also more aid stations than I expected in the race. I didn't really need them - I carried my own bottles - but the staff support and supplies were great.
Around 5 miles, I sucked down a vanilla gel. I was feeling tired but thought that I could keep up the strong pace that I was running. I got a little boost of confidence when at about 6.5 miles, I passed the girl with the black and green shorts going up a hill, and she couldn't stick with me. I kept saying to myself, "I am strong. I am tough. I am doing this."
At around mile 7, I grabbed onto the heels of a guy in a blue shirt and a girl in a blue, plaid running skirt. They were running together and having a great time. I had seen the girl take a hard fall a couple miles back, but she was OK and running tough. Then at about 8.5 miles, I tripped on a root and thought for sure that I was going down myself. I had that slow-motion experience where I saw myself heading for a tree with an 8 inch line of snot propelled out of my nose ahead of me by the inertia that it maintained as my body suddenly stopped. Fortunately, I caught myself before the tree and I became aquainted, wiped the flying snot from my face, and regained my stride. The guys right behind me were so nice, making sure I was OK.
The couple in blue was fast, so I had to kick to catch back up to them. I worked hard to hold on to them every time they sped up to make a pass, but I did it. Just after mile 9, they stopped at an aid station, and I kept going. I saw them again after the race, but they never passed me again.
After the aid station, the trail crossed a road at which a volunteer was stopping traffic. As I approached, he said, "Hurry!" I turned my legs as fast as I could, which wasn't much, and replied, "This is all the hurry I've got!" That made the volunteer laugh.
At mile 10, I was feeling the effects of the hard pace. I thought about eating another gel, but I didn't feel like messing with it. I wanted to just focus on the run, and I knew I could keep my energy up for 3 more miles. Shortly thereafter, I got a little boost from someone who had fed their truck's stereo system through an amp blasting Metallica down the trail. That put a smile on my face! Nothing like a little metal to make you feel like a badass.
Through the final miles, I kept saying, "I'm strong. I'm tough. I'm doing this." The mile markers seemed to pass too slowly as I pushed for the finish. At the same time, I was sad that my time in the woods with all these trail compatriots would soon be over. I thought about all of the time and work I put into training for the race, and the event itself seemed to go by too fast. It was both anti-climactic and satisfying.
At mile 12, I started to hear the crowds cheering at the finish line. I kept pushing on. Then I suddenly broke out of the trees and the finish line banner was a tenth of a mile ahead. My mom and the hubby were right there cheering and taking pictures. They are the best!
Out of the woods, pushing to the finish line
I turned on the last burst of speed that I could muster and wheeled my legs down the shore of the lake toward the finish line. Yes! I did it! I finished. I had kept a stronger pace than I thought I could throughout the race, and it had felt wonderful. My time was 2:19:07 - a 10:37 mile pace. Not too bad. I was very happy with my run.
I walked back toward where Mom and the hubby had been cheering and grabbed a banana and a giant muffin from the fuel tent. I wore my finisher's medal around my neck. I put my jacket back on as my sweaty body quickly cooled in the 35 degree F air, and we all walked slowly back to the car - my support squad letting my blistered feet set the pace.
It was a great race. I love the trails and the half marathon distance. I definitely need to do a race like this again! Thanks, Running Fit, for putting on such a great trail weekend!