I clocked my slowest road time on Sunday at the Estes Park Half Marathon and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went. No sarcasm there. I probably could’ve run faster if I were 5 pounds lighter or 5 years younger or had 5 more months to train. But I am who I am and I left it all on the course. I ran the best race I had in me.
There was a lot that could’ve gone wrong.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with… ahem… digestion during and after long runs. I didn’t used to have a problem at all. It got a little trickier after Big Girl was born and trickier still now, after Baby Girl. This is a big part of what’s motivating me to clean up my diet. I tried to play it safe by consuming no more than a reasonable amount of fiber, fat, dairy and sugar the day before the race, which is to say I skipped the pizza and had a shake instead. The good kind. Wups.
I thought a lot about what to eat before the race and decided on a Clif Bar and a cup of coffee so I could take care of business before the race started. That’s right. I’m just going to talk about poop here. I accidentally ordered a box of GU with caffeine last week and had to hunt down a caffeine-free variety in Estes Park on Saturday. So as to avoid any, er, diuretic effects during the race.
By “hunt down” I mean we went to one store after lunch and packet pick-up, and that was about all I could muster the energy for. After several hours of half-napping at the hotel it occurred to me that, perhaps, I had underestimated the altitude: 7400 – 7900 ft.
Oh, and my allergies were out of control.
At dinner I told my husband, “Maybe I’ll just take it easy tomorrow.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” he said. “You don’t want to injure yourself if you haven’t trained enough for it.”
Well, geez. I was only really thinking about the altitude and my allergies before he went and brought up training. To be fair- I have ran half marathons with less training. I wasn’t untrained. But I have also ran half marathons with more and better training under my belt. And there was the matter of the ~1000 ft of elevation gain. Let’s just say I wasn’t prepared to break any records. Except for my slowest time.
It’s possible I have my jitters to thank for my race.
The most challenging part of the course – 3.5 miles at a 2.5% grade – hits just after the first mile marker. I was extra conservative with my pace and let a dozen or so people pass me at the base of the hill without flinching. And I’m giving myself major kudos for this. If there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do over the years it’s how to avoid starting out too fast. I used to think, “I’ll be passing these people at mile 10.” But the magnitude of the fast start is typically far more impressive than that. The passing actually starts around mile 2 or 3. In this case, I hoped to catch a few of them on the downhill. Instead, I ended up passing everyone that had passed me, while still running uphill, chugging along at my slothfully consistent pace.
The peak of that hill was definitely the high point of the race, both figuratively and literally. It was early enough in the race that I didn’t feel run down, the views were great and I had a big downhill ahead of me. I even saw a handful of moose running across a neighboring field.
The much shorter hill at mile 6 felt much harder and so began the progression of things just feeling harder and harder. I made a choice to power walk the hill at mile 11. I also made a choice to run all of mile 12, a doesn’t-really-qualify-as-a-hill <1% grade ramp that felt like death.
But my body defied me and slowed to a walk at mile almost 13. And I felt pretty wrecked afterwards. My knees stopped aching yesterday, but my calves are still super tight.
Overall I’m really happy with how I ran. I don’t think I could’ve paced it any better. I ran the second half about 7 minutes faster than the first, despite feeling like I had slowed to a crawl. I didn’t really bonk. It just got hard.
With a bit more training I think I’ll be able to subdue the hard in the second half. We’ll see. This was the first race in the Colorado Mountain Half Marathon Series. Next up is Georgetown to Idaho Springs in August.