First, I have to admit something. I should not have signed up for this race. It was too soon on my comeback road, too early in the season and too long for where I thought I was at, health wise.
So… why did I sign up? Honestly, I got swept up in my own euphoria. I had a flurry there for a week or so where I almost signed up for everything I could find. I had just successfully completed a 10K trail run and was feeling great! So… A half marathon? SURE! I can do that!
In hindsight (and to spoil the story a bit, everything went fine) this wasn’t the best idea. Thank the triathlon gods I didn’t look at any Ironman websites…
Regardless, I signed up. I even “poked the bear” a little bit and challenged all my running buddies to sign up as well. Secretly, this was out of regret for signing up and I really just wanted somebody there to positively ID the body… just in case.
I remember the last real half marathon I ran. A miserable, muggy, hot, expensive race on the lovely downtown streets of Kansas City. I “trained” for this race. I was on a “plan”. I was careful. I tapered for 2 weeks. I was ready.
I got my ASS handed to me by the weather. Two of the most miserable running hours of my life. With lots of walking, quiet sobbing, gnashing of teeth… the whole bit. Start time temp of 75 with 90% humidity and no wind. Like running in a locker room.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m standing on the line (such as it is) for the Sedalia Half Marathon. ZERO training plan. A whopping TWO DAY taper (OK… a day and a half). ZERO runs of 13 miles or more and ONE run of 12 miles… in the last TWO YEARS. NOTHING about this was a good idea.
So. Here we go.
Sedalia Half Marathon
The Sedalia Half is a local race in Sedalia, Missouri. Frequented and supported by friends, and friends of friends for over 30 years now. One of the least expensive half marathons in the nation, you can get in for $20. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fun race. Laid back and enjoyable. The biggest question is always the weather. I’ve run it 3 times now. Once in 80 degree heat, once in sleet and 30 mph winds and then this time.
All you can do is pray here… This is a true “March in Missouri” race and it’s a massive crapshoot as to what the weather will do. For example, last week varied between 38 and 75 for high temps and it’s supposed to snow today. It’s all part of the fun and makes for great stories. On this given Saturday though, we got lucky. Starting temps in the mid 30’s, bright sunshine and 10mph winds. You can’t ask for much better for a March in Missouri race.
The course starts out with about a half mile or so through a local neighborhood and then heads out on to rural roads. There are no real hills to speak of, just gentle ups and downs. There is also NO cover. So any wind is a factor. The course is a U-shaped out and back so unless the winds are dead calm, you WILL run into them at some point. There are enough aid stations to do the trick and the volunteers are friendly and helpful. But don’t plan on food and dancing girls every mile. Oh… and it’s ALWAYS windy. So don’t plan for calm winds either… :)
Of all the crazy things to do… Unless my season goes amazingly well and I decide to do something REALLY foolish in the fall… THIS RACE would be my longest of the year. That’s right, my fourth race in 2 years, after a year off completely and 3 months of “training” that had nothing to do with a half marathon… I stood at the starting line. ONE training run longer than 12 miles and 2 runs over 10 miles. No taper. Feeling a little off and unbalanced due to training hard and not eating much.
But yet I had it set in my mind that I was going to PR this race.
When the gun went off I told myself to go out under control. Once I got around the pack I quickly dropped into a comfortable pace. It felt like a trot. I was sure I was running 9 minute miles. And, of course, my GPS crapped out immediately so all I had was overall time. Time to run “Nekkid”.
I hit the first mile marker and heard somebody behind me say “Whoa! 7:55? That was too fast! We need to back off!” But, to me, it felt GOOD. So I decided to just settle at that pace. I would love to say that there was a lot to look at… and I guess there was if you like farm fields and the occasional cow. Other than that, not much. I settled in with a group of runners and, since I didn’t have a way to pace myself, I let them do it. I noticed several things. The hills were startlingly easy and didn’t seem near as steep or long as the last time I ran this race. I climbed very well (for me) and that was where I moved up. I wasn’t breathing hard. And on the downhills I felt like I had to speed up because it didn’t feel like I was moving at all. I ran with a girl through miles 3-5 who seemed determined to drop me. But as we went up the biggest incline on the course, I could hear her breathing hard (never good at mile 5 of a half marathon). She caught me briefly at the top and then dropped. Never saw her again. I’m still not sure why people insist on “racing” the early to middle miles of a long race. Leave that for the last mile…
Anyway, my thoughts during the race kept going to my pace. I kept waiting for my leg turnover to slow down but it never did. I never got into my lungs at all. Breathing felt easy. People moved up and back all around me but mile by mile most started to drop. I panicked and thought I had sped up but a quick check of my watch told me (within a few seconds or so) that all my miles were very consistent at around the 8:10 mark. So when would the shoe drop? When would I blow up?
A friend caught up to me and ran with me from about the turn (7 miles) until about the 10 mile mark. We were talking the whole way. Like a training run… I couldn’t get over how easy it felt. How good I felt. He started to pull away when we hit the 10 mile mark. I let him go, as he is usually a bit faster than me. But then I thought “you know… you feel like you have a little left… catch him.” So I pulled to within about 15 feet of him and tracked him until mile 12. He slowed noticeably just after the mile marker and as I went by I could hear him breathing hard. He said his chest was tightening up (allergies/asthma) and he was out of gas so I went on in.
My PR for any half marathon is 1:50:33. I checked my watch (several times because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing) and realized that with about an 8 minute last mile, I might sneak under 1:46:00. I told myself that it was time to leave it all on the course and I stepped on it (such as I can). I crossed the line at 1:45:46. While I realize this still doesn’t qualify as fast, it does do several things. First, I PR’d in a race distance that has always been difficult for me… without training specifically for it. Second, it felt easy. Third, it gives me a confidence again that I haven’t had in years. Fourth, it proves my diet and exercise plan is working. And finally, it thrills me to think that this was the longest run I will have until after Chicago! Yay!
One thing I wanted to share… because it’s weird. Like you would expect any different from me. When I was at about mile 5 I got the strangest sensation I have ever had while running. It felt like my tights were super loose. Like they were sliding down, or inflating and flapping. I’m sure everyone thought I was losing my mind because I kept grabbing my shorts and legs and crotch and looking down as I was running. Everything was fine, when I looked at or touched my legs. But as soon as I looked up again or ran normally, it happened again. Then it went away. It happened again round mile 11. Only this time it felt like I had holes in my tights and shorts. Again, everything was fine, but it felt creepy and like my shorts were falling off.
Yup… lost my mind. And it’s all running’s fault.
Usually the two days after a race longer than 10K are hell for me. I don’t sleep, my legs hurt like they’ve been hit with a board, etc. But when I did the Half Ironman distance race in OKC I did something crazy. The next day, I did the sprint distance race. And as much as the first mile or so hurt, by the time I was done, I felt MUCH better. Thus learning that exercising the day after a big race really does help.
So taking that into consideration, I decided to run with a local group at Rock Bridge State Park. The trails (rugged, single track) are beautiful and I thought it might help. I went out with a couple of friends and after the first big hill, started to feel pretty good. One friend pushed the pace and so I went with him. We moved through the first part of the run until we got to a split where we could either go back or go long. Inexplicably, when he asked “which way?” I said “go long”. EIGHT MILES long. EIGHT TRAIL MILES long.
NOW it feels like someone beat my legs with a board…
Up next? First multisport event of the year. The MaxTrax Duathlon. First time on the long course (1.5/15/3). Time to get to know my bike again!