If you couldn’t tell, I was quite uneasy going into the half marathon. It wasn’t that I hadn’t covered the training mileage; it was the fact that the quality of my training felt piss-poor. When the weather forecast changed from cloudy to rainy and cold, I wished I hadn’t been such a Fair-Weather Friend to running outdoors in the early months of my training. Thank God, the rain broke during the night and we enjoyed only as much a few sprinkles along the way. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start at the beginning
The alarm went off at 3:30am. This allowed YaYa and me about 30ish minutes to get dressed and out the door to catch the shuttle bus from the high school to the starting line. We’d prepared everything the night before. Race prep felt familiar – like my old marathon racing days. We laid out our clothes, filled our packs, and lined up our morning fuel and supplements. I even slept under my lucky race blanket which was created in a creative running-themed round-robin with a few of my RBF friends.
At the school, a long line of busses waited for the runners. I headed towards the second in the line but it seemed that they were filling the first, then opening the doors for the next. So, we got on a nearly packed bus and sat apart from each other. I began getting to know Sara from Vancouver, Washington as the bus began moving. The driver greeted us. Then he started telling us, flight attendant style, about how each of our windows would serve as an emergency exit as needed. I wondered how treacherous the journey to the starting line was going to be. Did I need a barf bag? Finally, he told us that this was his first trip and that he was using GPS — cautioning us that GPS sometimes misdirects. Hmm. Well, at least we have nearly 2 hours until race start. Maybe that’s why they pick us up so early.
A short while later, I saw a sign that said The Pines Resort and felt the bus come to a stop. But there was no instruction to get off. And while it seemed like we were parked, in reality, the bus was stuck mid-turnabout (sandwiched between the trees). After a bit of maneuvering, a call for a rescue bus, a handful of us got off and started walking (0.8 miles) to the starting line. We had just enough time to hit the port-a-potties and check our bag of post race clothes.
Toeing the line
Although YaYa could’ve moved up in the race corral, he opted to toe the line with me at his side. Had we not warmed up with the walk to the starting line, he might have stayed with me a little longer. Feeling good, he decided to go on ahead. Even with as little training as he did, I would pay dearly for it if I tried to run his pace.
In the first few miles, my left knee twinged a bit. It worried me but I kept running (albeit slowly). I tried to stay on the crown of the road but not be right on the line in case it was slippery due to being wet from the rain. By the time we turned towards the south side of Bass Lake, the pain seemed to have subsided. I was cautiously relieved.
The views were picturesque indeed. I snapped a photo here and there, and sent it to my mom by text. But I wasn’t all smiley and chatty, as I was in the last half marathon. I had a job to do and it took all my energy to just keep running.
Now the original race course was supposed to be a nice net-downhill course. The re-routed course had a hill, which the race organizers warned us about. Around mile 4 there was to be a “short climb.” Taking them at their word, I tried to run it. That didn’t last long at all. I soon joined the rest of the crowd — walking the hill that didn’t feel short at all. About ¾ the way up the hill, the course turned onto the dirt section. I smiled when I saw it ahead of us; I was looking forward to a more gentle feel under my feet.
Muddy, Muddy, Muddy
I started running again when I hit the dirt, or mud that is. But, the mud was so slippery across the entire width of the trail that everyone came to a halt. And we walked nearly every step of that 3 mile stretch. It seems that, in an effort to level out the road for us, the US Forest Service graded this section of the course. Then it rained, and rained, and RAINED.
By the time we hit pavement again, my hip flexors were shot from tensing up in an effort not the fall on my arse. Emptying my bladder seemed like a good idea to allow me to relax a little. Although there wasn’t much to empty, the release did help a little.
About a mile later, we were back at the lake. Runners were headed towards the finish on the other side of the cones. However, we still had to journey 1 ½ miles in the opposite direction before getting to make that u-turn. Quite frankly, it was a bit of a head game. But that view made it a little easier.
I watched as the runners passed me, wishing I was in their shoes so-to-speak. I kept watch for YaYa to past me on his way back towards the finish. But after a while, I figured I’d missed him and gave up. I was feeling those rolling hills and was not enjoying them. I’d walk a little on the little ups and start back running on the little downs. As far ahead as I could see, runners seemed to keep on going and going around the lake edge. My mind was going a little crazy.
Ugh! Where was this turn? How much farther?
Then I saw a familiar face. YaYa was waving at me from the other side. Like me, he was feeling the road and it didn’t feel pleasant. We HURT. We snapped a photo and went off in different directions. The turn was still out of sight and I kept wondering (or whining) How much longer until I would hit the darn turn?
Finally, I’d reached the turn. There was nothing special about the spot. No grand view. No Taiko drummers. Just some chip timing sensors. But I was beyond grateful to have finally arrived. Now, I just had 4.6 miles left to go.
The last miles are sort of a blur. I resorted to running 2 songs, walking 1 for the remainder of the painful trek. My “run” was getting slower as I went but, at that point, I just wanted it to be over. My whole body hurt. Well, actually, my knees didn’t. It was mostly my hip flexors urging me into a fetal position. I resisted.
At mile 10, I made another stop in the port-o-potty with hopes that the tightening would let up. *sigh* It didn’t.
I figured YaYa would’ve been finishing about then, if not before. Wishing I could be at the finish line to see it, I cheered for him in my mind. Then, I actually thought I heard sounds of the finish. Imaginary or not, the sounds spurred me to skip my walk song.
Then, the race photographer was ahead… so I had to keep running for the pictures. Racers wearing medals walked in the opposite direction offered words of encouragement. So I kept running.
Then, there it was… the final turn towards the finish line. The path appeared to have been soaked from the rain as well, but there was a lovely blanket of pine needles covering the mud. I did what I could to pick up the pace. Although the increased pace was only in my mind. I could see myself running faster; I just couldn’t make my body do it. Nonetheless, I FINISHED it (injury free) – just as I had wanted.
We did it!