Let me come right out with it…the lovely rural Catholic school that put on this race schooled everyone. They have a hotline to God and a knack for what they are doing, and they brought their A-game to this race. It’s as if the hell of the Garmin half marathon (poor organization, no police presence to help get everyone to the starting line, driving rain and stinging hail) cleansed our running souls, and we finally got to see the bright shining light that is half marathon heaven.
It was beautiful (though not a PR for me…don’t want to mislead anyone!) 🙂
I’ve whined incessantly about hating the running limbo between the races, and the running purgatory gave me a serious case of nerves the day before the race, as I’d spent five weeks in a resting/taper mode before and after each half marathon. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence going into the third half marathon in five weeks. My legs felt fatigued from the accumulation of racing yet strangely unprepared for another (how do the Dopey Challenge people do it?).
I fixed one mistake from the last half marathon and did NOT eat Taco Bell the night before; however, I made another by playing 18 holes of golf with HH (God was not with me on the course, as I shot a 132 and therefore walked the entire course three times over looking for my ball in the rough on every dang hole.) I couldn’t not play though…it was a gorgeous afternoon, and life is meant to be lived!
God giveth and he taketh away. Um-hmm, that’s right.
So I woke up at 4:30 with sore legs and tight glutes. Hell is a tight ass pre-race, because you know that means your butt cheeks will soon be pushing on your shoulder blades.
I hit the road early, determined to avoid any prerace traffic jams. For any local readers, the sweet ladies at packet pickup told me to go past the first exit when coming south on 69 Hwy. and to exit instead at 247th Street. This worked like a charm…there were police at the exit and at every turn directing traffic, and then there were many marvelous volunteers directing us into the field behind the church (if you parked at the first exit location, you had to bus in.)
I was parked and at the starting line in minutes. Hooray to race organizers!
There were plenty of port-a-potties, and the church had opened up the cafeteria so that runners could get out of the cold and wait inside. I almost died when I walked in…nice and warm, music playing (“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”–ha!), pastries and coffee already being served, and Queenie the Cow making the picture rounds.
Catholics do it better.
Lining up was easy. I placed myself around the 1:55 pacer and talked to a few runners around me. One guy had started Rock the Parkway shooting for a 1:50 and gotten sick from the heat (just like me!), walked the last 5-6 miles just so he could finish since he was doing the 39.3, but then slept through the Garmin marathon and missed it. That’s a tough break.
The weather was beautiful (prayers were answered! I’m telling you these people have an in), and we took off to the sounds of Van Halen…a clear sign that the man above was thinking of me, as I LOVE Van Halen (can’t remember now if they played “When Love Walks In” or “When It’s Love”). The only thing better would have been if they’d played “Running With the Devil.”
We were off, and I felt surprisingly good for the first two miles, other than getting hemmed in right on the ass of the pacer with nowhere to move. It took about three miles to get clear of the jostling group and make a break. I ran ahead, talked with my old college roommate and her boyfriend for a bit, then pushed a little harder, as I was feeling very relaxed.
This was the perfect course…all country roads, completely closed off, plenty of room to run, and no huge elevation changes, just gentle rolling hills. It was varied enough to keep it interesting, and I enjoyed the slight challenge of the hills and the respite of the downhill portions. It would be a great course to try and set a PR…and might I add that the occasional smell of cow manure can prove mighty inspiring? 🙂
To the cows at Mile 6…I hope you feel better soon! Eat some fiber!
Now as we all know, the devil is in the details (are you getting sick of the religious references yet?), and the race delivered. Have I mentioned the aid stations? They were everywhere, manned by different grades of the school with parent helpers. They had signs indicating which side had Gatorade and which had water, and the kids also yelled out what they were holding. They also had trays of orange slices and bananas…these people were saints! I can’t count how many thanked me for running as I passed.
Are you serious? Thank you for hosting! For being organized! For everything! Hosanna in the highest (I remember my Catholic school days!) These kids were amazing…I wanted to hug them all for being so sweet.
I sipped my Nuun and ate 2-3 Honey Stingers before most aid stations, chasing it with water supplied by little angels.
My splits for the first seven miles:
9:05, 8:53, 8:41, 8:39, 8:40, 8:34, 8:33…consistent. Not earth-shattering, but fun and comfortable. I enjoyed every minute of them.
I started to feel fatigued around Mile 8, not too far after the turnaround point, and my splits started dropping a bit, just when I was hoping to have enough energy to start ramping them up. I didn’t feel bad, just a bit tired, and I wondered if general race fatigue from the previous two races and little serious running in-between was catching up with me. Still, I wasn’t dizzy or nauseous (yet), and I could still run, just not at quite the pace I would have liked.
I really drew inspiration in these miles from watching the slower runners still coming up the front half of the race. I saw such spirit and determination in those people, and I tried to shout some encouragement to them as I passed. I don’t know if it helped them, but seeing their struggle sure helped me. I wasn’t setting a trailblazing pace, but I was cooking up a decent race, and I was thankful.
Best sign of the race? The one that said “There will be a day when you cannot run. Today is not that day!”
That sign sums up the whole reason why I run, and it gave me inspiration (it didn’t give me any more speed, unfortunately, but it gave me a smile and happy thoughts, which is worth a lot too!)
I thought I had built up about a 2-minute lead on the 1:55 pacer, and I felt fairly strong. I passed the guy I’d talked to at the beginning of the race, just as he was stopping to stretch his quad. I shouted some encouragement as I chicked him, but that may not have helped him, upon reflection.
I tried to run more by feel in Miles 8-10, as I was starting to fight some low energy and didn’t want to get hung up on pace. I thought I was pushing hard and that I was still well ahead of the pacer…in fact, I was beginning to think that maybe I would end up under 1:54. I was starting to feel a little nauseated though, and it was getting pretty warm, so I was hesitant to try and make a push. Still, though, my discomfort wasn’t severe like Rock the Parkway.
I need to stop ignoring my Garmin, because every time I do, my natural inclination is apparently to go slower (my splits were 8:42, 8:48 and 8:48 for Miles 8-10).
Right at the Mile 11 mark and just before the last hill, I saw the 1:55 stick wiggle up next to me, and there she was like Satan on my shoulder…the pacer. She had caught up with me, like past sins or too many pieces of birthday cake.
It was like my entire running ego was shoved into one big balloon, and she poked it with her damn pacer stick and left it all on the road.
It’s hard to process a full-on depression attack while still running. I was just so instantly deflated for some reason, and whatever spirit those Catholic kids had given me evaporated faster than you can make the sign of the cross.
I tried to tell myself that though I was moving slower than I’d thought, I was still running an enjoyable solid race. I put my eyes on that stick and chased it like it was the last bus to Heaven. Just stay close, I told myself, but I was seriously adrift spiritually and physically, and I needed food in the worst way.
I’m not proud of my Mile 11-13 splits (8:57, 8:52, and 8:42), but I can’t really complain either. I was still conscious, I didn’t have to stop to walk, which I was starting to see a lot of, and I didn’t lose track of the Satan pacer.
I crossed the finish line in 1:55:30 to the cheering of a great crowd, the ringing of numerous cowbells and the smell of home cooked food waiting in the church cafeteria.
I stopped to grab a bottle of water in the finish chute, and a volunteer thanked me (again!) for running. I told her that I should be thanking her and that this was the best race I’d ever participated in. She was thrilled and introduced me to the lady next to her, who was the organizer of the run…lucky me! I had the chance to thank her in person and tell her how much it meant to me (and I’m sure the other runners as well!)
Hi Liz Meek, and thanks again! Isn’t she nice? She even put her arm around me, and I was a sweaty disgusting mess!
Now here is where the race organizers (kudos, Liz!) came through yet again. The spread inside that church was something to behold. Here is a pic of just one table, and there were several…
Pulled pork, hot dogs, hamburgers, McDonald’s and Panera, chicken salad, baked beans, Hostess cupcakes, fresh fruit, etc.–they had it all, not to mention numerous side tables with homemade cakes, pastries, etc., and samples from the Corner Bakery Cafe. It was overwhelming.
To whoever made the chicken salad…I applaud you. Your chicken salad made my day. Please make it again next year. Peace be with you.
I ate my food (eat all the food!), then wandered over to the outside coffee vendor (they had coffee inside and outside…these are my kind of people!) He said that he’d had several people wander up and ask him why people would want coffee on such a warm morning, and we had a good laugh about it, because coffee drinkers don’t care if it’s 100 degrees outside, they want their coffee!
Amen to that.
After collecting my shiny medals (blingtastic!), I took another pic with Queenie the Cow and hit the road…
I checked my numbers once I got home and was reasonably pleased to see that I finished in the top 9% of my age group (angelic shebeasts 40-44) and in the top 23% overall.
So my final numbers for the series were 1:54, 1:56, and 1:55. Not what I had hoped for , but respectable. Will I do the Heartland 39.3 series again? I really don’t know. The limbo in-between races was torture, yet the feeling of completing three in five weeks is a good one.
After experiencing Running With the Cows, though, I might just try to target it next spring as a solo race with the hope of chasing a PR. Regardless, I will be back to run this incredible race again (with God as my copilot!) 😉
And would you believe I played nine more holes of golf on Saturday afternoon? I was exhausted by Saturday evening.
Happy running, and I hope you had a happy Mother’s Day (mine was wonderful!) Thanks for reading!