A funny thing happened recently. Okay, maybe not haha funny. Or maybe not really funny at all, maybe more of an anomaly. I had not been running as much as I like to in the warmer summer months and then I signed up to run a trail half marathon. Rather my guy & I signed up to run a half marathon. We had tossed this idea around for a while but didn’t commit until maybe six weeks before the race.
Having done five halves over the past three or four years this wasn’t a super intimidating thing for me. Still, I’d prefer to be physically and mentally ready for a challenge of that magnitude. I said as much a few times leading up to race weekend but my schedule was just crazy. Three weeks before the race I was up to around 20 miles a week but then the next two weeks got extra crazy; I was only able to get four runs in…over two weeks. I know tapering before a big race is part of a lot of training plans but that only works when you actually have a training plan.
My guy was preparing for the half even less than I was. In the past he’s been able to go out and do some pretty tough races without batting an eye even though he doesn’t run regularly. A lot of the time he has more energy and speed than I do even when I am running often. It’s super annoying!!!
We’ve done lots of basic 5ks, some 10ks, a couple “doublers” or 15ks including a brutal trail 15. Earlier this year we had a back to back races with an easy 5k on Saturday and a not so easy 5 mile trail race early Sunday. He still killed the 5 mile trail run; I struggled a bit. (Like I said, it’s super annoying.)
A half marathon is different though; 13.1 miles feels like a lot more than even a 15k. I mean, it is. More than just 4 miles, 13.1 is a different level of mental challenge and stamina. It requires at least a little preparation!
But life is…life and preparation did not happen. The exact opposite of preparation happened. (Negative preparation? Reverse preparation? De-preparation? Idk. One of those.)
The day before the early August trail half marathon my guy had a golf tournament for work. No big deal. Except that he was out in the sun all day, drank more than is smart the day before a long race in the hot sun, and probably didn’t eat very well either. See, negative preparation!
Saturday morning come 6 A.M we were trying to get out the door for the race and he was not feeling so hot. Using all my previous experience and half marathon knowledge I told him to eat a decent breakfast and hydrate like hell on the way to the race. Oh, and to let me set the pace. He’d never make it if he set off at his usual race pace. (Heck, I wouldn’t make it either.)
Of course we were later than we wanted to be getting to the course. We started towards the back of the crowd and the first couple miles guy trapped in a group. The narrow trail made passing a challenge. Maybe that was a good thing though, it gave us time to find a nice, steady running groove. By the fourth mile the crowd had thinned out a bit and we were able to settle in at a slower but okay pace.
The course wound around the outside of the state park including some short road segments. There weren’t many hills other than a good sized one somewhere around mile four but the trail surface itself required some attention while running. There were a lot of pits and uneven areas which kept the pace a little slower.
In a trail race if it’s not the hills slowing you down it’s the terrain.
Somewhere between miles 7 and 9 the lack of preparation started to show. Well, for my guy they did. He was really starting to slow down. I was being a good girlfriend and mostly staying with him, trying to encourage him along. In a half marathon the last three or four miles are the toughest. Besides, I didn’t really have any goals for this race. Because I was running this half marathon without really training the goal was to have fun and finish.
My efforts to make this half marathon thing a more pleasant thing for my boyfriend dropped off sharply right around the ten mile marker. I was stuck behind a cluster of runners we had been back and forth with for two miles because I had slowed down to stay with my guy. (First time ever that I was feeling better and faster during a race than he was.) I turned my head to see something behind me and BAM! My foot hit something and I went down, skidding on the dirt trail.
I jumped up, super mad, and assessed the situation. Blood running down my right leg, dirt everywhere but mostly okay. My boyfriend and another runner were asking if I was alright. I responded briefly, yanked a dangling piece of skin off my scraped and bloody knee and took off. No more of this slowing down and waiting around thing, it was time to finish this race!
While I wouldn’t call my last three miles fast, they were definitely quicker than the previous few. I finished the race alone and went straight to the first aid tent to get the dirt dug out of my wound.
By the time that was done my guy was crossing the finish line. I had had plans to find him in that last terrible mile but the timing just wasn’t right.
One of the first things he said to me is “That was brutal!” And then maybe I’m not doing that again any time soon.
I think we both learned something that day: You’ve got to respect the 13.1!