On Sunday, November 1st I ventured to Hamilton with a bunch of the Rogue Runners for the Hamilton Road2Hope races. We had several people running in both the half and full – it’s always fun to have a big group for pre-race
photo ops encouragement.
I took on a mini training plan courtesy of Coach Hubs after Lehigh Valley in the hopes of finding a training groove again and dramatically improving the result. Looking on the bright side, I feel really good about what I accomplished during those six weeks… even if the end result *spoiler alert* wasn’t anything to get excited about. I was more consistent with my mileage than I had been all summer, had a few decent confidence-boosting long runs and even found some speed (relative term) in my legs again for interval and tempo workouts.
The race just did not go well… at least, the second half didn’t. But we’ll get back to that. I ran three half marathons this year and my best race ended up being the first one, completed on minimal long runs (none close to race distance) and zero workouts. Go figure! It’s frustrating but it just further proves that anything can happen on race day. And as only my Pennsylvania Posse will understand: “We are where we are.”
Anyway! It turned out to be a much windier day than expected and we battled strong, almost constant head winds for the first 6K. It was beating me up a little bit and I tried not to push the pace, knowing I could make up for it when it came time to cruise down the Red Hill Valley Parkway.
5:24, 5:17, 5:34, 5:19, 5:23, 5:24
And cruise, I did! This downhill portion plays all kinds of tricks on the mind. “Running is so easy!” “This race is awesome!” “I could run this pace all day!” etc. While loving life, I was simultaneously reeling myself in and trying to be careful not to blow out the legs, knowing that (unfortunately!) there is a lot of race left after this beautiful downhill.
Now out of the wind, I quickly realized I was overdressed and regretted wearing a vest. I don’t know what I was thinking on this very mild November day.
5:03, 5:11, 5:15, 5:21, 5:25
Around 11K, the downhill is over… and my race all went downhill from there. Heh. There was an awful overpass to climb off the highway with a strategically placed water table where I took my first of many walk breaks to come. The incline was horrible after running downhill for so long, and I knew I was in trouble. I could have kept on walking, but had to start running again because I knew one of our Rogue friends would be around the corner taking pictures. “Hi Sylvie, do I look as awful as I feel all of a sudden?”
From there the course gets really evil and takes us along ~2km of loose gravel trail with some brief sections of cobblestone and a couple of short, steep climbs. My pace was tanking but I knew hubs would be waiting ahead, so I tried to pull myself together and pretend that I still had a chance, hoping for a second wind or an early Christmas miracle.
5:49, 5:53, 5:49
We hit the waterfront trail and had to turn left, which was painful knowing that turning right was just 1km to the finish line. Unfortunately I had 7 to go. I think I will run this race again if they ever re-design it so we get to head straight for the finish after the downhill. Hubs jumped in with me here and I had to tell him how horrible I was feeling. He did his best to cheer me up as I proceeded to whine and complain about how tired I was and “why is this happening again?” and even shared some dark feelings of shame and embarrassment. Looking back, I know I was being overly dramatic, but I had some rough moments as my pace and hopes continued to nose dive.
5:56, 6:50, 6:32, 6:49
I was on my own again after finally making the turn-around, as hubs went to wait for our friend whom he was pacing through the end of the marathon. Truthfully I was better off on my own. Besides, I had plenty of company as all of my friends who had been behind me proceeded to pass me, one after the other. I tried to rally some pep and words of encouragement as they did, even as I suffered through my own personal death march.
Even a sub-2:00 gradually slipped out of reach, but at least I was finally on my way toward the finish line.
6:51, 6:33, 6:15
At times I felt like I was just shuffling along. I tried holding out for water tables to walk, but at times I couldn’t even make it to the next kilometre marker. It was a long and painful struggle, but I eventually reached that finish line.
After the race I continued to look for an answer to the question, “What went wrong?” Did the early head wind use up too much of my energy? Did pounding downhill for so long take a toll on my legs? Was I overly ambitious with the pace and burned out early? Was it simply not my day? Any or all of these could be true and it’s not the first or last time I will finish a race with similar questions rolling through my head. I’ve overcome a lot of injuries over the last couple of years and truth be told, any day I can run is a good day.
And with that, half marathon #29 is in the books!