One month is not nearly enough time to properly train, but I had been running and logging quite a few miles, so I went for it. Plus? A lot of it was on the trail that I run several times a week. Familiarity!
I approached this race as just another long saturday run. I wasn't nervous at all. I was mostly curious to see what effect training with pacing myself would have on my time.
I knew that towards the end of the race, there would be a hill. Maybe a steep one. I took Skybo running one day, to check it out. I had never been on that trail. At the trail head, it forked in two directions. One was a really well maintained and wide trail. The other took off into the woods. A race like this would obviously take the nicer bigger trail, RIGHT?! Well, we never made it to the hill part, but I felt better getting a feel for the trail and didnt think it would be so bad.
The first 5 miles were out and back on the part of the trail that I run ALL the time. I was cruising, feeling great. My timing was almost a full minute faster per mile than my previous races. LOOK AT ME GO.
The race options were 5 miles or a half marathon, so a bunch of people split, after that. My previous 3 halfs were huge events, tons of cheering spectators, runners all over the place, bands every mile, and completely flat.
This was the opposite. I was running alone for most of it, and there was not one spectator. As I used the spectators and bands as welcomed distractions before, I was proud to be keeping up such a fast pace. My foot was bothering me, but I kept chugging along.
We got to the fork in the trail, and the flags pointed me in the direction of the foresty hiking trail.
The trail narrowed to about a foot wide, and there were runners AND regular hikers. And it was a hiking trail. It was steep and rocky and HOLY CRAP WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO.
The trail broke into a clearing that I was familiar with. This clearing is just below the trail that we hike all the time. The flags pointed me away from the start of that hiking trail, so I was instantly relieved. I bet it would take me back down to the fork and I'd be on the home stretch.
It took me to the start of "my" hiking trail.
It was steep, straight uphill, for probably close to a mile. I mildly panicked. Running a half marathon is hard enough without throwing an effing mountain into the middle of it. I stopped running (because LOL YEAH RIGHT AM I RUNNING UP A STEEP MOUNTAIN 8 MILES INTO THIS RACE), and put my hiking face on. Growing up hiking with my dad was a huge benefit. I always had to take big strides uphill and keep a fast pace to keep up with him, and that is what I did. The few runners that I could see stopped and walked. I stopped and hiked. I knew that running uphill was absolutely not going to happen, but I refused to waste any additional time and made sure that I ran/jogged on any flat or downhill parts.
I came to another fork in the road. Hiking, I have always gone left, and never once went straight. I knew that going left would have been an even steeper hill, so I was relieved to start heading downhill, going straight.
It was a nice break. Until the downhill became so steep that I couldnt even shuffle step down it, I had to slowly pick my way down an absurdly steep hill.
WHO PICKED THIS ROUTE.
It was so steep that going back up, there was no long stride hiking. I had to slowly pick my way up the hill, gasping for air, with my calves starting to cramp. GOOD TIMES, PEOPLE. Good times.
Any hopes of a good time for the overall race were absolutely shattered. I took the rest of the race, calves still cramping, hating my life, to get my average pace back down as much as I could. Keep on keepin on.
I knew that the finish line was at the top of a short but steep little hill (cruel joke). Hills like that, I always try to sprint up, because the momentum is huge.
I ran past LeGreg, Skybo and my mom, barely smiling, because I'M DYING. I sprint up the hill and my dad is taking pics. It's cool, though, because I'm sprinting so fast and I'm pretty sure I look like a Nike commercial right now with my fast long strides.
In the end, despite having to walk for probably a mile or so, my time was only 2 mins slower than my personal best for the half marathon.
I will go ahead and file that under WIN.
Now I'm REALLY curious to see what my time would be for a flat half, buuuut.....ugh, not for a while.