OK. I’ve been holding out on this little race for a solid month now. I’m not really sure why, I think because it wasn’t that great for me, but it was, if that makes any sense at all.
But let’s back up and start at the beginning.
After running the Aramco Half , I was on a serious running high. I was toying with the idea of running another half pretty quickly, but not sold on any certain one. I’ve wanted to run the Woodlands for a couple years now, simply because I grew up close to the Woodlands and I have a soft spot for it in my heart. But, we had a wedding to go to the day of the Woodlands half, so I pretty much counted it out.
Running or this? Or both? Important life decisions.
Due to some various factors, however, I started to debate if it was possible. The wedding started at 3PM and was in New Braunfels – a solid 3+ hours away. But the half started at 7AM, and if I ran anything close to what I ran in Houston, it was possible to run the half, shower and still get to the wedding in plenty of time [spoiler: we got to New Braunfels at 1:30… plenty of time]… And the wheels started turning.
I ended up taking the rest of January after Houston pretty easy in terms of running, and then spent February attempting to build back up some speed. I threw the idea out to Sean about running the Woodlands before the wedding and he told me to go for it. 3 seconds later, I registered. And there it was. Another half. March 2nd.
To be completely up front: I truly wasn’t sure if I was actually ready to run this race. My long runs were mediocre at best, and while I knew I’d be able to handle the distance, I wasn’t sure how quickly how I could actually get my little [ok, average-sized] feet to move.
But, like it or not, race day still showed up. I was a freaking mess. I kept thinking about what a terrible idea this was. The last time I ran a race in the Woodlands – and a 5k no less – I hated it. How was tacking on an additional 10 miles a good idea?
After pushing my way up through the corrals [nope, straight up just walked up to the front], I found the 1:45 pacer – who looked like a freaking rockstar [seriously, homegirl was in SHAPE] – and strategically placed myself behind her. The plan: sub-1:45 half.
And then, just like every other race, we were off. It was a beautiful day out. Cool and sunny. Within seconds of starting, I heard my name and turned and saw my parents cheering me on – I immediately teared up. I am such a sap sometimes [most of the time]. I had that same overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my body and that I was running that I’ve had many times since recovering from the demon knee. Unfortunately, however, those blissful feelings didn’t stay for very long. The first 3 or so miles ticked by and I had my normal “why the eff am I doing this, this was such a bad idea” thoughts. I somehow managed to stay close to the 1:45 pacer, which was good. At some point, not really sure when, I pulled ahead of the 1:45 pacer and steadily tried to keep pace with the 3:30 marathon pacer. I’ve never run with a pace group before, so this was weird.
Good point about the half/marathon course: There were ample aid stations. I walked through every one and alternated grabbing water or Gatorade at them. I also partied with these bad boys:
Around mile 7ish we hit a series of ‘motivational’ signs that were hilarious. They went on for a solid mile and I laughed the entire time. After that, however, we went out into no-man’s land. The crowd support at the Woodlands is minimal, at best. And then all my “oh this is the perfect weather!!” came back to bite me. Because it was sunny and the sun being out makes it hot [term used loosely, it was not even close to being hot for Houston, but it was rather warm with my long sleeves. should’ve worn short sleeves] and bright.
There was literally nothing but trees and the street for the rest of the course. Or really the entire course. And while it’s ohhhh soooo pretty at first, it’s not that exciting after the first, well, mile. I tried to check my Garmin at one point to see if I was on track to PR or not [a little after mile 10], only to find out that it had decided to stop keeping track of what I was running. So that was a fun realization. The only thing keeping me sane at this point was that my iPod was in touch with the war raging in my head and kept pulling out songs like “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson and that song from the 8 Mile soundtrack by Eminem. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, well, I’m too lazy to go find it. Sorry.
I wanted to quit at mile 11. This was not the rainbows and butterflies that the Houston half was. I was miserable. And at around 11.5 I noticed the 1:45 pacer creeping up into my view again. I tried my hardest to find some oomph, but it just wasn’t there. I started reminding myself that I only two miles left, and that was only 16ish minutes, and I could do that. And I counted down like that every 5 minutes. Just 10 more minutes now. OK, we’re down to 5 and you can hear the crowds. LOOK THE SPLIT FROM THE MARATHONERS, YOU GOT THIS.
And here is where I rant [as if this whole race report hasn’t been depressing enough]: we turned the corner and some idiot yelled “you’re almost there! the finish line is ahead” so I kicked it. And I ran my little heart out. And I waited to cross the finish line. And waited. And realized that the idiot who yelled that out didn’t know what he was talking about.
In reality, the finish line was maybe 0.4 miles away. But when you yell out that the finish line is ahead, I expect it to be coming up in a 1/4 mile or less. By the time I actually saw the finish line, I thought I was going to puke. My body was not handling sprinting well at that point. I ran straight past Sean, who yelled to me and tried to high five me, and ignored him. By then I had such tunnel vision that I couldn’t handle exerting energy towards anything other than crossing the finish line.
When I finally crossed [dramatic, much? it was really only about a minute after that] the finish line I had no clue what my time was. I didn’t even know how quickly I had actually crossed the start line to start trying to figure out how I’d done. So I found my parents and Sean and waited.
Side note: I was so stoked that my parents were there because they missed Houston, and it really pumped me up knowing that they were there cheering me on.
I chatted with my parents for a few minutes, then they left and Sean and I went over to look at the results.
And there I was: 16th in my age group, with a finish time of 1:44:02.
How I managed to pull out another PR is beyond me. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t a good race for me, I pulled the biggest positive split ever, and none of that mattered once I saw that number.
Running and racing has been a very humbling experience for me over the past year. My body has shown me what it can and can’t handle, and it’s let me know very loudly when it’s been pushed too far. But it’s also let me do things that I never thought were possible. Breaking 1:45 in the half was huge for me. I’m so unbelievably grateful that in a matter of a month and a half, my legs let me run an almost 4 minute PR… after already giving me an 8 minute PR. I am so, so humbled and thankful. I can’t express enough appreciation to my husband, who always not only supports me, but pushes me to go further, to my amazing doctor, Dr. Hinson , who has kept me sane and healthy throughout this entire thing and to God, who has truly shown me what it means to be patient and persevere, even when things look bleak.