Greetings from Minnesota. We’ve had some chilly weather the past few days, and I think it was right around freezing when I left home this morning.
The bigger question you might be asking is, “what was the weather doing Saturday morning as you geared up for your first 20-miler?” Okay, maybe you’re not asking, but I’ll give you some photographic data anyway.
Several inches of snow on the ground greeted me, and my husband said simply, “are you sure you still want to go to the race?” I admit I was a bit nervous about the conditions, but I never considered not going.
The alternative would be running 20 miles by myself in the snow or on the treadmill. Since neither of those sounded appealing, I ate a banana and opened an orange gatorade while I started throwing my stuff together.
I finally settled on wearing tights instead of capris, put on 2 long-sleeved layers, and double checked I had a headband and gloves. Finally I was organized, and I arrived at the race to find the lot I parked in last year was packed. Eventually I parked, satisfying myself that I wasn’t in a tow-away or permit-only zone, grabbed my bag and dashed off to get my bib. When I arrived at the starting line the announcer’s voice boomed “Okay runners, 1 minute to race time.”
The Race Begins
“Phew, just made it!” Course conditions overall were better than I expected. The roads were wet but not snowy. I was also glad I’d ditched my 2nd top layer because I warmed up pretty quickly, and all the people around helped to block the wind.
I started sans music and briefly chatted with several runners as we covered the first few miles without incident. The Earth Day Run has about 1500 half marathoners and under 200 people running the 20-mile, so I knew the last 7 miles were likely to be pretty lonely. I had my iPod tucked into this nifty pocket in the back of my shirt just in case.
Strangely enough, I think miles 6-7 may have been the most challenging of the race. I was feeling okay physically, but my mind was tired. The thought of running for 2+ more hours sounded yucky. I knew I had to get it together, and I stepped up my pace for a few minutes just to change things up. This moved me slightly ahead of the 2:15 half marathon pacers, so I knew I was still running conservatively enough.
To back up for a second, I had a rough time estimate of a 3.5 hour finish. I won’t say goal because my real goals weren’t timed-based. I just wanted to treat this as a training run, keep the pace even, avoid going out too fast, practice fueling, and finish feeling strong.
Miles 10-13 were just about maintaining, and it was disheartening to watch the half-marathoners head off to the finish chute while I turned back to re-loop the past 7 miles. At this point, the most amazing thing happened…. I found a running buddy. 🙂
I usually train by myself and the idea of talking while running is a bit foreign to me. This gal was running about my pace though, and we just fell in step. I learned she was originally from California, she learned I had dairy cows, and the exchange went back and forth as the miles flew by. I hardly noticed the wind, and I stepped up my pace at mile 18 because I knew I still “had some fight left in my legs.”
Where the phrase “fight in my legs” comes from I’m not sure. But it started bouncing around in my brain (perhaps when Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” started playing on my iPod?) I’d pulled ahead of my new running buddy about mile 18 when she slowed down with someone else she knew, and so I popped in some music for a little boost.
I’ve always wrinkled up my nose when people write about “feeling so awesome on my 20-mile run!” because I knew it wasn’t possible to feel awesome after running that long. While I’ve had some good long runs, my legs usually feel trashed several miles before the finish, and I wouldn’t describe that as awesome.
I now have a little taste of what they mean.
Of course I was getting fatigued and sore when I reached the end. Of course my legs felt rubbery and my calves definitely cramped up in protest once I stopped. But I felt strong. I could have kept going. And I will keep going on May 21. I wanted this 20 mile to be a confidence booster, and even though I wasn’t close to winning anything, I won the mental game. I can only hope my mental game is as strong when I get to Fargo.
My other happy point was I ran a negative split! First 10 miles clocked in @ 1:42:22 and second 10 miles @ 1:41:14. While one minute isn’t a huge difference, I’m pretty thrilled. Both of my past half marathons have been a positive split by 5 minutes or so. To know that I figured out how to pace myself properly over 20 miles is definitely victory!
Anyhow, sorry for the lack of pictures in this post. I really didn’t snap many, but once photos come up on the race website I’ll give you all a peek.
Thank for all the encouraging comments on last night’s post. I really appreciate the advice and support I get from all you wonderful readers!