Again this year, the Fall Colours run was met with PERFECT weather and foliage at its peak of autumn awesomeness.
My game plan: On my last training run, I ran 7km in just under 40min, and that felt *right*. So I decided that I would break up my half marathon into three 7km chunks, and try to run each one in 40min. That would give me a final time of exactly 2:00:00. I also told myself that if I ran one of the 7kms slower than that, that I would NOT attempt to make up the time in the other thirds.
Race Day: I went to bed early the night before, and I managed to cobble together 7 hours of sleep (not altogether of course, but still, more sleep than I’d had in a while) and I happily followed my regular race morning routine. I drove myself down to the race (in Cumberland, about 20 minutes out of town) with what I thought was plenty of time to get there, park, and find my race kit and make it to the start. But then I ran into this:
I got to the Cumberland town limits at 9:05, and I didn’t park my car on the Museum grounds (2.5km away) until 9:45am. The cars were chalk-a-block and not moving. Runners were all popping out of their cars and heading to the race on foot, but I couldn’t do that since I was alone. Then it took me a while to find the race kit tent, and once I had my kit, I had to run back to my parked car to stash it, so that when I finally made it to the start line, it had been FOUR WHOLE MINUTES since the race had started. Boo!!
1 – 7km
My first kilometre was really fast, because I was so mad that I’d started late AGAIN. Not only that but the 10km racers started right after me, and so I was getting passed on all sides by the speedy 10kers. When my Garmin beeped on the first km, I looked at it and saw I’d run it in 4:30. MUCH TOO FAST! I texted Angelo what had happened, and he sent a text back telling me to check my mental game and that I was only racing against myself. It was just what I needed to hear.
I dialed it down for the next few kms, focusing on each upcoming runner, and methodically taking them over without accelerating too much. I prepared myself for the mental challenge ahead. I also slowed down a few times to catch a snapshot of the vistas whenever they were particularly spectacular. After all, the appeal of running this race are the beautiful colours of the changing leaves!
I ended up running the first 7km in 36 minutes, which is pretty fast, but I was also happy to have a bit of a buffer in case I needed to slow down near the end.
8 – 14km
By this time I was feeling a lot better; I had gotten over the fact that I started late, and the weather, the scenery, and the texts back and forth with Angelo really made the run enjoyable. I had overtaken quite a few runners by this point, and the 10km racers had already turned around, so there were fewer people on the road.
When I got to the halfway point, I felt a little bloated and waterlogged. I had slowed to a walk at each water station, but all that water was just sloshing around my stomach and making me feel a bit queasy. I walked for about 30 seconds just after the turnaround, and waited for my stomach to settle a bit.
I started running again and felt okay, but worried that the second half of the race would be catastrophic. To keep from panicking too much, I forced myself to stop thinking about the race and look up at the trees and countryside. I fell into a nice rhythm after that, running kilometre after kilometre listinening to the sound of my race bib flapping against my racing belt. The sound became super meditative and hypnotic, and the whole world seemed to shrink away while I put one foot in front of the other.
Angelo also sent me a super sweet text from the kiddos: “Go mamma! Go mamma!” and it brought a smile to my face!
15 – 21km
Around this point I came upon a couple of runners, one with his hand on the other one’s back. I thought that he was trying to coax his friend along through a rough patch, but as I got closer, I realized that it was actually a blind person running with his guide. They were running at my pace, so I stayed behind them for a good 3 or 4km. It was amazing to see them running together, so in sync, with such subtle gestures to guide away from obstacles. There was also some serious camaraderie between them, and I felt really lucky to be running behind such disciplined racers. I totally credit them for my finish time, since they kept me at a steady, sustainable pace for the most of the last third of the race.
But, inevitably I was bound to hit a wall, since I was pretty undertrained for the distance, and it happened at the 19th kilometre. I had walked through the last water station, and was finding it harder to start running again. I got a bit of a trot going but when the course went uphill, I just couldn’t. I veered off to the side of the road and slowed to a walk. I was pretty dejected, and it must have shown on my face, because just then a marathoner was running towards me, out for his second loop on the course. He said to me: “Keep going! You’ve still got a great time!” and it really boosted me up.
Finally I came upon the last big hill and though I wanted to run the whole way up, my legs had other plans. They were filled with lactic acid, and all of a sudden it was like they were made of cement. I lagged hard and found myself walking yet again, but just up to the top of the hill. Then it was just a matter of making it around the victory lap on the Museum grounds, where there were plenty of spectators cheering and whooping. I had nothing left for a sprint of any kind – not even enough to put on a brave face for the photographers. I was just spent and looking to be done.
I crossed the finish line at 2:04 and I was pretty happy with that. It was a little strange to be done and not have anyone to talk to and no babies to hug. I found those two runners I’d followed and thanked them for being my pace gauge. Then I grabbed a bagel, my race t-shirt and headed back to the car.
I tried to drive away but my leg and foot cramped up pretty badly as I tried to step on the accelerator and brake. I had to pull over and give it a nice long stretch before I could head back home. But I drove home with the finisher’s medal around my neck, proud to have run my second half.
Chip Time: 2:00:23
Clock Time: 2:04:33
Place: 119 out of 250
Gender: 47 out of 138
Category (F35-39): 5 out of 18