Potomac River Run – part 2 – the RUN

I’ve never felt “unprepared” for a race. I’ve never run two long-distance races this close together. And I’ve never been acting as the ‘veteran’ half-marathoner, encouraging a friend to tackle her first 13.1 !

Let’s just say I really had No idea what to think about/expect going into this race.

As I mentioned below, thanks to a few planning/directing screw-ups and park restrictions, we had the option to start on our own time. I did want my friend, K, to get the full “race experience”, including the nerve-racking Startling Line and “official” start. But, we decided that showering before ‘check out’ and avoiding the time-limit-restriction was slightly more appealing. I left this entirely up to her, since it was her first race, and it worked out Perfectly!

Basically we arrived and checked our bags, and walked right up to the starting mat.
I smiled and said “Alright, ya ready?!” And we were off!

Intending to do this at our own paces, I put on my music and started My race.

******

As most of you know, I’ve only done one “long” run since my last race at the end of March. Sure, I’ve kept up the weekly mileage, and thrown in a few speed workouts here and there. But nothing that significantly boosted my ego and made me think I was really ready to run for another half. So, I started slow and steady. I knew better than to push it and aim for my coveted 8 minute miles, and I knew that I couldn’t let myself focus on my splits. For the first time, I just relaxed….and ran. If I had to stop and walk – that was okay. If I wanted to get water at every stop, that was okay. I’d just roll with whatever my body decided to do, hope that K had a good race, and cross the finish line one way or another.

The course was 0ut-and-back, through Belle Haven park (along the river, and gorgeous!), on a cool misty morning.
My first few splits looked like this….

Mile (1) 8:37 – (2) 8:32 – (3) 8:31 – (4) 8:03

….I was feeling great. I was passing people, nobody was passing me. I didn’t let this inflate my head or speed up my feet, because I knew we all started at different times and that some people were running the Full. My pace felt strong, and I knew I’d make it to that turn-around with no problems.

I passed every water station, intending to stop when I wanted/needed to….

(5) 8:11 – (6) 8:03 – (7) 8:19

Past the half-way mark and thinking, Sure! I’ll take that cup of water off your hands. I stopped, to avoid another h2O-in-the-face disaster (last race, ugh), and enjoyed my rehydration! At the next stop they had purple Powerade. They say never to try “new” things during a race, but this wasn’t technically a “race” right?! RIGHT. It was delicious.

(8) 8:05 – purple Powerade break! – (9) 8:28……

The middle of the course was completely up and down – uphill, across a bridge, downhill, under the road, back up, across another bridge, etc. Just rolling elevations, nothing too drastic, long, or steep. But right around Mile 9 I suddenly felt completely drained! Literally I ran right into that hypothetical “wall” with my eyes closed. I had no idea where this instant drop in energy came from, but my pace slowed and my posture suffered.
Time for a walk break? YUP.

I set the nearest tree as my ‘landmark’ to run to, and then slowed to a walk and continued on for two minutes. Nice and relaxed, taking in deep calm breaths, and getting ready to go again. Then I ran for a mile, and repeated this mantra.

(10) 9:06 – with walk break – (11) 9:19 – with another walk break….

Apparently this did the trick (walking and resting up works?! What a concept! Geeze)…..

(12) – 8:07 !

At this point I realized I hadn’t been paying much attention to my splits/lap alerts (I have one “lap” set as 1 mile). For whatever reason, I thought I was on Mile 11. The course was seriously lacking consistent mile markers (the last one I had seen said “8”), and I was just in a zone. Right when I heard my little Garmin “beep” I thought it meant I had two miles left. Then, I looked up and saw “MILE 12”.

Whaaat?? I only have ONE mile left??!

AWESOME!

(13) 8:24

I felt pretty tired in the middle of this, let myself walk for about 30 seconds (so out of the box for me! Last mile, walking?!! what?!), and proceeded to RUN run runnn to that finish line!

At this point I was looking for that non-existent race clock (see post below!), and knew that at some point the “Full-ers” were supposed to turn around and we were supposed to stop. Where this was to happen? Who knows! I kept running and two people asked “half or full?!” (they were directing the runners). I said “Half!!” and they said “STOP! You’re already done!”

Ha. Oh. Oops.

53-0131

GARMIN TIME – 1:51:40 (13.17 miles) @ 8:29 min/mile

I survived!! Honestly, I crossed that finish line with a huge smile on my face. This was the kind of race that made me remember Why I run, why I Race, and why I LOVE it all and keep doing it again. Did I PR? Not even close. But I finished 3 minutes faster than my race in October (that I spent, oh, 2 months training for? weird), and only 4 minutes slower than the race I did a month ago.

And for the first time, I was smart about everything. I relaxed, I let myself enjoy the run, I didn’t get emotional/stressed over a slower split, I looked around and took in the scenery, I walked and took water when I needed to…..and I was able to run faster and longer because of all of it.

*****

And now I’m on the look-out for Race #6 ! Ready to keep going going going!
(( and open to suggestions/recommendations! Runner-blogger meet up??! That’d be funnn!)

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