Yesterday’s post explained my love affair with Denver. Today I’m excited to share my first experience of an out of state race. To catch you up to speed, I had a minor set back on Saturday when I had the joy of feeling full altitude sickness. We drove into the mountains, and a combination of curvy roads, altitude change, and dehydration caused me to be out of commission for 2-3 hours. I still wasn’t feeling up to par by Saturday evening, but I knew if I stayed in bed all weekend, I would feel even worse.
This is where I started to panic. Weak as can be, I was somehow supposed to run a half marathon the next morning. How is this even going to happen? I honestly regretted the race and trip at this point. I was pretty sure I wasted time and money just for me to end up sick. Darren wasn’t going to let me waste any more time. So after driving all over to find me food and drinks I could keep down, I was finally able to get out of the hotel and we kept the night low key, and I made sure to over hydrate.
Sunday morning came, it was race day! Good morning to an early wake up call, nervous stomach, and over thinking. Luckily I was feeling better, at least I thought I was, I always feel like a train wreck race mornings, mostly due to the nerves. One less thing to stress about was the weather, it was perfect, almost too good to be true. A little bit of sun, a little bit of a chill, and not a drop of rain or snow in sight!
How could you not relax driving towards this on the way to the race?
We got to the race early, and I took my first steps in the parking lot. My pace was slow, but I wanted to shake my legs out. I decided to wait until race day to do any running. If I had a bad run on Saturday, I knew I would worry about it right until the start and even during the race. I took my spot in wave 3 (2:15 and above) I wanted to make sure I’d start with a comfortable pace and wouldn’t try any 8:30 miles.
The race started off at a good pace, and I quickly found a comfortable spot. With every turn the mountains were in the background, almost surreal. There were many times in the first mile that I still couldn’t believe I was out in Denver running a half marathon. Am I crazy?
Quickly after mile one we headed to a paved path which immediately made for a very tight run, there was even one point where we were stopped and walking because there were so many people. Water stops were every two miles, which I made sure to take full advantage of. I was already thirsty before the first stop, and I knew staying hydrated would be key to making it to the finish line.
The first couple miles I spent figuring out my pace, checking over my body to see how I felt, and trying to find my place in the crowded path. I decided beforehand I would take some Gu at mile 4 and 8. Well, it must have helped because when I got to mile 5, I was at a 9:30 pace. Whoah! Slow down and don’t get ahead of yourself.
Miles 6 through 9 I kept a pretty even pace. I stopped at all the water stops and took my Gu at mile 8. At this point in the race I felt comfortable, my body felt good, my pace wasn’t too quick and I was just taking in the moment. The wind started to pick up, but I tried not to let it get to me, and I kept pushing on. I even passed people, something I have rarely done in a half. The course up to this point followed the Platte River and we had multiple bridges to run over and under. Including a few that shook and reminded me of running at Bur Oak. There was even a dirt path next to the pavement that gave provided some relief throughout the race.
Right around mile 10 the path opened up a bit and I could tell we were getting close to the finish and into the city. The sky also darkened at this point, and it became a race to get to the finish without getting caught in a storm. Lucky mile 11 came and I started to cramp. I knew by this point I was a little dehydrated and my pace started to slow. I started checking my Garmin about every ten seconds. Throughout the race I had been on pace to PR, and like always I knew it would come down to the last two miles.
Mile 12 finally showed up and it was the mile I had been dreading the entire race. There was a “small” hill right at the finish. This hill lasted what felt like a half mile and once everyone made it to the top, the wind took full force. I was blown around multiple times, I started to think I was going to get blown off the bridge and wouldn’t make it to the finish. Coming down the bridge, I knew I was close, and as we turned the corner I could see the balloons at the finish line. My first thought was, “OMG, it’s finally here! Just keep moving, and the cramps won’t kill you” I was so excited for this moment!
Fact: I never remember the finish to a race. I get into a weird sprint the last 50 feet and black out everything. But, I actually remembered this one, and I was thrilled to see Darren on the side, taking pictures, so of course I had to smile. I glanced at the clock and saw 2:16. I missed it. But….Garmin said 13.2, and by my calculations for a 13.1 race, I got a PR by a few seconds. WHAT!!
Here I am, in Colorado, running my first half of the year, and I ran a PR for 13.1 miles. I never even dreamed this would happen. Throughout the race I knew I had the chance of getting close, but after the last two miles, I gave up the idea of finishing strong and just wanted to finish. I don’t even know how it happened, but I felt great during the entire race. Even with cramps at the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better race. I was relaxed, and just let my legs lead the way. I was so excited to say that I finished and I had half number 5 under my belt. Half number two in the 25 challenge was in the books! I ended up placing 727/1421 of all the lady runners, and 64/110 in my age group. Not bad.
This race was exactly what I needed to jump start half marathon season. I fell in love with the distance all over again, and I can’t wait to enjoy so many more this year. Colorado, not only did you give me an amazing experience, but you’ve given me a whole new meaning to the words, I love running.
Up next is the Earth Day Challenge Half Marathon in Gambier, Ohio. Molly will be dominating the race, and I’ll be celebrating my birthday! (and running of course)