Where do I even begin with this recap? Let’s start with a month before when looking for races for 2013. I found this one, it was close, it was a challenge, and I thought it would be good for next year. Next year. And then a week before the race I decided why not try it this year. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but I had a free weekend, registration was cheap and I needed a long run. I think I spent the entire week worrying about the elevation chart they provided….
This my friends would be a hilly race.
And so the day before the race, as I was scrolling through the website, I noticed that they alerted runners that there would be no port a potty stops along the course. Umm what? I’ve never run a half that didn’t have bathrooms. Que instant stomach ache and fear of 13 miles of stomach issues. But it was ok, because there would be water stops every two miles in case something really bad happened. And the weather would be warmer, so all would be just right.
I woke up at 6:30, packed my bag and ate a quick snack before heading down to Ashland. It was a 45 minute drive and my stomach was turning with nerves. Once I got there, I picked up my bib and tried to stay warm in the car. I was still nervous about the hills, and wasn’t sure if I was ready for 13 miles. The longest I had run since the marathon was 6 so I knew it would be an interesting race.
I went over to the start line and found Molly! I knew she’d be running and it was so good to see a familiar face. It calmed my nerves, and reminded me of the hills of Muskingum that we’ve both run many, many times. If we can handle those, we could handle this course. We began the race, and I struggled to find a good pace. There were pacers for each group, but the 2:00, 2:05, and 2:10 pacers sprinted ahead. I kept checking my Garmin to see we were at a 8:30 pace, I knew this was way too quick and backed off. After the first mile, I found my groove and was ready to take on the hills. We already experienced a few rolling ones, but I knew the hardest part was yet to come.
At three miles the 5k runners, who started ahead of us, turned to the finish. We came across the first water stop, as well as the pace leaders role change. The 2:10 pace leader threw his sign and sprinted ahead. Apparently we would not be using them for the rest of the race.
We started on our loop around town and were heading up and down side streets, I was feeling pretty good, and felt I was keeping a pretty good pace. And then we hit mile 5. I remembered from the map that this was a big hill, and it was. I powered through at a slower pace, but I never felt the need to walk. I was going to beat these hills and prove to myself that I don’t hate them, at least as much as I used to.
After the hill I was still feeling good. I hadn’t taken any sport beans yet and there hadn’t been any water stops. Luckily I had my handheld and made sure to keep hydrated, I wanted to listen to my body to find the perfect hydration strategy. Mile 6 and I came in under and hour, 56 minutes I think. Still on a decent pace, but no thoughts of a PR or a time in general. I just wanted to run for the miles.
And we would run, up hill. These next few miles were brutal. The next three miles would be a constant up hill battle. We would change streets so you could never see exactly what was coming next, hoping for some sort of plateau to stretch. Mile 7 had a relay exchange zone and a water stop, the first one since mile three. We were in an industrial part of town, running with traffic, with limited volunteers, runners or anything. Cars didn’t have to stop, they didn’t know there was a race. For the first time, I didn’t feel safe. I was also hurting. The hills were doing a number on my knees and I hit my wall. I didn’t feel like running anymore. I was over the hills, and over the race. If I stopped to stretch, I didn’t know if I would begin running again.
I made it to mile 8, and stopped. I stretched, took some sport beans and tried to walk the negative feeling out me. I started counting down the miles. 5 more to go, I had to do it, there was no one out there to pick me up if I stopped. So I kept going, hill after hill, each one getting harder, but I kept going. Around mile 10, the hills broke and it was more of a rolling elevation. All that was left was a 5k, easy. My pace was still decent, and I knew I’d break 2:15, this was a confidence booster on my already broken spirit.
Mile 11 and all I could think about was Cleveland, and how long those last two miles always feel. I knew I was getting close, we were starting to get near the track and the start line. A half mile later, I had my breaking point. I was attempting to cross a fairly busy intersection, and traffic wasn’t stopped. Two lanes of traffic in each direction passing by, the officer in the middle had her hands up trying to stop people. I started waving at the lane next to me, yelling at them to stop. I was furious. No one was stopping, and no one was paying attention. I nearly got hit by a man texting and driving. Finally traffic started to slow, and eventually I had a path to run through. I told them they were all a bunch of idiots. I was so fired up, my pace quickened as soon as I could start running again. I wasted so much time at the intersection and I was so close to the finish.
I kept going and hit mile 12, I came up behind the pacer that threw his sign and sped up from earlier. I passed him and never looked back. Despite my pace, the last mile was hard. I was upset about being stopped and my body was begging to be done. I came up on the track and knew I had a lap left before I could finish. It was the longest lap of my life, but it never felt so good to be finished. My time was 2:11. It wasn’t my best time, but despite the hills, the stops and the negative attitude I acquired, I was pleased. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for a half or beat myself up that much during a race.
Afterward I went home and collapsed on my bed accidentally taking a 2 hour nap. I awoke to hunger, and pain. Not only were my legs feeling torn up, but my chest felt heavy. It was the worst I’ve ever felt after a race, even worse than the marathon. This feeling stuck around for quite a while, and is something I’ll discuss in my weekly training recap.
As for the elevation, the true course wasn’t far off what I had expected. Tour de Ashland can now be named my hilliest half, and my hardest.
Overall – 155/191
AG – 13/19
Gender – 43/61
With that my 2012 race season is over, and my 9th half marathon is in the books.