The morning was crystal clear and quietly beautiful. The car was packed and I was filled with gratitude to be headed off to do what I love. I was about 20 miles down the highway into a 2 hour drive, when I realized I had left Lucy, my Garmin 305, on the charger at home. Well, that was a game changer…
I had decided last Tuesday evening I was going to go ahead and participate in The Run for the Ranch half marathon in Springfield MO on 12/19/15. The weather was supposed to be nice, mid 40’s, actually perfect for racing. I was excited. It would be my last race of the year and after that I was taking a week to 10 days off from running.
It is an unusual race, in that it is a loop of 3.275 miles. The half marathon was 4 loops, the marathon 8. There was also a timed 6 hour ultra where you complete as many loops as possible in the allotted time. I had several reasons for deciding to go:
- I like to race
- 10 am start time meant I didn’t have to get a hotel or wake up at 3 am to drive
- I could practice pacing because the 4 loops divided it perfectly
- It was a race I had always wanted to run
- I could stop at the local running store and pick up a pair of trail shoes… (There isn’t a running store in my small town)
It was the ‘practice pacing’ that really sold me though. I had good luck in the half I ran in November using a “new to me” race strategy (See first blog post: 2016 Running or should I say endurance goals?). I wanted to practice that again with the no guess work, evenly divided 4 loops. So when I realized that Lucy was indeed home, nestled in her charger fully charged and ready to go, I was stunned.
The main reason for going was to practice pacing- now what?!? I didn’t have time to turn around to get her and still make the race, so I drove on. My Sweet Babboo assured me everything would be okay and I agreed. It wasn’t what I had planned, but it would be interesting. I had hopes of a timer at every loop so I could mentally track my splits. If not, Sweet Babboo would wait for me and call out my time as I went around which is what ended up happening. (Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without him!)
3.275 miles is a long time to be running blind. Too long to really make up time. I have to admit it was awful- mentally that is. The race itself was great, volunteers amazing and the post race, well I’ll get to that. But the loops…
“Demons are like obedient dogs; they come when they are called.”
― Rémy de Gourmont
I went into it with a good, positive attitude. It is what it is, right? Plus it wasn’t a big race for me, just practice. I love racing and all in all running is simply fun. Yet, I whistled up a pack of these demon dogs as if I were atop a horse headed out to a fox hunt, except I ran like I was the fox. I have raced a lot this year and I have a good idea about pace and what it feels like, but yesterday everything felt hard. When I finished the first loop and Sweet Babboo called my time of 28:01, one of the demon dogs nipped at my heal. That felt too hard to be an 8:33 pace and I still had 3 more loops to go…
Every athlete wants to quit at least once in a race. The greats are those that can muzzle the dogs and get them to sleep quietly by the fire while they work. I wanted to quit so many times yesterday. I felt alone as the hounds surrounded me. I ran blind and panicked, flailing. I yelled at them to back off and they retreated slightly as I picked up the pace. That was the plan, to try and run successively quicker loops. As I came around again, Sweet Babboo called out my time. I heard 28 again. I was shocked. I knew I had run a quicker loop than that. When I went back and looked, it was actually 26:06. I didn’t know that though and while I was somewhat crushed, I only had 2 more loops to run. So I ran and tried to pick it up some more.
The nice thing about running loop races is that after the first loop you always know where you are. This race though, did not have mile markers so there was a bit of guessing involved on my part. There was the aid station, the construction house and the ladies with the clapper hands wearing multicolored tutus. I have never been so happy to hear such an obnoxious noise ever. Those ladies meant the loop was over half complete. I loved those cheery, lovely ladies!! On loop 2, I had asked a gentleman running what pace we were at. I wouldn’t have bothered him except I noticed that he had just checked his watch. He said something about 8-8:30 is what he had been running at. We started to chat and he told me that 2 weeks ago he had qualified for Boston and was running this marathon for fun. He admitted that 2 weeks might be too soon to run another, but why not? He was kicking ass and I told him so. He caught up to me in loop 3 and kindly told me the pace, 7:40-8. For that moment, I wasn’t completely blind or alone and I was finally hitting a rhythm, but it hurt. “Are you going to drop the hammer on the final lap?” he asks. “Ha! That is the plan, but we will see.” I passed by Sweet Babboo, he yells “great job!” to which I respond “I am dying”, except this loop he didn’t call out a time. There was a slight error in the timing in that the lap button had gotten hit twice. It ended up to be about 27:18.
The 4th loop I was hurting. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was dying. My legs did not have much left. I wanted to “drop the hammer” I really did!! And I tried. I watched Boston guy stop off at the porta potty while I ran on. The hounds breathed around me, panting their hot breath on my legs. My hips screamed as I ran and the dogs said “walk, go ahead, no one would blame you…”. But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I have walked many times in races before, but not this day. This race was to be experienced fully in all of it’s watch less glory. I would not give up.
Boston guy caught up to me on the 4th lap. I was happy and disheartened to see him at the same time. Happy because, at this point a friendly face is always welcome and disheartened because, well, that meant I had slowed down too much. “I saw you go into the porta potty and you still caught up to me.” I deadpanned. He assured me I was doing great and it was almost done. I told him my legs were done and he tried to rally me some with talk of interval training. We chatted for a few more minutes more and then thanked each other for the company. He ran on and I was alone again, but this time the dogs were quiet. I was almost done.
I crossed the line at 1:49:39. Not my best time this year or ever, but the race was hard fought and won. All things considered I may be most proud of this race and I am glad I ran it. Yesterday I faced myself head on and took no crap. I could have ditched my original plan all together, but instead I still tried to practice pace. I learned that while I have a good feel for it, more practice is needed. I learned that Lucy may need to stay at home more often or at least have some sort of covering over her so I can’t read the numbers until the run is complete. Most importantly, I learned that all of the racing I did this year served it’s purpose. The demon dogs could run along side me all they wanted, they would not get me down. They were part of me and I them. Now I think, I will picture beagles frolicking in the fields and rolling in the sunshine. There is nothing scary about that.
*I highly recommend this race! The volunteers were fabulous and post race they gave you hot soup in the mugs pictured above. I promise you it was the best tasting chicken noodle soup ever!
Oh, and I did get those trails shoes – 2016 will be fun!
Running always shows you something even if it is simply the joy of being alive. Happy Running!!!