I was scared going into it.
I shared a little bit about the knee pain I've been having the last few weeks since my last half marathon. It's been a combination of taking it easy to rest up, as well as trying to get the miles I need to in. Because we had snow one of the weekends in between as well, the last 2 long runs were just over 4 and 7 miles. I was hoping my body was going to be ready for 13 again.
If I'm being totally honest, I was dreading this run.
I signed up to do it with a couple people from my Team in Training team. For two of them, it was their first half marathon. Perfect weather greeted us this morning, and we all found each other at the start line.
My plan was to take it slowly. After chatting with my coach, recommendations from the Physical Therapist I saw, and just listening to my body, I knew I wanted this to be slow. I was thinking somewhere in the ballpark of 2:30 or slightly faster if my knees were feeling well.
The first couple miles were fun - a quick little loop through the historic part of downtown Littleton. Lots of chatting, lots of excitement, lots of people. By mile 2-3 we hit the trail along the river that we would be following the entire course.
At around mile 4 is when we started to split. Rather, the others trotted ahead, and I lagged behind, not feeling up to keeping up with their pace. On any other day, I'd be with them, but I couldn't let myself do it this time. I had to run smart.
I had a first during this race: The first time I ever had to stop in the middle of the race to pee. At mile 3 I started to feel it. By mile 5, it was getting uncomfortable. I passed a porta potty that only had 3 people in line. During races, that's basically winning the lottery. BUUUTTTT, these people took forever... So I sat in line frustrated. I didn't care about my time, but I was worried about my legs tightening up and losing my momentum.
There were two moments where I really struggled in the race - about mile 4 and 6 - I was just feeling sluggish, worn out, and exhausted. But my legs were holding up, and the weather was perfect. My breathing was great.
By mile 8, I was feeling great. I had great rhythm, my knees/legs felt great, I stayed hydrated, and things were just clicking. During this race, I also tried something new: salt tablets. Because of how much I sweat, my body loses a lot more salt/electrolytes than the average person, so I need to make sure I get it back.
I passed mile 9. Still in the zone. Still feeling great.
I passed mile 10. This is normally when I start dropping off. Not today. I was passing more people at this point because people were getting sluggish.
I passed mile 11. I'm waiting for the crash.
I passed mile 12. Still waiting.
It didn't come. The coolest part about mile 12 was the TNT aid station. This was an official TNT event, so throughout the whole race there were a lot of people cheering on and yelling the familiar "Go Team!"
The last mile was my favorite. There was a giant uphill leading onto a bridge. I stayed really strong up the hill, when everyone else was crashing. I was passing people left and right up the incline, but I was getting worried about putting too much into it that early on in the last mile. The incline flattened out, and I was still passing people. Still strong. Then, with about 1/3 of a mile left, the decline started. I didn't want to go too fast, but I pushed it quite a bit. I rounded the final corner and saw the finish line. At this point 3 weeks ago, I was worried about even crossing the finish line, running out of gas, and hoping I didn't collapse. This time, I was doubling, tripling my speed. Somehow, I still had enough to have a pretty good kick at the end.
Official Time: 2:20:57
I am EXTREMELY happy with this time for a big reason:
-My time at Canyonlands (and current PR) was just over 5 minutes faster. This was a race where I wanted to take it easier and run at a pace that was comfortable. But apparently that's the same pace. Because I felt great today, and I know that if I wouldn't have stopped to go to the bathroom, I would have beaten that time. I am ecstatic that I came out pain free (aches - yes, but pain - no). I can see the progression. And this was a big test for the knee - a test that I passed, and it gives me a lot of hope for the coming months. Bring it on!