I can’t begin to explain the peace that I had going into this race as well as actually running it. For about two weeks prior God had been laying on my heart Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Even with a 10 minute PR for the course, I was disappointed with my time of 3:43. I wanted a 3:30 so bad and was on track perfectly for that till I messed up my hydration. But I can’t complain because the last time I ran it the torture started at mile 8.5. This time it didn’t start till mile 11.5. So that gives me hope that maybe next time I’ll make it all the way through the 13 miles before the misery kicks in.
This was the first training block I’ve ever had with a coach. I must say it was a huge blessing and took a lot of the guess work and stress out which made planning each week so much easier. Every Saturday I would write up that weeks recap and then send any other details to him I thought he might need. Then on Sunday I would receive another week worth of workouts to which I could schedule and change up as needed as the days went by.
The most enjoyable workouts were the hills or speed workouts. I love being able to feel the energy in my legs as they pushed against the blacktop and each month see the difference it made. The workouts I dreaded the most were the tempos. In training for my first full last year I lost a lot of my ability to hold a hard pace for longer periods of time so my coach ended up giving me a one mile warm up with two miles @10:30, one mile recovery, then another two miles @10:30, with a one mile cool down. Though I hated this, I did notice a huge improvement in being able to hold a harder pace for longer, which I feel helped tremendously in the race.
For about half of this training block, maybe a little bit more, I was blessed with a running buddy! Each week our goal was to run something together and it was neat how we each had different strengths and weaknesses that complimented each other. She could run a little faster, but I could run a little longer. She was way stronger on the uphills, while I was better on the down. It reminded me a lot about life and how we as Christians are supposed to balance each other out by being the different body parts of Christ. Plus it was awesome to have in person conversations about our training and what our goals were!
While I tried to prepare my mind and body for the race I had one thing on my mind that I struggled with… Did I do all I could to train for this? Of course there were things I could have done differently but the beauty of journaling or “brain dumping” as some people refer to it as, is that you can see what you want to do the next time. In all honesty, there is not much I want to change for this next training block, I feel that I did everything I could with the time and strength I had.
I sat down before packing on Friday night and prayer journaled about what God would have me to do during this race. One thing that stood out to me the most was that He wanted me to be full of peace going into this. It was in several verses that came to mind as I jotted down what I felt the Lord impressing on my heart. And I must say that I have never been so at peace during a race before that not much crossed my mind except for current happenings.
The pre-race excitement didn’t start to kick in till I was packing which was a relief so I could keep my cortisol levels down longer for a better recovery. Reality that there was really a race around the corner was exciting and I couldn’t wait to see how my training would pay off.
Since I do best by eating a big bowl of granola two to three hours before a race, I woke up at 4am. I was already packed so all I had to do was wake up, eat, make sure I got my coffee in, and spend some time in devotions before heading out. Since we left at 6am I had plenty of time to have a relaxing start to my morning.
When I arrived at the race location, before I signed in I made sure everything was ready for post race as well as I had everything I needed for while I was running. I didn’t want to forget anything. I had about 45 minutes to stretch and change my shoes, put on my vest, take some pictures, and relax before heading to the start line, which I believe proved beneficial in keeping my body loose and ready to go because I have never been so limber feeling going into a race.
I took my time and moved slowly as much as possible so that way I could stay relaxed as long as I could. Warming up with my friend was also quite different and made the time go by a lot faster. I asked my dad to pray for me because I know that running is not something I do naturally, I needed all the strength I could get.
Finally at the start line, I honestly was kind of disappointed. It felt so normal, so part of my life that the excitement was very minimal. It was just a part of me, a part of who I was. I wasn’t nervous or anxious. To be honest though, I was hungry, which could play into the fact that I lost energy towards the end of the race. I had been noticing during training three hours before a long run was too long but by the time I figured this out it was too close to race day and I didn’t want to change anything.
As soon as the gun went off I took my time before deciding 60 seconds later to sprint up to my friend so we could run the first couple miles together. Just throw in a quick stride in the beginning, ya know, to wake up the legs! But really that may have been why my legs were so springy and quick, I would have probably gotten a road PR for sure with how ready my body felt.
One thing I love about running trails is the conversations you get to have. I loved talking with one guy about calf and hamstring injuries and how hip strength plays such a huge role in that. I enjoyed talking with three ladies whom I would pass on the downhill’s and then about 20 minutes later they would pass me on the up. We did this a few times in the first half. I felt so bad for the few people I kept doing this to, but I knew I had to run my race and my strength is in the downhill’s so I had to take full advantage of each one that came. One of the ladies as I sprinted by her told me to be careful because of how fast I go down. You’d think I would fall having no hills to practice on but one thing God seemed to bless me with is balance and sure feet and ankles which I am super grateful for because I absolutely love running downhill. You can pick up so much speed if the decline is long that it’s hard to see where you want your feet next before you actually land there.
My main focus for this race was to enjoy each moment because I knew it would be over before I knew it, and I was right. Each mile ticked by quickly and it wasn’t until the last two miles that was really super uncomfortable. I had to find a stick just to help push me up the last couple hills because my legs where shot. But before that, it was a blast, very enjoyable and peaceful!
One verse that really stood out to me during morning devotions on race day was Phil. 2:4, “Do all things without murmurings and disputing.” That verse proved to be needed in the last mile or so as I wanted to complain and say some things I shouldn’t. I was able to thank God for the opportunity to be out there and then try not to cry. I don’t think I have ever been that close to crying during a race. If I were to re-run a race dependant on which one was easier it would not be this half-marathon, even though I’ve ran it twice and plan on running it again. Honestly, my full marathon last year was way easier to run than this race.
One of the highlights for sure was the scenery, particularly the cavern along the trail that I had never seen before. It was so cool looking and I wish I had stopped to take a picture. Running through the pine forest was extra soft and felt good on the legs, and the cliff sides are just exciting to run by as you look down wondering what would happen if you fell.
Another highlight was when I was done running there was Ginger Ale at the finish line and I’m not kidding you, I probably drank two cans worth. I eventually asked the guy to just fill my cup so I wouldn’t take all the other ones and after awhile he just gave me the whole can. I felt kind of bad drinking that much of it but am super grateful for it because it refreshed me in a way nothing else ever has and made me forget all the misery of the last 30 minutes.
At the end of the day, I think I’ll always remember being able to run the same race as a friend and having such a peace and calm surrounding the race.
One thing I don’t want to repeat was the bee sting on my eyebrow that I got at mile 10 or so. One of the marathoners coming at us on the turn-around decided to go off the trail around a tree so no one would have to slow down. I remember him smacking his head and saying something and I thought he cut himself on the tree, but as I passed the same spot he had ran, I got stung, so I’m assuming he did too. It ended up swelling pretty bad by the end of the race but not enough to cause any interferences in being able to see.
And side note about the volunteers and participants, I don’t know what it is about trail runners, but they are by far the friendliest and most encouraging group of people I’ve ever met!
I’m not sure if what I did post race was a smart idea but my recovery seems to be great aside from one ankle, so it must have been fine. As part of my birthday celebration I decided to stay at the race location and play ping-pong, basketball, and shuffleboard… post lunch of course! It was a full day which I really enjoyed. Recovery left me with not being able to walk properly and stairs were almost impossible for 24hrs. Sitting or standing up was the worst and I avoided it as much as possible on Sunday. But I did 8hrs of physical labor on Tuesday which helped and Thursday morning I did almost 40 minutes of strength train with some single leg stability to check my ankle. Friday and Saturday I walked/jogged three miles each and aside from general tightness in the hips down, everything seems fine.
This is of course one the most popular questions for a runner after their race and this time I didn’t have a problem with it…only because I just offered the information without being asked. I’m going to run this race until I get a 3:30 so I can begin training for the 25k that uses the same course as my future goal race, Mohicans 50k! But for now, I am working on recovery and will probably start training for a turkey trot in November come October 17. That’ll give me just enough time to train for a month before taper. So excited!
And a few days ago God brought back some parts of the race and then taught me a valuable lesson with which I am exctied to share with ya’ll, so stay tuned!