Saturday I ran my first half marathon of the fall season, and it had the makings (can you see where this is going?) of a perfect race: low cost, very small field, country roads with beautiful scenery and gently rolling hills (okay maybe not the hills), and it took place just 10 minutes from home.
Unfortunately torrential rain and my own stupidity ruined all that. If I hadn’t paid to run, I might have just stayed home. I don’t mind running in the rain, but running for the better part of 13.1 miles in a downpour is not my idea of a good time.
I finished in 2:08:06, about 10 minutes slower than my PR, 4th of nine in my age group, 76/123 overall and 37th of 64 females which means if I’d been on top of my game, I probably could have placed. (A race with 123 runners is the only chance I’ll ever have to place.)
Anywhoozles, I showed up around 6:45, just as it was starting to sprinkle. The hourly forecast showed like a 30% chance of rain by 8 a.m. despite a massive front on the radar. I knew the hourly was wrong but I tried to lie to myself and pretend it wasn’t going to rain much. So I was thinking about all that and I was sitting in my car in the dark going through my bag and I somehow forgot to grab my gels.
I did a slow mile to warm up and it was still only sprinkling. The real serious stuff started coming down as we gathered at the start. I snapped a photo as it began to pour because I have an Android phone and it’s waterproof af.
Miles 1-3 (9:07, 8:54, 8:56)
I wasn’t really going to RACE-race (I told myself) since I am signed up for a couple other half marathons this fall, but I did want to do a solid run at around two hours. I maintained that pace for the first few miles before things started going downhill. It was somewhere around mile 2 or 3 that I realized my gels were still in the car.
Mile 4 (9:15)
I wasn’t dressed for heavy rain (IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO RAIN) and my tempo shorts and tank were saturated and dripping. I yanked off my bib and reattached it to my flipbelt and then pulled my top up over my head and wore it around my shoulders.
Mile 5 (8:56)
I felt better as soon as the shirt was off but I was already kinda spent, working way too hard for just a 9:00 pace.
Miles 6-8 (9:22, 9:41, 9:31)
I was running in a small group of men and women and I started falling farther and farther behind. A few people passed me. A couple others walked and I passed them. I honestly just wanted to pack it in at that point but since we were out in the country, there wasn’t anywhere to pack it in TO. During mile 7 a giant wet Saint Bernard ran with me for a while and that made me momentarily happy. He seemed baffled that there were a bunch of humans outside running around in this mess.
At the mile 8 aid station a volunteer yelled that we were almost done and that it was downhill all the way to the finish. That was right before we approached a long hill and another one and another one.
Mile 9 (10:14)
By then the rain had let up but I was depleted and thirsty and needed a drink in the worst way. I had been taking water or Gatorade at every aid station but it wasn’t keeping up and I was dismayed to find the mile 9 aid station deserted. There was a porta-potty and a mile marker and a folding table with some gallon jugs of Gatorade sitting underneath it. But no people. I briefly considered grabbing one of the jugs and just drinking straight from it, but I refrained. Only because there were other runners around.
Mile 10 (11:11)
At the next aid station I stopped completely and drank both a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade and one of the volunteers was laughing in my direction and in my weakened state I thought she was laughing AT me. Maybe she thought I looked funny wearing my top as a backpack? Or maybe I just looked melodramatic and desperate. Either way I did not think anyone should be laughing while I was in so much misery.
Mile 11 (10:45)
At the next aid station I stopped and drank again. The knowledge that I was almost done lifted my spirits a bit and I tried to pick up the pace again. Some women were gaining on me that had been waaaay behind me throughout the race and even though the whole thing had fallen apart, I still didn’t want them to beat me.
Mile 12: (9:54)
Last aid station: the volunteers were firefighters so I didn’t bust their chops, but they didn’t have any drinks poured and they were working the station like they were tending bar. (“What’ll it be?”) Like I said, it was a small race, so I’m not complaining. That’s just never happened before. (If I’d been close to a PR, or not so desperately in need of a drink, I would have just kept running. I mean shit, who even stops at the aid station at mile 12??)
Mile 13 (10:13)
Any energy I had in that mile sort of dissolved again and I crept along at an awkward jog. I could tell my feet had blistered and every foot strike was uncomfortable. One of the women that had been closing in on me finally passed me.
I trudged across the finish line. I was fumbling my phone out of my flipbelt to shut off the runkeeper app when I realized a photographer was right in my face snapping photos. Something about the whir of the camera made me furious and I glared at him and simultaneously tried to disappear. (I haven’t seen any race photos yet but rest assured you will see me in all my horror as soon as they’re made public.)
Of course every day since has been absolutely gorgeous.
Meh? I don’t know if I can blame just the lack of fueling for my spectacularly poor finish. I’ve done 12 or 13 miles with only one gel before (and no Gatorade) so I didn’t think it’d make that much of a difference. I think the rain soaking my shoes and socks and the resulting awkward stride had something to do with it too. And maybe not being as prepared as I thought I was? And maybe just a shitty day. I’m trying not to be that disappointed about it, but since I can’t afford to just casually sign up for races whenever I want, it bugs me to waste 40 bucks on a crappy run.
My next half is October 8 and it has the potential to be a beautiful little race through a hilly state park. My plan this month is to maintain mileage and recommit to doing some hills at least once a week.
And stay healthy.