Two weeks ago I rolled out of bed after a measly 4 hours of sleep, looked out the window, and swore loudly before stumbling first to the coffee pot and then the shower. Why the cussing? Because not only was it 55 degrees outside, but a Seattle-esque mist was falling from the sky - and I was due to run a half marathon in approximately two and a half hours. I love running in cool weather, but I despise running in the rain. Still, the rain/mist was better than running in heat and humidity.
After a quick shower, I slipped into my revised race-day outfit (added a long-sleeve shirt over my singlet), poured myself a microscopic cup of coffee, kissed a still-sleeping Mr. R&R goodbye, and headed downtown. On the way, I managed to force down most of my usual Clif Bar while sipping on a little coffee, and tried to pump myself up with loud music. The mist seemed to ease up a little bit as I drove, which greatly improved my mood, and it improved further when I scored a free parking spot on the street about 3/4 mile from the start line. Not paying $10 to be .25 miles closer suited me just fine. I took my time locking up the car, trying to decide if I really needed the long sleeved shirt or if I was just being a big baby. One stiff blast of wind off of Lake Michigan made that decision easy. I was keeping the shirt on. I tucked my car key, a couple dollars, and my id into my newly-acquired SpiBelt (more on that another time), clipped it on under my singlet so it was resting against my lower back, and started walking toward the Start Line Village.
The scene at the Start Line Village was about what I expected - lots of cold-looking runners milling around and hanging onto their outer layers as long as possible! I plopped myself down on a reasonably dry curb and started stretching. About 20 minutes before the gun went off, I dropped my stuff (fleece jacket and an extra water bottle for after the race) off and made my way to the Start Corrals. Once I was in the corral, the mist came back as I finished stretching and focused on calming my nerves and staying warm! At 7AM sharp, the gun went off (along with a brief rain shower) and the corrals surged forward. It took about 1:45 for my corral to get to the Start Line, I hit go on my Garmin and started running.
I honestly had no real goals for this race other than to 'do better than I did last year' and keep the 2:!5 pace team behind me (see last year's #YouHadOneJob). Rock 'n Sole is NOT a PR course due to the long climb onto the Hoan Bridge and the monstrous hill just past the 10k mark and I only trained for 8 weeks(instead of the usual 12), so I had no illusions of breaking my PR here.
The first few miles went by pretty comfortably. I was breathing well and actually had to remind myself repeatedly not to pick up the pace if I didn't want to crash and burn later. I hit the 5k mark in just under 31 minutes, which would annoy the hell out of me in a stand alone 5k, but felt just about right. I grabbed a quick drink at a water station before beginning the long climb up the Hoan. My pace kind of tanked on the bridge, but I expected it, so it didn't bother me much. I slowed at the water station at the top of the bridge, knocked back a Roctane, and let the wonderful combination of sugar, caffeine, and gravity do their job on the way down. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I was ahead of the 2:10 pace group. I was feeling really good and a tiny part of me started wondering if I might actually end up PR-ing. Mile 6 brought lots of loud spectators (I heard several shouts of 'Go TriWIS!) and lots of cute little kids looking for high fives. I was nearly euphoric when I hit the 10k mark, looked at my watch, and realized that I had a new, albeit unofficial, 10k PR (1:01:47). The euphoria was short lived as I reminded myself that I still had 7 miles to go and the monster hill was coming up fast.
Oh that hill...that mother-effing hill...
I made it about 3/4 of the way up before dropping to a power walk. This was actually a tactical decision since I knew that hill destroyed me last year and I wasted far too much time last year trying to recover from pushing too hard up it. I got to the top feeling pretty decent and started anticipating the portion of the course that winds through Lake Park. Mile 7 was reasonable, but then the wheels started to come off. My stomach started acting up and I slowed down trying to get it to settle. Miles 8 and 9 sucked. I knocked back another Roctane around Mile 8 (right as the 2:10 pace group passed me) and hoped that it would kick in soon and not completely screw my stomach. Mile 9 was torture as my stomach threatened a full on rebellion. Then the Roctane kicked in, I felt like a million bucks, and Mile 10 was my fastest mile of the entire race. Of course, the good feeling didn't last and Mile 11 was an absolute train wreck. I was reduced to an evil run/walk combination dictated entirely by my stomach threatening a full scale rebellion. When I was able to run, I was pacing between 8:50-9:30/mile, punctuated by near-crawling walks whenever my stomach demanded it - which was often. I was pissed off at my body and was starting to get really sick of being wet from the non-stop mist, and my shoes were starting to squish a bit. I tried to distract myself by watching the very back of the pack still heading toward the evil hill.
I slammed another GU at the last water station, hoping that it would work the same miracle as the last one. No dice. Around Mile 12, I suddenly got really hot - like burning hot, want to jump in the freezing cold lake hot. I pulled over long enough to peel off my wet long sleeve and tie it around my waist and got back to the business of running fast for a little while and then being hobbled by my stupid stomach. I regretted that choice as soon as I got out onto Lakeshore State Park (an island with nothing to block the wind). I. Was. Freezing. Ugh. I did my best to haul ass off the island as fast as possible. Coming around the back of the Marcus Amphitheater, I chatted for a few minutes with another TriWI member who was using the race as part of her training for her third Ironman and she was struggling too. We commiserated about feeling pretty crappy for about a quarter of a mile before she had to peel off and puke. I kept going, knowing the finish line was close - and just like last year, my watch was showing that the race course was about .17 miles longer than it should have been. Grrr.
I took the final turn and the finish line was in front of me at long last. I picked up my pace a little and focused on being done. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl in a blue tank top (who looked to be about my age) picking up speed and trying to pass me and my only thought was "Oh no you don't!". I started sprinting. The finish line announcer saw us and said something like, "They're coming in hot!". I kicked a little harder and Miss Blue Tank Top couldn't match me...I got her by a couple of seconds. It was finally over and I had achieved both of my goals. My official finish time was 2 seconds faster than last year.
Official Time: 2:14:01 (10:13/mile)
Garmin Time: 2:14:05 (10:06/mile) The course was .17 miles over the official 13.1 distance!
Much like last year, the finishing chute was a bit of a disappointment - really disorganized, lousy snack options, and it took forever to get a damned bottle of water. I collected said water, a somewhat under-ripe banana, and my medal and made my way over to say hello to YadaYada who was scarfing his banana and waiting for Texas to finish - and looking like he'd barely broken a sweat.
As the post race soreness started to set in, I hobbled my way over to bag and tag to retrieve my fleece and then hobbled another mile or so back to the car - all the while racing another clock. You see, Mr. R&R was slated to leave on a business trip to India that morning and his car to the airport was scheduled to arrive at 10AM sharp. I was bound and determined to make it home in time to say goodbye in person! I'm pleased to report that I made it...with 6 minutes to spare.
After Mr. R&R left, I collapsed in a heap on the couch and cowered under a blanket for a while as post-race chills made me down right miserable. I had hoped to be able to meet my dad, Little Bro, and dad's dog at Fido Fest down in the village in time for lunch, but between the chills and my stomach finally launching it's full scale revolt, I had to cancel. Instead, I finally took a much needed, scalding hot shower, to finally get rid of the chills and spent the rest of the day alternating between napping and watching bad tv with Walter and Spot.
In closing, it may not have been the greatest race I've ever run, but I'm really proud of how well the first 7 miles went and I'm happy to report that although the Bull$#!% Voice told me to give up when I started feeling sick, I squashed it down and did the best I could despite a less than ideal situation. On to the next!!!!!!