I want to be fast. The trick to becoming a faster runner is, well, obvious. Run faster. I figured it was time to stop waiting to get faster -- like I'm waiting for skinny jeans to go away and my beloved boot cut styles to make a comeback -- and get the lead out, as my parents would say (still do not quite understand that phrase).
At 45, I suspect a lot of runners my age might think about this differently. If you e been running for a few decades, your fastest times may be behind you.
But I have less than a decade into running -- nine years since my first race, a 5k, and six years since my first half and full marathons.
So I ran "faster" to get ready for the half I did last weekend, the Drake Relays half marathon in Des Moines. After hitting a 2:04 personal record (PR) in January at F3, I decided to shoot to break two hours for this race.
I ran with friends through a cold spring. My last run before the race was 39 degrees. Start line temp on Sunday? 50 degrees, and sunny with a high forecast for 77 degrees. Gulp. I also just visited the physical therapist for the first time a few days prior to the race for the niggly aches in my calf and the muscular imbalances in my hips. So I figured two hours was a long shot, but what the hell. When in Des Moines...
Two break two hours, you've got to average a 9:09 pace. I lined up behind the pony-tailed pacer carrying the 2-hour pace sign, figuring if I could hang with her I'd be good.
The first three miles of this course are downhill into downtown Des Moines. I ran below 9 minute-miles -- as did said pacer -- and enjoyed the descent. There are hills around mile 5, around the state capital building, and a long climb beginning at mile 10, so I figured I'd just go for it and bank a little extra now to make up for slowing later.
I realized the pacer was going too fast, too, so decided to not make a big issue of hanging with her. I hit the first hill and hoo boy, was I reminded of how nearly all of my runs are on a flat lakefront. I was openly huffing and gasping, but hung in there.
The next few miles got warmer. I kept thinking, don't ease up, because I knew at mile 10 the ascent to the finish line began. As in, three miles of mostly upward climb.
By this time, I felt like total crap. I was overheated. I wanted to quit. I was running behind a blond woman and noticed her wearing a familiar shirt -- the 2010 Lincoln marathon shirt, the only marathon I've DNF'ed at. I told myself I wasn't going to quit this time, no matter how lousy I felt. And oh man, did I feel awful.
Nearing mile 11, I rounded the bend of an intersection, passing the spot where I had my first kiss with my husband. I tried to think warm, fuzzy thoughts, but bleah, let's face it, I was nauseous as hell. Suddenly a big, fat hill was in front of me. I grunted up that hill, and then another, and then another.
By the time I hit the Drake stadium for the final half mile or less, all I could think was finish, finish, finish and do.not.quit. I ran past my husband as I did the final leg on the stadium track, turning as he yelled my name. I hit the finish line, sun beating down, and stopped and got on my knees, dry-heaving. I couldn't believe I was dry-heaving, I never do that. I tried to stand up and I felt wobbly. Suddenly two really nice, sweet race volunteers had me on a chair, pouring water on my head. They then escorted me in the blissfully shaded medical tent, where I drank water and put a bag of ice on my head. They were so nice.
My final time was 2:03:xx, 18th out of 60 in my age group. I know I started off too fast and fell apart later. But I couldn't have raced any harder. I managed to run a minute faster than any other 11 halfs I've run, on a much hillier course in temperatures that were at least 30 degrees warmer than what I ran in in January. I'm happy about that... but I *think* I will stick to racing in the winter.
My splits, according to Nike app:
Mile 1 8:50 Downhill, whee!
Mile 2 8:27 More downhill
Mile 3 8:18 (!!)
Mile 4 8:53
Mile 5 9:01
Mile 6 9:25 OMG. Ungodly hill by the Iowa state capital building
Mile 7 8:58
Mile 8 9:10
Mile 9 9:20
Mile 10 9:29 Start of three mile climb, gradual at first
Mile 11 9:45 Hills, OMG
Mile 12 10:19 DYING
Mile 13 9:32 Where is the effing finish line?