1. Racing gives you a goal- something to aim for.
2. Racing encourages you to train consistently.
3. Racing helps you see what kind of progress you're making in training.
4. You already paid for the race.
Reasons I Ran This Race:
4. I had already paid for the race.
Yep, I signed up for the Shiner Half Marathon this summer when triathlon training was going well, and I couldn't wait to see how that would translate into my half marathon time. Then, I started working full time and, though I tried to stay active, my "training" was more like a few little runs a week.
I considered bailing, but I had already PAID FOR IT. I just couldn't waste the money. So, for four weeks before the race, I ran pretty consistently. Yes, an entire four weeks. And during that time, I even skipped one of the long runs. Not exactly a stellar training plan, but Coach Mark gave me a little guidance, and he was pretty confident that I'd survive, so I decided to trust his judgment and charge ahead.
The little town of Shiner, Texas, is known for its scenic hills, picturesque downtown, and famous half marathon. And maybe beer. This race is capped at the population of Shiner- something like 2046 this year- and it sells out REALLY quickly. (Another reason not to let the opportunity to run pass me by even though I was unprepared for it!) The smaller group appealed to me. The huge crowd at my first half marathon made for a tough and unpleasant race for me. Fewer racers sounded good!
I had very little time to prepare for the race. I didn't even manage to leave work on time the evening before! But I had a babysitter lined up, I picked up some Clif Gels, and called myself ready. Saturday morning, the two hour drive went by quickly and I felt happy and relaxed. I figured that I couldn't really be disappointed with my performance. After all, I knew I was out of shape, so I had no expectations.
The sun came up when I was just a little bit away from Shiner, and I tried to judge the terrain and the weather. It definitely looked like rain. Or maybe not. But maybe so. And was that a hill? No, it's not that hilly. Wait. Yes, it's definitely going to be hilly.
I had already been warned about the hills. Shiner is a hilly race. I knew I hadn't physically prepared myself for hills. I did precisely zero hill repeats, unless you count the endless flights of stairs I climb at work. So I told myself that hills were part physical, but a lot more mental. I planned to be as mentally tough as I could be and hope that would be enough keep me from walking. And I wasn't going to worry about the rain or the 100% humidity.
As it turns out, the rain should have been the least of my concerns.
Guys, the wind!!! I haven't ever run in wind like that. At least not uphill, and not for that long. But I turned up my music, leaned into it, and kept going.
For the first two miles, I ignored everyone and everything, passed as many people as I could, and tried to find a group running around my pace. I did seem to manage that, and although I didn't stay with the exact same group by any means, I did stay surrounded by steady runners, and that helped me in my "Don't Walk!" goal.
I'm to the right of the picture. Messing with my phone.
Great way to start.
After two miles, I felt focused enough to start looking around and enjoying the course and the other runners. And the backs of the other runners' shirts especially. "If you can read this, you didn't train either." "Don't let this 56 year old open-heart surgery survivor beat you." Mine said, "Are my kids still chasing me?"
Random people running.
I am apparently really good at avoiding race photographers.
And the wind! It was a solid headwind. About halfway up, I started to feel like Frodo and his Fellowship buddies, trying to head up Mt. Caradhras with the mountain fighting them every step of the way. (#geekreference) All the forces of nature were telling us, "Go back!!! Go back!!!" Someone later said it felt like running on a treadmill. But I kept running- not fast, but still not walking.
"Just think!" I told myself. "This means the entire way back will be downhill with tailwind!"
Except that it wasn't an out and back. It curved around and the headwind turned into a crosswind. And that was tough too! Some of the gusts caused the whole group to take a few steps sideways.
At the seven mile point, I could see the gradual descent beginning, and I pointed that out to the "We're still climbing" guy. And it was...gravel! A mile and a half of gravel. Climbing guy dropped back, but, thanks to my many Cibolo Nature Trail runs, I passed about a dozen runners on that stretch.
Around mile 10, I did a caffeinated gel to help me get through the last three miles. I was amazed at how great I still felt. I knew I was working hard- my heart rate certainly told me that. The hills and the wind were taking everything I had, but I WAS DOING IT! The scenery was great- fields and hill country- and that made me glad to be out there running, plus the people running around me seemed happy to be there too.
At mile 11, the biggest difference from Shiner and Rock n' Roll became apparent. At this point at RnR, the course goes through what might as well be the armpit of San Antonio- industrial buildings and parking lots. But the Shiner course went through a gorgeous park with wide paved paths, and the sun (which had finally decided to come out) sparkling on the river. It was the kind of place any runner would want to be on a Saturday morning.
And then there was this crazy steep hill at mile 12. Truly. Everyone started hiking up it, but at this point, I was so determined to tell Nathan (a true runner) that I hadn't walked, that I forced myself to run up it.
Then it was time to create a completely irrelevant mini race with an unsuspecting runner. A lady in a blue shirt had been switching places with me for awhile, so I decided she needed to be vanquished. Yep. That's what happens at the end of a race.
And I beat her! Woo hoo! Success. Petty? Yes. Effective? Also yes. Did she have any idea what was happening? Nope. Someone else probably defeated me. (Neon Orange Dude at mile 13.05- I'm looking at you.)
At the finish line! With hat in hand. It blew off and nearly took out a runner behind me,
so I carried it the rest of the way.
I finished in 2 hours and 10 minutes! Because of my sporadic training, I was very surprised, especially given the wind and hills. (This was, ironically, my goal time for Rock n Roll a year ago. That was a far easier course with absolutely no weather issues, but I was mentally unprepared and therefore spent a lot of time walking.) That put me 28th out of 112 in my age group. Better than mid-pack!
Two seconds after finishing. Selfie time!
When I got home, the kids patiently listened to my race report, and then Austin took some time to admire my medal. He does not understand the concept of finisher medals. "You winned?" "I finished!" "You winned?" "I finished." "No, you winned."