It's been 6 months since my last race, and I'll admit that I was a little nervous about this one. Lately, I've had problems with having really tight hips and getting very sore after walking. I had decided to add yoga back into the mix, and after Monday night's class, I felt like I had brand new legs. Awesome!
Then I walked on the treadmill Tuesday. I think it needs some lube, it jerked funny a few times, and I felt like I had pulled something the next morning. I spent the rest of the week doing all the stretches I could remember from Monday's yoga class that had made me feel better.
I felt better when I woke up Saturday, so I headed off to the race. But let's be honest, I'm such a bonehead that I probably would have attempted the race anyway.
Last year's Soaring Wings has remained my slowest race to date. The course is very hilly and I remembered that I didn't particularly enjoy it last year. I finished in 3:45, extremely sore and with horrible blisters. Really, my only goal for this race was to not do worse.
It was a warm day, warmer than October should be, so I couldn't wear the race shirt, because it was long sleeved. I felt bad for everyone who had... by the end of the race it was in the 80s. I did have a jacket with me, but tied it around my waist before the race even started. And that made me realize that if I have something around my waist, my lower back doesn't hurt at all when I walk. I had heard during my Leslie Sansone Walk at Home videos that having a belt around your waist activates your core muscles simply by being there, but I really didn't buy into it (She sells them, so of course she's going to make them sound amazing). It really does work, though. My abs can attest to that today. I need to get a hydration belt or something, simply to help with my back. (And because I hate carrying water)
Honestly, the hills didn't bother me as much this year. My normal training route has a few bridges on it, so I think I've come to terms with hills. The course was pretty narrow in places, though, and we shared the road with traffic a lot. When I had to pass a pair of walkers, I would be uncomfortably close to traffic.
PSA.... if you're racing with a pal, go single file when someone needs to pass. Safety over companionship!
There were water stations every 1.5 miles. Blessed water stations. It was so warm out that I wished I had carried water. I was usually parched by the next station. They also had Gu, gummy bears, and fruit at the later stations.
I realized yesterday that I truly love being in the back of the pack as a walker. I'm not trying to trash all the fabulous fast runners in anyway, but I think the most inspiring people are at the end. I read something the other week, and I'm slightly paraphrasing, but it went something like "First place is AMAZING, last place is INSPIRING". There's always a run/walker who uses me as a cue to start running again. There are older people showing that it's not too late to do something amazing. Yesterday, I was following this one older lady... she caught my eye because I had never seen anyone with a walking skirt past their knees. Her family was leap frogging along the course to encourage her, and she'd hug and cry every time she passed them. It gave me a lump in my throat. Half-marathons are obviously physically and mentally challenging, but most people don't realize how emotional they are.
I don't think anything can beat RussVegas in terms of community support, but it was pretty good for this race. There was a kid around mile 2 wearing a shirt that said Mile 9 that amused me. A couple of clever signs like "Smile if you're not wearing any underwear." I always love when little kids are out giving high fives, and there was a gentleman playing sax along the way. I could tell in a few spots that people had abandoned their cheering post, which is always disappointing. And we were all amused by the fact that they left the Mile 4 sign up (the course looped through the same area twice at that point) when we were in the 12th mile.... the lady next to me said she'd quit if it was really just Mile 4. I said I'd just lay down in the road right then and there. =)
I was really surprised that for the first half of the race I kept a 15:00-15:15 pace. That's faster than I normally train, but it's not unusual for my race pace to be faster than my training pace. I push myself harder when I'm racing, not wanting to be passed by everyone. LOL But even as the crowd thinned and I didn't have people immediately around me, I kept that pace, which impressed me. I did start slipping after the first half, though, but I realized if I could keep it under 16:00, I might just have a new PR. To be honest, I never bothered looking up what I should shoot for to have a PR, because I didn't think it was possible considering last year.
My pace continued to slip as I neared the end, but I still felt pretty strong and didn't have as much as a hot spot on my feet, let alone blisters. I mean, I didn't feel like I could walk miles and miles more, but I wasn't in pain.
I crossed the finish line at 3:30.
That's 15 minutes faster than last year. 15 minutes!
That's also my new PR.
I went from this race being my worst to my best! That's pretty exciting! 16:03 was my average pace. I'm going to shoot to shave those 3 seconds off my next race in December. =)