It was bound to happen at some point. I ran my "Best Worst" half marathon at the Sea Turtle Half this weekend. I told a friend that I ran a PW (personal worst) and he corrected me. He refers to his slowest times as his "Best Worst" times. Somehow referring to this half as my "Best Worst" makes me feel better.
I took a break from running two weeks leading up to this race because I was sick with cough and chest congestion. I got pneumonia last year after running with chest congestion, so I was not taking any chances. The smart choice would have been to sit this race out and gradually get back to running. However, I chose to go with my heart and run this race anyway. The Sea Turtle Half has been on my radar for the past two years and this was the first year that it worked out with my schedule to run it. This half was the first of 4 half's that I plan to run in 28 days in order to moon up in Half Fanatics. I felt better and my chest was clear. I didn't want to miss this race just because I hadn't ran in two weeks.
The Sea Turtle Half Marathon started across the street from the Hangout in Gulf Shores. This small, local half marathon attracted 250-300 runners. It was a flat and fast, down and back course along West Beach. On a better day, I probably could have PR'd on this course (several runners did). The temperature was in the high 60's at the start of the race and it creeped into the 70's before the end of the race. It was sunny with no shade on the course.
I had no time goal expectations for this race. I knew it wasn't likely that I would PR, but I certainly didn't expect that I would run my slowest time either. My main focus for this race was on finishing. This will be my focus on all the half's during my streak.
My stomach was upset all morning despite following my prerace fueling strategy to a T. I always have an upset stomach on race day due to nerves, but it's nothing that a couple Imodium can't fix. This morning was different. I spent a long while in the bathroom at the Hangout before walking across the street to the start line with about five minutes to spare.
The sun was beating down on me while standing in the start line. I didn't have the excited, eager feeling that I normally get when waiting to take off. The feeling I had was a feeling of dread. I wasn't motivated like I am with most races. My mind was already convinced it wasn't going to be a good race. "It's hot." "My stomach hurts." "I haven't ran in what feels like forever." All these thoughts flooded my head as we sang the National Anthem.
The race started promptly at 7:30. The first three miles ran through residential streets of West Beach with beautiful views of the lagoon. I was maintaining sub 10 minute miles and I was feeling good.
Mile 1- 9:22
Mile 2- 9:46
Mile 3- 9:55
We ran onto West Beach Blvd just past Mile 3. My pace was slowing significantly and I started taking walk breaks at every mile marker. I felt like I was in a constant back and forth battle with the runners around me. I'd stop to walk. They'd pass me. Then, I'd pass them. I wished I could just settle into a pace and maintain it, but I felt so out of sync.
Mile 4- 10:06
Mile 5- 10:22
Mile 6- 11:02
I started to see the lead runners heading back across the street, so I knew the turn around was coming up. It seemed like an eternity before I reached the turn around. The clock read 1:07 at the halfway point. I figured if I could run about the same pace in the second half I could finish between 2:15-2:20.
There was a nice breeze on the way back. I decided to cut my music off and just enjoy the sound of the waves crashing and the breeze blowing. I felt strong during Mile 7 and starting thinking that maybe the breeze was all I needed to get back on track. Those thoughts changed when I stopped for my next walk break. Suddenly I felt a twinge in my right knee. It hurt to walk, but it hurt even worse when I tried to run. The road felt slanted, so I tried to run closer in where the road was more even. It seemed to help, but the traffic was picking up and I got nervous every time a car passed by me.
Mile 7- 11:17
Mile 8- 12:57
Mile 9- 12:39
I've never dealt with so much pain during a race. I was worried. I watched my overall pace slow with each mile. When my pace creeped above an 11 minute mile average, I knew then that this would be my slowest half marathon. I quit caring about my time and started focusing on finishing. The pain worsened with every mile.
In addition to my knee pain, I was thirsty. I don't carry fluids with me because I find most race fluids are adequate. This race had 5-6 water stops approximately every two miles. They had only water, no sports drink or Gatorade. The cups were small (3 oz bath cups). I requested two cups at the last two water stations because my mouth was so dry. On a hot, sunny day like this one, they needed more water stations or bigger cups. That's my only complaint about this race.
I turned my music back on after Mile 11 and "My Body" by Young the Giant was playing. It's amazing how music can speak to you, saying all the words you need to hear at the right time. "My body tells me no, but I won't quit 'cause I want more." Each time the chorus played, my legs started pumping faster and faster. I forgot about the pain in my knee at least until the song ended.
Mile 10- 12:13
Mile 11- 13:03
A lady that I was back and forth with the entire race passed me again at the Mile 12 marker. She said, "Looking good" to me as she passed. "That's what I want you to tell me when you pass me again," she looked back and added. I caught up to her and we ran the final mile together. If it wasn't for her I don't know if I would have come in under 2:30. She was the final push I needed.
Mile 13- 12:38
As I approached the finish line, people were cheering "Under 2:30! Way to go!" I remembered my first half when I crushed my goal of 2:30 finishing in 2:21. That was my slowest time to date, but a time that still thrilled me because it was my first. My official time was 2:29:26. Once again I was celebrating an under 2:30 time.
Yes, I was celebrating! The feeling I had after this race was not one of disappointment, but pure joy. After two weeks of being sick, it was nice to feel well enough to run again. I took time to enjoy the spectacular views, the smell of the salty air, and the sound of the waves crashing. I finally got to run the race that I looked forward to for two years and there was nothing disappointing about it.
I'm not going to lie, my right knee ached after this race. My knees rarely bother me. I honestly believe it was the slanted road after the turn around. The lady I ran with in the final mile complained her knee was aching too and the road felt slanted. I'm hoping that's it and it's not something more serious.
Have you ever experienced something unexpected during a race and had to adjust your goals? Have you ever had someone encourage you to push through in the final miles of a race?