A different town, a different part of the country, and a different season….but the same 13.1 miles.
I didn’t know what to expect for my second race. I trained a little bit harder–having to readjust to high altitude was not originally on the agenda–and at least knew I was capable of actually running the distance. But this course was completely different than the one we ran in March….
It started at 6 a.m. (gahhhh that is early), meaning I was awake by 4:30 to get ready, and get to the shuttle pick up. 1000+ runners, and somehow we started right on time. The first mile was flat, followed by six that were downhill. Six Miles. Downhill. They warned us about a sharp decline around mile 4; they did Not say it was that stretched out. I know what you’re thinking–downhill? doesn’t that make things a little bit easier??? Yes, and no. No and yes. Heres what a six-mile downhill stretch actually does…..
-It makes it much harder to figure out your pace. You want to think you can go faster, but then you start getting carried away and realize you’re almost sprinting, so then you slow down. Killing your knees in the process.
-It results in your feet hitting the ground a lot harder than they normally would. So when the road flattens out a little bit, you keep doing that, and then you’re just stomping. And that’s not normal.
-It creates a false sense of floating that is quickly destroyed by an unexpected flat-then-uphill road. Ahhh.
I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of nice for a while. And obviously it was much better than climbing UP-hill for six miles. Ooh, don’t even want to think about that. But after about a mile of it, I’d had enough. I realized that my pace was a little faster than I should’ve been going, and I knew it could kick me in the ass when the flat part finally came. It just wasn’t something I was prepared for, which is probably what actually bothered me. But it was different, and I learned from it!
Finally on a flat stretch, I felt relieved. Around mile 8 we ran through the town that some of us runners were staying in. It was tinyyy. It consisted of one road, about 3-4 hotels, and a lot of Bed & Breakfasts. I think the whole town (all 100 of them+visitors) came out for the event. There were people along the road in lawn chairs, people hanging out of cars, people jogging along with us for a few yards, cheering us on. It was as if we were part of a 13-mile parade, just strolling down Main Street (really, it was Main Street. I can’t make this stuff up). It was awesome! There was a water station right outside a Pizza place, and if you needed to use the restroom you just ran right inside. That’s small-town America for ya.
I was doin’ gooood…..Then I saw “Mile 11″. There were markers at every mile-definitely not something I like to know, but I guess most people feel the opposite. All of a sudden I felt so tired. I wanted to walk, I wanted to see the finish line, I wanted a big COLD bottle of water…not a small cup that I spilled half of on my face trying to drink-and-run. Part of me was frustrated; I didn’t want to walk, I knew I had more in me. Once I saw the next water stop, about 100 yards up, I knew I had to do to the slow-down-walk-and-drink. I needed it, the water and the break. The temp had gone up from 60 to about 75 and I was tired. Not the end of the world. I drank, I felt better, I kept going.
1 hr, 43 minutes, and 19 seconds later, I ran across the Finish line. Yesss! Six minutes faster than my first race time, 5th in my age group, and 31st overall. I was exhausted, hot, sweaty, and enjoying the runner’s high. I grabbed my Big Cold bottle of water, chugged it, and then grabbed another one. I looked up and saw my parents. It was awesome to have them at the finish line, almost happier that I finished than I was. Plus, they bought me a shirt.
I learned a lot of things from this race. Now that I’ve done two, I can differentiate between the experiences. It will always be the same distance, but it will never be the same race. And that’s what keeps you comin’ back for more. And I’m already lookin’ for more….
“Races end: running doesn’t.”
-Dean Karnazes, in Runner’s World