12 weeks ago, I started the hardest training plan I've ever followed: the Own It plan from Train Like a Mother. This training plan has led me through two 13 mile runs, one 14 mile run and one 15 mile run. It made me more than ready to tackle a half marathon because it took the element of fear out of the half marathon distance because by race day, I'd already ran it four times. Unlike my last half marathon, I wasn't stressed at all about the distance.
What this run couldn't do, however, was control the weather. While we had warmer than usual weather for November, we had wind. Lots of it. The wind was blowing steady at 25-30mph with gusts up to 50mph. In a race through a town or a forested area, this might not have mattered, but this race was run on country roads. Now, I love country roads. They're peaceful. I grew up in the country. I love open fields and farms and gently rolling hills, but in the right (or in the case of a half marathon, WRONG) conditions, those open fields create wind tunnels. And they did just that. I knew I was in trouble at mile two when a wind gust pushed me off the side of the road.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Despite the weather, let me tell you all the good things about yesterday. First, this was a local race. I am starting to really love local races. They're typically smaller and cheaper. They have more of a community feel to them. I don't have to get up super early to get there on time or pay for parking. Also, for the first time ever, I got to have people there to cheer me on! For the most part, I tend to run races by myself so I'm used to waiting at the start line and before the race by myself while others stand around in groups. This can lead to a lot of panic and stress inside my head. Plus, it's just boring. And I won't lie... the days leading into this race were stressful, leaving me to feel like I didn't even want to do it. This was not one where I needed to be inside my head before the race. So, let me tell you that it was a huge relief to see my parents walking across the parking lot as I was waiting in line for the porta potties yesterday morning. They huddled in the shelter of a building with me while I did active stretches and we tried to stay out of the wind. Note how crazy my hair is in this shot and I said we were trying to stay OUT of the wind. It was so windy that the wind actually blew the inflatable start line away, which I've never seen happen at a race.
The start of the race was delayed by about ten minutes because the line for portapotties was so long, which was annoying. They definitely didn't have enough--which is my only complaint about the race organization! We started with a very moving speech about Veteran's Day by a veteran. Although the race was sponsored by United Way and just happened to fall on Veteran's Day, I like that they still recognized Veteran's Day. It was a good reminder of running because there are those who are unable to run.
I started out with my goal race pace, which was 9:30 and felt good. The first mile was a loop around from the starting line. Although Shane and the boys got there right as the race started, I didn't see them, so as I came around to mile 1, I got to wave at them. That was really neat. After that loop, we headed out into the country roads. Things started to get rough with the wind at mile 2. I don't usually get stitches in my side when I run, however, struggling into the wind left me with a huge stitch. I tried to draw in air and stretch out my arm, but no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of it. Eventually, I realized that I was just going to have to run through it. At mile 4, we turned so the wind was at our backs for awhile. This was a huge relief. You could see everyone's spirits pick up and we all fell into a faster pace with the wind pushing us. I knew that there was a spectator spot at mile 5.5, so I'd loosened my long sleeve shirt in the hopes that I could toss it off to my family and not have it flapping around my waist in the wind for the rest of the run.
I managed to complete the toss, but the boys were back playing in a stand of trees and I didn't see them. However, as I kept running, I heard Luke yell, MOMMY!! And looked behind to see him running after me. I waved and he stopped and waved, so that definitely motivated me. At mile 6.5, I decided to grab a cup of water. I wasn't thirsty, but my lips were pretty dry from the wind. I really wanted to drink and run, but a huge gust of wind ended up slamming the water into my face, so I had to slow to a walk. Unfortunately, the water ended up sloshing around in my stomach and maybe the water wasn't the best idea. After mile 7, we turned straight into the wind and this is the part of the race where it got hard.
I've run in wind before. I live in the midwest and in the fall and winter, it's windy. It's just a weather condition we deal with, but I've never run in this much wind and for this long before. There was no getting out of it. With fields on every side of us and with the corn harvested, it was wide open. The wind was slamming straight into our faces with no reprieve. At one point, I was running so hard that I had stitches in both sides and felt like I was going to throw up from the effort. I felt like I was sprinting, like I was doing speedwork. I looked at my watch... and I was running an 11 minute mile. That's it. For all the effort I was giving, that's all I was doing. To say that I felt defeated at that moment would be an understatement. And yes, I walked, because it is really, really hard to keep your motivation and energy up when you're dealing with that sort of element. I tried so hard, but all I could see in front of me was a long stretch of open road with no break from the wind in sight. I walked just long enough to get angry and then I ran until the next water stop when I needed more water for my dried lips. I didn't even try to run through it again because I knew the water would just take the cup away if I tried to run and drink. The worst part is that at this point, when we turned where the wind wasn't directly in our faces, it didn't help any because it just hit us from the sides. There was no escaping it until the very end of the race. The last five miles were probably the biggest struggle and not because I didn't train for it, but because the wind just would not let up.
At mile 12, I stopped for one last water stop, which I kind of knew was a mistake because my calves tend to knot up when I get near the end, but my throat was so dry from breating in all the dust from the fields. Of course, my calves cramped and that last little bit was torture. I had hopes of running the last mile strong, but I couldn't do it. I knew from my watch that I would PR by a lot, but I also knew that without the winds, I could've done better. Still, I plodded in as best I could. After struggling up a hill at 12.5, I saw my dad walking into the wind on the grass against the runners and I kicked it in. He said, "I can't believe this wind." I said, "You're telling me!!" He said, "Your fans are to the left just before the finish line." I knew the finish line was around the corner and I kicked it in as much as I could, which wasn't much because I hurt. My legs felt fine, but physically, my body just hurt. I felt like I'd been pummelled for the last five miles, which I kind of was.
I knew that Luke had on a bright orange stocking cap, so I searched the crowd for his orange cap. As I saw him, my eyes also scanned in a few new faces. I seriously almost stopped in my tracks (which would've been bad for the runners behind me) when I saw Katy, Anna, Shelli (and Lily) also standing with my mom, Shane, Luke and Tommy waving signs and cheering. I crossed the finish line, got my medal, then doubled back where I was hugged by the boys. Luke immediately recoiled and told me that my armpits really smelled. Ha! Tommy later told me that he was screaming as I "ran really faster at the end." I PR'd by 13 minutes over my half in April. I finished that one in 2:25 and crossed the finish line yesterday in 2:12. The best part was not the PR, though, it was the people willing to stand out there in the wind and cheer me on... just because they cared. That means more to me than any time I could ever set.
After the race, we went out to lunch where I celebrated my new PR with a much deserved drink and delicious meal with my parents and those wonderful girls that I mentioned above!
I am very, very lucky.