Two weeks ago, Jason and I went to Kentucky to visit his parents and run a half marathon in Bowling Green. This would be the third half marathon in our little spring racing series, and I was hoping it would be MUCH better than our Seaside half marathon a few weeks before (see previous post). I decided it was simply a training run to prepare for the Oak Barrel half (coming up next weekend), and I found myself looking forward to it, despite not knowing what to expect.
It was a gorgeous, chilly morning when Jason and I arrived at the race. It was a nice 45 minute drive from his parents' house to the race, and we enjoyed sipping coffee and chatting with each other on the way there. We registered (nothing like waiting until the last minute), visited the potties, and pinned on our race numbers before the start. It was so cold, we were debating whether or not to wear long sleeves, but in the end decided to stick with short sleeves and gloves - a wise decision.
The race began and I stayed relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. The Kentucky countryside is so amazingly gorgeous, and I had plenty to look at while we ran. My pace was around 8:40-8:50 and it felt good.
At mile 5.4 I saw my handsome man coming back (I love out-and-back courses!), and that, incidentally, was my fastest mile at 8:29. He looked good and I smiled, letting him know I was feeling good too. I was feeling REALLY good and that was REALLY exciting. I think I was a little worried after falling apart at the half-way point in Seaside.
I realized around that point there was a stiff wind at my back and we'd be facing it when we turned around... but that didn't bother me. I was feeling good and that's all that mattered.
I used the potty right before the turn-around (cold weather makes me have to go...is that weird?) and I still felt really good. I decided to push it... but MAN that headwind was brutal! Around mile 8 I realized I was running with my head down to keep the wind from blowing off my visor, so I took it off and carried it in my hand. I felt strong, not a bit depleted, but running into that wind took work. I looked at my watch and was running 9:10-9:20 pace miles. I didn't want to slow down that much so I pushed harder. I was no longer afraid of falling apart, and I wanted to beat my Elkmont half marathon time from January (1:56).
There were a few moments here and there where the wind gave me a break and I tried to take advantage of those. I caught a lot of people until I came up to this one little shrimpy guy. He was determined not to let me pass, but I could tell he was fading. I'd catch up to him only for him to surge ahead and then slow way down. My pace was steady and I meant to hold it. I was close to my goal, but I couldn't slow down if I wanted that sub 1:56.
I saw Jason a half mile out from the finish, and he took my visor and ran beside me. I almost missed the final turn, as it went off road onto a greenway, but that just made me run even harder, and I passed Shrimpy for good. I saw the finish clock reading 1:55 and I ran for it, finishing in 1:55:40. While that time is not one of my best - not even close, actually, I was still happy with it. Seaside had been so terrible and disheartening with a 2:05 finish, that I needed a good, strong race to feel like me again. I needed to know I could still train and improve. I needed to know I was back on track, even if I was further back than I'd hoped to be at this point.
The race in Kentucky did all those things for me. Despite the crazy wind, it was a great race for my mind, body, and spirit. I had hoped to be below 1:50 for Oak Barrel and I'm not there, but I'm feeling good, and that means so much to me.
Sometimes it takes the loss of health to be thankful for the healthy times. I've always tried to be introspective and aware of the goodness in and around me. But after being sick for over 3 weeks, my thankfulness to run and feel strong has been renewed, and I am so grateful to my amazing Creator for creating this body to do what it does, for as long as it will do it.
In other news, my speedier half won the race - his first as a 40 year old. The wind slowed him down too, and he finished in 1:23, which is 3 minutes slower than both his Elkmont and Seaside half marathons, but I don't think that bothered him. He'll always be amazing in my book.