Sunday, May 27, 2018

Run for the Red, Pocono Summit, PA, 5/20/18

Run for the Red - Check-In Race

Early in the start of training, I like to race something hard to check in with myself to see how much work I have to do. Run for the Red was that race for me. 

Despite knowing that I have not actually properly prepared to race a fast marathon, I still felt a little pressure to perform. This is funny because if I don't do the work, I should not expect to see results, but running is funny like that. We still often try anyway. Maybe we hope our hearts can carry us through despite not preparing. I know it is foolish for me to think this way. 

I was entirely too focused on the outcome goal of this race and not really mindful of what was realistic for me along the way. However, I have to admit, I really needed to just not care and to see what I could do if I pushed myself. I did not truly expect great results, but I was not going to assume I would fail either. I just wanted the race to unfold for me naturally.  This also was not a Goal Race and I could take risks because failure would be ok.

The week leading up to this race was a fantastic week for me in terms of training, nutrition, sleep, etc. The problem is I was actually training hard, getting leaner, and as a result feeling beat up. Changing body composition is stressful on the body. If I really wanted a good shot at a good run, I should have been resting. But resting from what? From a 5 hour Strolling Jim where I mostly strolled along? From NOT running any long runs over 12M at a hard effort? From lower (for me) weekly mileage?  

I have plans to aim high for the Fall and Fall is not that far away. I don’t want to start training by tapering from nothing so I made a decision to train right through Run for the Red and to consider it a hard long run, not a "race".

To get myself in a positive frame of mind, starting on Friday, I simply started focusing my attention on every detail I could find that suggested I had a chance to run strong. I ignored all the reasons I should not. For example, based upon my last race (a 15k), I had the potential for a 3:31 (if I had actually done some long runs at something even close to training paces that would support a 3:31, but I did not. I was resting and this is the start of my training so I knew I was going to struggle). I was also lighter and leaner than when I raced that 15K so maybe I still had a short.  Even though Strolling Jim was a slower race for me, it was not easy so I know I was fitter for having done it. I think I had a chance to run a marathon within my goal window. Not a good chance, but a chance nonetheless.

The last time I ran Run for the Red in 2016, I was not very well-trained either (but better trained than this year) and I did run a 3:33 so I knew the fast course could pull me along, especially if the weather cooperated. In 2016, the weather was bizarre, but perfect for fast running.

I need a 3:40 to BQ and since I have not raced many marathons seriously in about 18 months, I definitely need a BQ if I want to return to Boston. I do know that June, July, and August are not the months that I am most likely get that BQ, due to the stifling heat and humidity and also because that is when I am in the middle of marathon training (building up my fast finish long runs from 14-24 miles or using 50k and marathons as long even effort time on my feet fun runs). I rarely race marathons for time in the summer. So if I wanted to snag a BQ to, at least, get my foot in the door, Run for the Red was where to do it.

Accordingly, my Goal Window was 3:31-3:40 or blow up trying.

So the weather… ah, the first really humid race of the year. This is not ideal. But I try to disregard this as it doesn’t matter. I have to go for my window regardless of conditions. The clock doesn’t care what the humidity is.

I start off trying to find a comfortably-hard pace. I sense I am running slightly too fast, but again I have not run anything far and fast in such a long time that I expected the pace to feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. 

I keep checking in with myself to try to determine if I think I can hold this the entire way and the answer really is “No. No you cannot.”  So I made a choice to see how long I could hold it. If I do fade in the hills at the end, I may still end up in my 3:31-3:40 window. If I can't, I can accept that too.

Part of the point of my Check-In race for me is to allow me a “throw away” race that I am free to go out and mess up royally. I need to do everything wrong once in a while, especially early in training, just because it helps remind me about how important it is to do things right. It also shows me that doing everything wrong never turns out as bad as it seems like it should. 

If I could train well, get lean and strong, taper, carb-load (yes, I do this and it works for me), and stick to a realistic pace plan that is task-focused and not outcome-focused… then I know I can negative split and have a great run. But I am not there yet. However, I wanted to know what I could now, today, untrained, undiscplined, and tired. 

Run for the Red was awesome and demoralizing at the same time.

I managed to stay either just ahead of or just behind the 3:30 pace group through 19M. I really did not feel as terrible as I thought I would at that pace, but the humidity and warmth of the day were catching up with me. My body simply was not prepared to handle the intensity.

At about mile 20-21 I started to get a tremendous migraine. I am sure it was from dehydration and working too hard. The top of my head felt like someone hit me with a bat. I was consuming calories and fluids along the way but race day nutrition is never going to make up for lack of preparation. I knew the crash and burn was coming. I wasn’t sure how bad it would be. The 3:30 pace group drifted off as I slowed down to try to get a grip.

At the next aid station, I stopped running for the first time and grabbed three cups of fluid and walked a few strides to just drink. I was so dizzy and nauseated that I was a little concerned. Once I started running again, I knew I had nothing left.

With 4 miles to go, the death march started. I was done. I had enough for the day. My body, my mind, both had completely checked out. The idea of running or run/walking, or just walking in 4 more miles was soul-crushing. I was overheating and my butt was whooped. But truly I did not expect anything less. I am actually surprised I got as far as I did!

My biggest concern was my left hamstring/glute.  Everything was so tight that I feared straining my hamstring if I pushed through.  I knew I had already done some damage and since this is the start of training I cannot afford to take 2-3 weeks of rest to heal. My gait was altered and there was mild pain. So I walked. 

Kim comes flying past me, yelling something about how I need to go with her now because she is still on pace for the 3:40 and we could do it. And I laughed and I laughed. As if I had a choice. Kim did well in training. Probably not as well as she wanted to prep (but who ever feels their prep is perfect), but she got her butt out there for 20+M fast finish long runs on hot days by herself when it mattered the most. That is how to do work!  She rested, tapered, and stuck to her plan. She kicked ass! I waved good-bye as she drifted off in to the distance wondering how the heck I was going to make it another 5k!

I took my time on the way in and ran when I felt I could and walked most of what was left. I didn’t care if it took me another hour to get done. I did not need to pull a hamstring for no reason at all. Not now. 

But ultimately it wasn’t that bad. I ended up with a 3:53 after running the first 20M at 3:30 pace. And this makes me happy. I have taken a lot of time away from marathon training. Marathon training, for me, is the hardest training I can do. I have not run anything under 4 hours for the marathon in a long time. In fact, I have run a mostly 5 hour marathons just taking my time and enjoying the trails, mountains, and company.

My heart is so happy I was able to gut out a hard 20M LR… too bad the race was 26.2M. :) I am not sad that I did not or could not run a faster time. I did not deserve to. I did not train. I do wish I was in better shape that I am in right now, but when looking back, I know I am exactly where I should be. 

I needed a lot of rest after training so hard in 2016. I am 42 and the work I did at 40 years old was hard on me. I needed to rest my body and soul. The sacrifice, commitment, and intense focus on training that it takes for me to run that hard does detract from my overall quality of life in other aspects. I can’t live life that way year-after-year and expect to feel balanced and happy. Being the fastest marathon runner I can be is not "everything" to me. I am so much more than just a runner.  However, I can give myself 18-20 weeks to try to be my best athlete-self again. And if/when I get the results I seek, I am certain that joy will fill my soul for a long long time.

So Run for the Red was my reality check. I truly feel like I got more than I deserved to get out this race. I am ready to see what I can do from here.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Strolling Jim, The "Marathon", 5/5/18

Four years ago I raced the 40M (41.2M)  and had a fantastic day. I just ran my heart out, powering through the hills until I hit the wall hard and suffered in the heat at the 50K and ran/walked my in to a 6:35. This was a time I was proud of, despite some sloppy execution.

Today I wondered if it might take me 6:35 to run the marathon distance. I was initially registered for the 40M, but last week I took a real hard look at myself and knew I was not prepared for 40M. 

When in shape, the 40M is my favorite distance. It is my best event, that and the 6 hour, which I can cover  40-43+ miles in that time. I want to protect my love for that distance and not destroy my positive experiences by doing something I am woefully under-prepared to do and feeling miserable. I am also still rebuilding my endurance and fitness. 

I always run. I can always "cover" a marathon on foot, maybe not by running every single step but I can get through it. Marathon training is the hardest thing I can do and when done well, I can fly.  But right now I am still in my base-building-just-show-up-and-pin-on-a-bib phase of training.  I enjoy getting my long runs done at races where I can actually relax and be social when I feel like it ... or I can practice race day skills without some important performance goal on the line. 

I took nothing seriously about today's, well except that carloading. I carb-loaded like a champ! That was fun. ;)

The race weather was predicted to be rainy the entire day. I rhetorically asked Alanna if maybe I could just run one marathon soon NOT wearing a poncho ;)

But race day morning turned out to be lovely.  It was much more humid that I am used to but the 60 degrees felt so nice. I wore more than I would have preferred mostly because my skin is not ready to handle long runs in rain and humidity and not get chafed raw. I ended up in bike shorts and a tank top to save my skin.his worked.  

I really do not love racing in a vest. I feel like I am too heavy with a vest on and often the vest makes my back hurt. But the rental car keys were GIGANTIC and two of these monster-sized key fobs were tethered together making it impossible to put them in my small zip pocket. I also decided to carry a bottle since aid stations at this race tend to be gallons of water left under a tree every few miles, with some random real aid station dropped in along the way.  It can be a long way between drinks.

So once weighted down, I knew I wasn’t going for time today. I just wanted the climbing and the long time on my feet. This marathon delivered on all accounts.

Early in the race, I ran next to a guy who looked a little flustered. He explained, worried really, that he was diabetic and his monitor was reading very low.  He was trying to eat something but he was concerned.  I asked if he had enough calories on him and he said “probably not enough. I thought I was good, but this is low so I have to eat now”  We were at maybe mile 4?  He was running 40.

I had two gels on me and gave them to him. He wouldn’t take them but I did insist. I was “only” running the marathon and I could grab soda or something with sugar from the aid stations. I told him I had set a carb-load PR yesterday so I really don’t need them.  I insisted that he take them.

We passed the first aid station and with only a quick glance, I did not see any fast sweet things. Water and SWORD… what the heck is that and where was the coca cola or potatoes or anything I could eat. Oh well. I was ok, and not running fast, so I proceeded on my way. There were slim jims and pork rinds. Pork Rinds. I know I didn’t race ultras last year but are pork rinds at aid stations at thing now?

Oh well, I don’t remember eating much during the Boston Sharknado Marathon so I felt like I would be ok. I would have liked some sports drink. My pace was a blazing 10:30 pace so I felt I could sustain that on water and something palatable from an aid station along the way.

By mile 18 I was still feeling good and with only 8.6 to go (b/c this is Strolling Jim so nothing is what is supposed to be, which is ok with me). The hills crush my soul. Adding few extra tenths is nothing to fret over.  At 18+ we hit a downhill and I wondered if I could push my pace to the finish. So I tried. 

I make it to 20.5M and I hit the wall. Slam right into it. My legs power down like a transformer blew. I have no energy. None. Nothing hurts, but I just can’t “go.”   The humidity was high but I have been in worse and the cooler air helped mitigate that.  I just ran out of glycogen and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had grabbed a few things from the last aid station but didn't eat because I really just wanted to see how far I could go on water only. I like to do tests like this. The sudden crash was clearly due to under-fueling.

 So at 21M I decided to eat the Nature Valley granola protein nut bar because it had a little of everything (carbs, fat, and protein). I walked a lot while trying to wait to see if it helps. As I walk it my legs are made of lead. I have no motivation to power through. I have 5.6M to go and they are feeling like a million miles. I am alone, so alone on the course I start to wonder if I am off course. But keep walking and running and walking.

By M22 I feel about 50% better which is good but not great. At this point I decide that I have done my job for today. I got a good long run in and depleted my glycogen down to 0, nothing hurts, and I feel like I made the smartest choice I could have made when I asked to drop down to the marathon from the 40. There was absolutely no way I was running 19.2 more miles like this. 

The drizzle that started at the end is refreshing. I finally find my way into meditative practice.  I feel a complete sense of acceptance of my pace and with myself as I approach the end. I wonder if I will break 5 hours and then wonder why a number matters at all. What matters most is that I push my body further and harder than I have in many many many months, even if on paper the numbers seem “slow” to others. What others think doesn’t really matter.  I am at peace. I am pleased with myself and my work.  

I turn the last corner and see the finish and the clock is ticking down 4:5x…. I cross in 4:54. I feel so grateful to have been able to do what I just did today. Someday I will not be able to run hilly marathons. Someday I will not be run flat marathons. Someday I will not be able to hike or walk marathons. Today is not that day. Today I did my job and it felt realy good to be present and to do work.

I sat under the tent eating a gigantic grilled chicken thigh when the sky opened up and thunder cracked… and my heart broke a little for Alanna, who was and still is out there on the course tacking the 41.2M distance as I type this race report. I am very proud of her.  I know it stinks to run in a deluge. I did give her one of my ponchos. I bought them in bulk. :)

If I hurry now, I may be able to get back to the race to pick her up. I think I will be a good friend and bring her a warm tea as her prize for persevering thought this rough patches. 
Maybe if I am lucky I might get a poncho photo for this report. :) 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Clinton Country Run 15k, Clinton NJ, 4/28/18

Photo by Karl Leitz. Clinton Country Run. 15K
So last week’s half did not go as planned. The week before was Boston which was also pretty rough (understatement of the year ;) ). The week prior to that I ran a hilly 8:24 paced 20k. Today was a 15k on a course with some rolling hills. Based upon my real life recent performances, I set a goal for 8:15 (+/- 10 sec) for myself. However that was an estimated prediction, but not what I actually planned to aim for mile by mile. 

Instead, I wanted to practice two important skills today at this race. First, I wanted to pay attention to my pre-race routine and sharpen up what I do before every race so that I can setting myself up for success. Next I wanted to use the mindfulness meditation practice I have been working on daily in a race setting. I wasn’t going monitor my pace. Instead I was going run by feel, with my job being to negative split this race.  I wanted to be mindful about my pacing, focus on how I felt it the moment and ask myself whether I had another gear for the final 4 miles, where all the hills are. I did not want race people. I did not want to race the clock. I wanted to race as fast as I could race without getting ahead of my own ability too early.

I met Kim early and we ran 6M of warm up. I was trying to pay attention to timing to see how long I really need to do all the things I know I should do before I race. I am tired of scrambling around at the start of races, missing my change to get my body warmed up and my mind prepared to tackle the work I will do.  If I know exactly how much time I need and exactly what my pre-race routine will be, I will have a greater ability to do what I need when it becomes much more important to me to have my pre-race warm up routine sharp. 

So first we ran a long warm up. We ran the course backwards in part, paying attention to the terrain, becoming aware of where the last mile began. Then we did dynamic stretching. We changed shoes and did some pick ups rather than strides. 20 steps slow 20 steps fast. We talked about music that we could include next time. I still know I need to work on my pre-race game more. I need to protec that time from unnecessary distractions on those days I plan to do my best. For now I am learning. 

The gun goes off. I was not trying to push to hard. But the start is fast. I did not want to know my splits, but that was impossible because the wonderful volunteers were calling them out at each mile. Of course most people want this information to make sure they are on track.

[For the first time since I started racing, I finally had no shin pain!  This is fantastic. I had spent time cleaning up nutrition, sleeping better, and training better. I could feel the impact of healthy decisions. I watch my heart rate drop over the week as my body and mind felt better!]

Mile 1 was a fast downhill mile and the volunteer called out 7:20, 7:21, 7:22…  as I passed.  Now I know the course would roll little and that 7:20 was merely the result of the descent that we would climb at the end. 

I settled down and did not pay attention to the watch.  Runners flew past me and I passed a few but the most important tasks I had to do were only two things: (1) Negative split, and (2) Focus on the Mile I was in…  Time did not matter, place did not matter, racing others did not matter. Not today. 

I spent the first 4 miles really focused on how I felt in the moment. The rest of the world around me felt like a blur. Nothing outside was touching me and I felt content.  

At mile 4 a woman runs right between me and another runner who was wearing gigantic head phones and she exuberantly exclaims! “So what’s the plan today!” 

Now this was not what I expected. I was in my flow, doing my job, being mindful about how I felt and what I was doing and then suddenly there was this very sudden and somewhat abrasive intrusion into my headspace. 

I contemplated what to do. I did nothing at first. I did not want to disrupt my peaceful exisitance in my race. This is going to be an interesting challenge, to practice mindfulness while racing with people who have no idea what I am doing, who just want to be social. If I really want to practice this skill, I am going to need to figure out how to not get distracted while also appearing rude to friendly people. I am not sure how to reconcile this yet. 

So I think that just maybe if I say nothing the other runners on her left would engage her.  But I am no longer doing one of my two jobs.  I am not focused on running the mile I am in. I am fully distracted by others. This is interesting from a mindfulness perspective. I don't intend to be mindful at all costs, but I do want to first see if she will use someone else as her diversion.  

I glanced over and saw the giant headphones and knew there was no chance of that happening. She had a buffer. This was a USATF-NJ championship race. Headphones are illegal. They are considered to be an aid. I can see how they really can help. 

The woman then says So what you are trying to do today!  Maybe we can help each other out today!”   Normally, friendly supportive conversation is nice, but often this happens when two people want to chat. It was clear she didn't care if I was interested in chatting or not.

I wanted so badly to say, “I see you want to work together but I don’t actually need help right now.”… but that really wasn’t necessary to say that.  I did have some empathy, recognizing a sense of insecurity she must have been feeling about her ability.  I remember how that was me when I first started running and racing.  I remember wanted to run with people because I thought maybe I could do better feeding off someone else energy, not really trusting that I had what I needed inside myself. I felt that my best on my own wasn’t the best I could do but maybe I could latch on to someone else’s pace and their energy will pull me. Or maybe their presence will ignite some competitive edge in me that I would discover was relentless. Somehow I felt I needed help. I just don't feel that way any more. I feel like that only person who can help me is me. 

But in 2016, when I learned how to listen to my body and master my own pacing, I found out that I can negative split everything I do if I am open and accepting of my ability and I set goals that match my strengths. When I run my own race there is no better outcome.  My best races are not a result of anyone else doing anything. They are all me. 

So again she says, “Do you have a plan?

While focused with my attention straight ahead, I think about my plan to just run the mile I am in... I say “Just Run”. 

Now what I meant to say was ‘My plan is to just run… to focus on the moment I am in and just run”  But as I said "Just Run" it came out sounding more like a command... I am sure that I actually meant it both ways. I really did want my space back. I was in my flow and here was someone who doesn’t yet know how to run on her own race trying to make me join her to help her. I wasn’t interested in being someone else’s diversion.
I wan’t interested in being her reluctant pacer. Sometimes it is really fun to be the distraction that helps others shine, but I do think it is better to help people figure out that they are enough. 

But I wasn't coaching her. I wasn't coaching anyone. I was there as an athlete. I just wanted to focus on my skills. I immediately tempered what sounded too harsh with more of what she needed to hear. I added quickly, “My plan is to Just Run. I want to just run and not feel badly. I want to not work too hard too soon and I want to run faster as I go along and feel good as I do it.” That was enough for her. 

Then I went back into my zone. 

She sat on my shoulder for at least a half mile, but we had not even hit the hills yet. I was waiting for the hills. I wanted to have the strength to push and I knew that I could. I had done good work in the first half of the race.

As soon as the hills started, I pulled away. I was able to push my pace faster as we rolled and I was going my job. I could hear the music starting in my head. When I race well there is always music. 

I was digging and pushing and then we hit M8-9, with the super steep ending.  I was pushing, but I felt a part of me contemplating reducing the pace. I did not feel bad about this. I feel like I am learning. I am finding my line and recognizing just where my body and mind are at this time. I need to do a lot more work.

But even with a hard final mile, I managed to negative split the race.  My last mile was not my fastest mile but it was still a good one.  I did my jobs today!

When I looked at my final time, I was in shock. I had felt 8:15 pace was realistic but I managed a 7:41 pace overall instead. I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled I am with this run! 

I ran 3M miles to c/d with Kim. I went home with 18M run, feeling like I am moving in the right direction.

Blue Ridge Marathon and Half Marathon, Roanoke, VA, 4/21/18

I can’t say enough about how much I loved this experience, even with some struggles that should have simply ruined my day.  

The week leading up to this race in Roanoke VA was a tough work week for me. I missed a full day of work because I was at the Boston Marathon on Monday. I would miss two more work days (most of Friday for travel, and Saturday for racing and traveling back). As a primarily self-employed person, there are no days off, no personal time, no one to cover the work. As a graduate student the same rules apply. I found myself challenged to do the same amount of work in 3.5 days that I would normally need 6 days to complete.  This was not going to be easy!  

I have been protecting my sleep lately as I find that everything else goes better for me when I am well rested. My teaching job concluded so I have more time back to train, race and sleep! However, there really wasn’t much I could do this week to make sure I got my 8 hours each night. I just needed to steal from sleep time this week to get myself to the start.

On paper, the trip should have been 6:45 of driving. In real life it was 8+ hours. I can’t even begin to share how much I really missed long road trips by myself. I registered for audible and used my credits to get two wonderful audiobooks.  My journey to Roanoke Virginia was filled with stories about how smart birds are ("The Genius of Birds").  Just as I neared my destination, I reached the end of the book where the author shared some stories about the birds of the Blue Ridge Mountain. That was just perfect!

Normally, I try to arrive earlier enough the night before a race to have dinner 12 hours or more before the gun time. Gun time was 7:35 am. I arrived at 9:00 am.  My dinner consisted of gas station snacks on the drive down, which included a gigantic chocolate chip cookie and some terrible coffee. Thank goodness I wasn’t actually racing seriously or I would have been a little concerned. Unbeknownst to me I would have welcomed an upset tummy over what I had to deal with race day morning.
I check into my hotel, organized my race day gear, asked for a 5 am wake up call and begane to unwind for the night. I had just run Boston in 4:19 and expected tomorrow’s marathon to take me at least 5 hours or more to get through it. The elevation is tremendous and I was very much looking forward to the climbs!  Nothing get me in shape faster than climbing!

I was up before my alarm and took 5 minutes only to practice mediation while my coffee brewed. So far nothing was wrong.  But once I attempted to contort myself in to my sports bra, I managed to strain something so badly in my back that I was afraid I slipped a disc!  

Currently, I am not fit, I am still too heavy for my best racing, and I do a lot of sitting. My back hurts often when I am not on top of my game.  Once I gain a few pounds and stop doing my regular strength training, I quickly end up not even fit enough to handle basic activities of daily living, like putting on a sports bra!  Unless I am training, my life is atrociously sedentary.  

I couldn’t stand up without pain and decided to lay on the disgusting hotel floor hoping that if I stayed really still and really flat my spine would stop acting out and get back on track. But once down on the groun, I discovered I could not actually get back up.  Any twisting motion was painful. If I turned to put my weight one one hand to push up from the ground, the pain was debilitating only because I refused to test the limited. I could have powered through but I was afraid I would make things worse. I laid on the floor for 20 minutes wondering if I would end up being discovered by housekeeping. I wondered how I would get home. I had an 6:45-8 hour drive back to NJ after the race.

Time was ticking and I was already 15 minutes later than I wanted to leave for the start. After 20 minutes on the ground I could feel my back muscles loosening up a little. There was some hope! 

I was able to get up only by rolling forward, essentially crunching up and somehow getting up on my feet. I had to leave if I wanted to get to the race. Once upright, I was able to walk and I could jog slowly.

I drove to the race and was able find a parking in a free garage so easily. I walked out of my car and realized that even with me getting to the at 6:45 I was able to find a spot across the street from the finish line.  This was wonderful!

I got my bib in minutes and had time use the port-o-potty, go back to my car to change into something more comfortable. It was so painful to bend or twist. Fortunately running doesn’t ask for bending and twist! I stilled believe I would have a chance to run. 

I lined up at the start. Gun goes off and off we go. I start running and so far everything is "ok". My back is not ok, but I can move… then we start to climb up hill.  The strain on my back while going up was already causing me some pain. But even worse, just like at Boston, my shins were on fire. I start walking because running is just making things worse. I stop at the side of the course. I try to do some dynamic stretching to loose up the tightness. Just ankle rolls and that helped.  

As soon as the 5:30 pace group blew past me and I was not even at mile 2 I knew I was not running a marathon today. 

A guy next to me mentioned he was in the half and said that if I want to drop down I need to decide soon. I stopped to enjoy the view of the mountains, called Sidney to tell him I would be home a lot earlier than expected and I continued on hiking up the hill. I took a photo at the star and found that I was feeling better. I know I made a good choice.

I was able to run when my shins loosened up and found that by Mile 5, the course finally dropped and the descent felt fantastic. My shins were pain free. My back was not getting worse. Again, no twisting or bending but I could run and/or hike and it was glorious! 

The only trouble was I was clearly the first marathon bib spectators were seeing and everyone was so excited to see a woman crushing the countries toughest marathon!  Yet them seemed to miss how I was in no rush. I even called Kim at one point because I needed some conversation and while hiking and talking, some spectators yelled out “Oh wow, she is winning and she is having a conversation on her phone!” 

“No. I am definitely not winning.” 

“But you have a red bib! You are in the marathon!”

“Oh I am definitely not in the marathon. I am running the half. This bib was a mistake ;)”

I started to feel good enough to run some of the hills and start pushing myself to get some  work out of this experience.  A cyclist is climbing next to me, passes me, stops, turns around. I can see he has a camera.  He says, “Are you winning?”… I say “Oh no… I am not winning. I turned with the half marathoners b/c I threw my back out this morning”… he says “I was killing myself trying chase you up this hill!”  He was taking race photos. I apologized profusely and decided I needed to fold over my bib so people would not think I was in the lead. But then I was afraid people would think I was banditing. I have to admit, it felt nice to be up front again ;)

I ended up finishing the half in 2:37. I walked to my car and drove straight home.

I am sure this is a personal worst time but it was not a personal worst experience. My back was killing me, but for the duration of the half, with those glorious hills and the wonderful weather, I was in heaven.  

I feel like I am on my home.