This past Saturday, November 7, 2015 was my 7th half marathon. After a couple 50K races and a few 50 mile or more attempts, I pretty much wrote off road racing for a couple reason, none of which I go into here. However; the difference for me is that this race was my first race, regardless of distance, since June 2014. We did the Palmetto 200 earlier this year, but that is a team event and we were far from racing. From June 2014 through the first couple months of 2015 I was dealing with small nagging injuries that kept my mileage to a minimum. After that, I spent most of the time working with Jenny, who just so happens to be my favorite yoga instructor, and Elise, our friend and owner of the gym we go to, to gain some flexibility back in my steel-plate hamstrings. After finally getting flexible enough to start working out and regularly running again, I set my eyes back on doing ultras by immediately signing up for the Blind Pig 100 in April 2016. Shortly after that, Jenny said she was considering running the Lexington Half Marathon on November 14th. My gears started turning and realized the Run Like a Nut half was the weekend before. Having ran this race in 2012 I knew it was a mostly flat course and we would get to have my daughter and my mom there to cheer us on.  I signed us up right away.

Pre-race selfie or it doesn’t count, right?

Race day came upon us, I knew we had put as much training in as we could but I still felt a bit under-prepared for this race. I wasn’t nervous or anxious, just felt under-prepared for some reason. Pre-race selfie-ing is a must, right? At the start line, I’m slightly matter of fact-like reminding Jenny that she is just defeating herself before she even starts the race by worrying whether or not she will be the last runner. I knew she would be far from the last runner but I was trying to get into my “zone” for my race. We have always said that we would each run our own race if we ever raced together, so I was prepping for that. If Jenny wasn’t worrying about being last, she was reminding me to not go out too fast because she knows me and my competitive drive. Had it not been for her, I would have gone out too fast and hit the wall early in the race. Start time was approaching, we spent the time people watching, giving fist-bumps, and a few last minute pecks for luck. Having ran this race before, I knew what to expect, or so I thought. This year, the RD changed the course up (and didn’t do that great of a job letting runners know) to essentially run the course backwards with a few minor changes in the overall course map.

Mile 1 – 8:14 pace – Okay… so I went out just a little too fast but I felt great, kept an even pace and focused on my breathing, long deep breaths in and out. No harm, no foul. Ran by my old house on Pine St., sad to see the house in such bad shape.

Mile 2 – 8:28 pace – A nice, even pace for me. Stayed steady even with the unexpected turn onto Chestnut St. Again, felt great focused on my breathing and not “watch watching,” You know what “watch watching” is. Looking at your GPS watch every30 seconds to see your pace with you usually mentally defeating yourself because the displayed pace is either too fast or too slow. You’ve been there before, admit it.

Mile 3 – 8:50 pace – I slowed a little, I chalk this up to walking shortly after the water stop. This is where I started noticing how hot and humid it is out there. The sun was peeking through the clouds warming up my bald head quickly. This was the first time I got to see Jenny as there was the first or two U-turns on this course

Mile 4 – 9:08 pace – Slowed down a little more, walked a little longer after the water stop in this mile. Again, got to see Jenny. She was smiling looking like she was having fun. Admittedly, I was having fun too. Something I’ve not done at a road race in a long time.

Mile 5 – 9:32 – Here I fell victim to “watch watching.” I was looking at my watch and realized I was going too fast for this distance in the race so I forced myself to walk a little, which in hindsight, I walked a little too much!

Mile 6 – 9:55 pace – Still overcoming my watch watching episode but then realized that I was close to the 10k mark and was on pace for a decent 10K time so I started running again. A little faster than I should but I just went out, forgot about my watch and went. My 10k pace was 56:02, far from my 10K PR but in the grand scheme of things, pretty great since this is the first time I hit that distance in a race in a long time.

Mile 7 – 10:20 pace – Here is where I started noticing the effects of the heat and humidity. Having not run most of the summer, I wasn’t heat acclimated at all and it was showing. Sweating like crazy and completely drenched, eyes slightly burning from the salty sweat I knew It was going to get tough as the morning went on.

Mile 8 – 10:33 pace – Walking a bunch. Was glad to see Jenny coming in an area that I could steal a kiss from her as we passed by each other. This helped me with motivation and I was able to start running a little more.

Mile 9 – 11:15 pace – CRAMPS! Calf cramps. Not bad but not enjoyed. I would walk and stretch the calves as much as possible.

Mile 10 – 11:22 pace – More cramps but managing. Thankful for the shade around Lucas park but dying to find a curb tall enough to really stretch the calves out.

Mile 11 – 13:03 pace – Bottom fell out. Walking for the most part, trotting when I can. Both calves cramping up seriously. At one point my right calf cramped up into a knot. But I was SO thankful to see the Florence Museum of Art, Science, and History. Why? There was a BEAUTIFUL concrete curb! I stopped and stretched both calves, not caring about time or who was passing me, just the feeling of letting the calves stretch out!

A sight for sore… calves. Was able to stretch the calves on the curb in front of this relic.

Mile 12 – 12:52 pace – I was able to run again, heat taking its toll on me, I was exhausted but in good spirit. Stopped to stretch the calves once again before I left the Timrod Park area for good measure. A runner from behind commented “With that calf tattoo, this is a short race for you!” Referring to my >26.2 tattoo. I ran along with him explaining my situation and he offered an early congratulations for getting back out there and finishing this race!

Mile 13 – 11:56 pace – Exhausted but happy. Able to run without cramping for the most part but I was still running slow. Turning the next to last corner from Pine onto Dargan St. a group of runners coming up form behind was encouraging everyone to pick it up and finish strong. I looked up and saw my daughter, her mom, and my mom standing on the corner. I used them as the motivation for one last burst of energy and sprinted to the finish, passing a couple people that passed me in the last tenth of a mile.

I finished in 2:15:25. By far my slowest half marathon ever and first half over the 2 hour mark. But I learned a few lessons. 1. Getting mentally fit, I was able to defeat the self-defeating mentality I used to have. 2. While I knew I was trained, I still need to plan ahead for any potential issues. I could have benefitted from salt caps at this race. 3. I was able to finish happy and loved every minute of this race, even with the severe calf cramping. On to the next race…

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