I have been slacking on new blog posts. And it sucks. I had known I wanted to write a new post all week, had an idea on Thursday after my run, and now it is 9:39 pm on Friday and I’m trying to begin it….all while binge-watching House of Cards Season 3 with my husband.
September 13th, 2014, marked the 2nd annual Lethbridge Regional Police Services half marathon. I had ran in the inaugural race the year prior, loved the downhill course, and set a new personal best of 1:46:42. Signing up again was a no brainer!
The night before, I decided to partake in my standard pre-race beers. Now, I don’t write about this often, because I know it is not scientifically proven to be helpful, but for me, having beer the night before a race that is a half marathon or less works wonders. I went for some happy hour beers with my friend Jaclyn after work (2 brews) and then later that night after showering, eating plain pasta, and taking a nap, I went for some drinks with co-workers after the football game (4 brews). I went to bed by 1am, woke up at 6:45 am, and was ready to go.
It was just above freezing at the start of the race, so I ditched my layers the last possible second. The half, 10km, and 5km were all starting together at 8 am, and would be on the same route for about the first mile. Then the 5km and 10km would turn down Lynx Trail into the river bottom as the rest of us continued south in Scenic Drive. When the 5&10km runners split off, I had positioned myself pretty well, and I thought to be around the 6th female runner. I was going for broke, and had nothing to lose, so my first three miles were 7:25, 7:33 and 7:19.
After mile three, we ascended out of the Sugar Bowl and onto the 20th Ave greenstrip. I had moved my way up to 4th female, and closed in on securing the 3rd position shortly after. I was still feeling really strong, and new I could keep pushing. I wanted to keep third and possibly moved up, since this meant prize money. Miles 4-6, which took me to about hallways around Henderson Lake, clocked in at 7:28, 7:19, and 7:27.
Because of the openness of huge route, the visibility of the runners ahead of you was very open. I had my eye on the woman in 2nd for quite some time, and could also clearly see the first place female with her friend biking next to her. There was a long straightway coming up down 7th Ave South and I knew I needed to make a move if I wanted a chance at 2nd position. This road also had a slight downhill to it, so I kept rolling as fast as I could. Miles 7-9, which went from Henderson down 7th Ave, all the way to the top of Scenic Drive, were 7:31, 7:33, and 7:28. I had locked down 2nd position in the process too!
The steep downhill of Lynx Trail was next. I have done this downhill before in other races (10 Mile Road Race, Bare Bones Run), but usually you have to run back up it. Not today, as you just had to barrel on down to the river bottom. This is about 3/4 mile of steep paved trail, so I lengthened my stride and started actually closing in on the first place runner. She was starting to look tired, and her legs weren’t going as fast as mine down the hill. Mile 10, which took me down the trail to the Water Treatment Plant, was my fastest at 7:13.
You know that openness I spoke of from earlier in the race? Well, since everyone was pretty spaced out by now, except for female #1 and another male runner between us, you couldn’t see much in the winding trails. And there were no spectators along this part of the route. So while the trails are familiar to me, the strain I had been putting on my body for the first 10 miles was catching up, and my mental game was cracking. I kept focusing on female number 1, but anytime I sped up, she did too. When she slowed, I couldn’t overcome the numbness in my quads to get up next to her. Miles 11-12 were really slow at 7:44 and 8:10. My time was 1:30.10, and I could still make a personal best, even with my legs starting to give out. I pretty much had added an extra minute to my previous pace from when we were on flat straight-aways. And while I was still in 2nd position, I was nervous my body would crash and burn.
At mile 12, though, something happened. To east of the trail, I heard a voice yell “ANDREA!!!” On the metal stairs going down from the coulee was Haley, one of my cross country runners from WCHS. She had been doing hill training with her dad that morning. I yelled back to her “COME RUN WITH ME!” and about 30 seconds later I had an eager 16 year old by my side. I told her I was in 2nd place with less than a mile to go, but was wearing down. I needed her to push me to the finish, and make sure no one passed me.
Haley saved me at the end of that race, as I not only held my 2nd place female position, but I finished in 1:37:51—-a new personal best by 3 seconds! First place clocked in at 1:37:00-If I hadn’t slowed down so much after the downhill, it could have been mine! But, honestly, I was giving it as hard as I could leading up to those last 5km, and the mix of sharp turns, no straightaways, and no crowd to cheer you on, made it tough. Finding my own personal pacer the last mile was key for me finishing as strong as I did!
The woman who beat me actually turned out to be a friend of a friend! She knew who I was from talking with my friend and co-worker Amie, and Amie had told her I was pretty intense and to look out for me! Marissa, the woman who took first place, is not only a few inches taller than me, but a few years younger than me. So, since this was my last race in the 20-29 category I felt pretty proud as I enter my 30s! This race also gave me the confidence that it is possible for me to keep ticking time off my personal best. I have the goal set in my mind to be in the 1:36’s by next year. Considering last year I was running 1:46, and the year before that I was doing 1:56, I am very proud of my progress.
Awards came at 10:00 am, and I was the recipient of a $100 cheque from the police. It is funny to me because the day prior I had went to the courthouse to pay an $89 speeding ticket. Irony. Marissa and I chatted some more, then I went and had a free 20 minute massage from students at the Lethbridge College. The race day started and ended perfectly! I was so excited to share with everyone how I did, so I spread the word on social media. In doing so, I also found out from Amie later that day that Marissa and I share more in common than just running—she also loves herself some craft beer. Maybe she will partake in my pre-race tradition next time? Or at least go have some celebratory beers after? Your move Marissa!
In my years of running, I will admit to not doing much, if any, hill runs. I hate hills. I try to avoid them. If I go out on a training run, I usually stay on as flat of a path as possible. Maybe once a year I get the wise idea to go do a steep hill. It usually ends up with me swearing out loud to myself during it. Grandad’s Bluff in La Crosse, Wisconsin…that was a hill I did maybe three times. It sucked every time. You get to the top, feel such a relief, then going down is almost as painful, since you feel like you are basically rolling down the bluff as you decline. Whoop-Up Drive in Lethbridge is comparable in pain, due to the fact EVERYONE driving sees you and thinks you are a complete idiot. It feels like that hill never ends!
Then, there is the trail from the river bottom up to Scenic Drive in Lethbridge. I always saw it when I’d drive down Scenic Drive, but since its on the south side, I never ran it. I live on the West side of town. Lethbridge is split into two pieces by the Oldman River, so anything on the South/North side is more of a pain to get to. I usually just do my runs in the neighborhoods and parks close to my house, so I don’t have to drive anywhere. This allows me to avoid this hill.
My first time up this hill was this past October, 2012, when I did the Bare Bones Half Marathon. I didn’t train for this run ahead of time, stupidly registering for it a few weeks prior after hearing about it from some teachers at school. The run was put on by Runner’s Soul and it benefited the Lethbridge SPCA. The race started in Softball Valley, heading south along the river, and at about mile 4 or 5 we hit the hill up to Scenic Drive.
Since I was at race pace, I really did not want to slow down. It was extra tough to keep moving since there were not many half marathon runners in this race to keep you pushing. You start with an incline that looks roughly 60 degrees, then it flattens out. You hit the last incline of about 45 degrees, then you are on Scenic Drive. Your legs burn like hell, but at least you’ve made it.
Today, with marathon club, we did this hill. I realized the hill was part of the run when looking at the Runners Soul webpage last night. http://www.runnersoul.com/admin/resources/4.5mile-7.2km.pdf I almost missed the run today too, because I’m an idiot and set my alarm for 6:45 am…only to then realize at 7:35 am it was set for ‘weekdays only’. I bolted out of bed, got ready in ten minutes, and made it to Runners Soul on time for the run. If I had just stayed in bed and tried to tackle the 6.5 miles on my own today, I wouldn’t have gone and done that hill. This forced me to do some hill training.
It was my second meeting with this monster. For the training run today, we headed down 10th Ave to the top of the hill, descended into the river bottom, only to immediately turn around and head back up. I now know that this hill is 0.6 miles, at least according to my Nike+ SportWatch GPS. Also, in looking at the elevation map after uploading my run, it looks like the river bottom elevation is 2742 feet above sea level, and Scenic Drive is 2962 feet ASL. That makes it a 220 foot climb in elevation in the 0.6 miles. And it burns the whole way.
The whole route today was 4.5 miles. I needed to do 6.5 for my own training calendar, so after getting back to Runners Soul and having a water break, I made the lonley trek to Henderson Lake and did a 2-mile loop. It was flat. But it was boring. I kind of wished I had been back at Grandad’s Bluff for revenge….kind of….