I ran this same race last year in 1:57:11, which I wrote about on my old blog if you are interested in reading about it. This year, I ran a full 20 minutes slower at 2:17:12 (net time). I can’t even compare the two races though because my circumstances were completely different. Last year, like this year, I was hurt leading up to the race, but last year, I ran three weeks over 40 miles and many in the 30s in the months leading up to the race, whereas this year I have only been able to run two 20-mile weeks in the last six months. Last year, I was looking to run a very ambitious 1:45, whereas this year I was hoping to finish.
So, I was wayyy less fit, some might say injured, and generally feeling unprepared for this race. There had been a few periods leading up to it when I didn’t know if I would even be able to run the race, and it was actually still up in the air until Friday afternoon. Given all of that, I am very happy with the way things went.
Matt and I drove up to his grandparents’ cabin the day before the race. We arrived at around 3pm, visited for a bit, and then I decided it was time to see how my hip was feeling (I had taken the previous 9 days off running because it had been bugging me). We went for a short 20-minute jog and I felt spectacular, even adding two strides onto the end. That is when I finally decided I would be able to run the race.
— Rachel Leggett (@rachmleg) May 23, 2014
We then drove into Traverse City about 45 minutes away to pick up the race packets, which was a breeze. We had no trouble finding a parking spot and there were no lines, which is a huge difference from last year. At packet pick-up, they were selling previous years’ shirts for $5, so I bought last year’s half marathon shirt in a size up from the one I got last year. The shirts run small, but I didn’t quite believe them and I ordered a small that year, which looked like this…
The medium fits great. 🙂
I went to bed around 10:15 on Friday night and wake-up was at 4:15am. Somehow, I woke up at 4:14, before any alarms had gone off, which was pretty convenient. I got dressed right away and sat down with some black coffee. I also spread peanut butter on a plain bagel to bring along and eat at 6am.
We got out the door at 5:15 and Matt’s mom drove his dad and me to the half marathon start 45 minutes away so we wouldn’t have to take a shuttle, which eliminated a lot of stress. We stood around in the park chatting for quite a while, then I warmed up and it was time for the 7:30 start!
I started with Matt’s dad (Bryan) between the 9-minute and 10-minute pace signs, but quickly fell off. New to the course this year is an uphill section before joining the main road. I went out in what felt like a conservative pace and handled the hills just fine–I wasn’t tired at the top and felt better than a lot of the people around me sounded–yay Ann Arbor hills! After that section, I decided to continue not to push things and hung back, losing Bryan ahead of me for the rest of the race (he ended up finishing about ten minutes before me).
I ran the first 5k in 30 minutes and I was entertaining thoughts of going slightly faster, but that quickly went downhill as the course did. The course is a net downhill and by mile 5, the fronts of the bottoms of my feet were becoming incredibly painful from sliding forward in my shoes. I have had this problem before in training, but it has never been quite this painful. It felt like the bottoms of my feet were on fire and between miles 5 and 8, it got so bad that I felt like I was running on knives. I’m not exaggerating when I say every step was a mental battle and I thought I might pass out from the pain. It was a struggle to make it to the halfway point, after which I started walking quite a bit.
So there I was, around mile 7 or 8, walking (which did not hurt) and contemplating. I could either not finish, I could walk the whole rest of the way, or I could suck it up and keep going. Sucking it up wasn’t an option, but I didn’t want not finishing to be an option, either. Well, I am a forefoot striker, and I realized that if I completely changed my stride to heel-strike, kind of like a quick walk/jog, I could run and I could finish. So that’s what I did.
I ran the last five miles alternating between walking and my awkward heel-strike method. I would run a mile, take a little break, and then run again. It felt like it took forever, but this finally got me to the last mile. I told myself I would run the whole last mile, but not very far into it, I gave up and started walking. As soon as I did that, a lady about my mom’s age came up from behind me and said, “No, I have been following you this whole race and I am NOT going to beat you. Come on.” I started running again and we ran all the way to the finish on the track together, where I pulled away in the last 50 meters or so. Even though it took a push from someone else, I am very proud of how I finished as strong as I possibly could (and held on for a lot longer than I usually do). I was in so much pain at the end, from my feet to everything else that comes with being undertrained, yet I was able to push through it and finish literally as fast as I possibly could have in that situation. I had absolutely nothing left at the end.
I don’t have a picture from the finish line because I was a lot more concerned with getting hugs and eating food, but I promise I was there ;), and even though the journey was rough, I’m really glad I was able to complete this race. In time, I will get back to the level I once was at and then beyond. 🙂
(And in case you were wondering, my feet are perfectly fine, just blistered. No injuries here.)