Over the past few weeks, you've read about my trials and frustrations at The Year of Awesome getting derailed. The house has simply worn us out and we've missed out on a lot of things that we didn't in the past. While fitness has always been in our mind, we've both just struggled with being able to get it on track. It's not that we didn't want to - it's simply just not a high priority. Getting our house in order has been priority number one.
So when we found out the race medal for the Dino Half Marathon was a T-Rex, we both grumbled at the thought of doing this race again. After all, last year's race didn't go all that well for either of us. Both going in undertrained, horribly organized, late scrambled eggs at the hotel. It just was simply something we didn't want to do again. But the T-Rex medal pulled us in. So we registered together and wondered how we were going to pull this off. You all know our training has been miserable and we fully accepted that this race was going to SUCK! I told T at one point if I hit 2:40:00 I would be happy. More on that later.
We got a later start than we wanted thanks to me arriving a bit late from a day trip I picked up. Leaving Denver for the drive, the temps were in the low 50's and the rain was falling. If you haven't been following along with our weather in the Rockies, we're dealing with a ridiculous amount of water falling. Seriously, California is begging for water, and we'd be glad to send it to them. It was a dreary, depressing way to start the trip. As we slugged our way into the mountains, it cleared up slightly, but was still cloudy for most of the trip.
Arriving in Vernal, we drove to the hotel that had packet pick-up. Believe it or not, it was less organized than last year. Both T and I were just shaking our heads, practically laughing at the idiocy of us attempting to do a 1/2 marathon this early in the season with nearly no training. We checked into our hotel and went to a bar for dinner. Normally, we do breakfast before a race, but we've thrown that out as of late. In fact, I had a beer. My mind at this point went into "DILLIGAF" mode.
I don't even remember the alarm clock going off. I didn't want to get up, that's for sure. T kicked my butt out of bed into my race clothes, and she contemplated what to wear. We made it down to breakfast at like 6:04 and mercifully, there were eggs and bacon available for consumption. I grabbed a plate and just took it with me to the school where the buses would be taking us to the start.
We pulled into the parking lot and unlike last year, there was a bus waiting. We sprinted onto it and sat down. When we were underway, I realized that I left my normal race shirt in the car and wouldn't have an additional layer. Being that it was ridiculously cold, I lamented not having it. Mercifully, T brought a space blanket that we would share while waiting for the race to start.
When the bus stopped at the start, we saw a couple fire pits that were roaring. Up in the hills, we saw what looked like frost, but realized later was snow. T jumped into the porta-potty line while I attempted to get warm by a fire. Realizing that the race organizers were attempting to keep the fires going with wet 2x4's and kerosene, I bailed quickly and huddled with T under the space blanket. We huddled for warmth and waited for our turn in line.
After I got the porta-potta out of the way, I saw that some race organizers were making hot chocolate. I grabbed a cup for warmth. Not to drink, just to hold. It helped. I estimated the temp in the low 40's, and saw that there were clouds moving into the canyon. It began to spit precipitation about 10 minutes before the race.
We finally lined up and got ready for the start. The air horn this year was more pronounced and we were underway.
Last year, we killed the opening mile with an 8:55 per mile. We were determined this year to be smarter with pacing. Both T and I went much slower in the opening mile, keeping it at a conversational pace. We hit the sign and my Garmin showed 10:14. I was happy and for the first point in the race, smiling.
In mile 2, we very very slightly picked it up, but neither of us feeling it. We were keeping it conversational and actually enjoying the run. The bit of precip that was falling earlier by this point had stopped. And unlike last year, I was feeling the race being downhill. 9:53 in mile 2.
In mile 3, we did more of the same. Feeling great, I began to wonder what was happening to me. 9:48
Mile 4 I began feeling the first need to pee, but I was fine. We kept going. 9:55
Mile 5 we walked for the first time, on the first big uphill of the race. We nearly made it up the hill, but fell just short. We weren't bummed though; in fact, both T and I were in great spirits. This was a slower mile than any of the previous but ironically felt the fastest of them all. 10:34
In mile 6, I finally stopped to pee. I apologized to T, but she didn't have a problem with it at all. We got going again, still in great spirits. 10:09
Mile 7 I began to feel the effects of the race and lack of training. My hips began hurting and my calves too. Mentally though, I was feeling very strong. Simply put, I was stunned at what I was putting out. I figured by this point, I'd be crumbling. Not at all. 9:58
Mile 8 T expressed her concern about her hips as well. We began to walk a bit more, falling apart a touch. 10:38.
Mile 9 was a dig-deep mile. The race was becoming a grind and T expressed how hungry she was. She came up with a term for it, but I forget what it is. 10:40.
In the 10th mile, we stopped at the aid station for orange slices. Manna from heaven, I swear. We were both hurting a bit, but instead of other races, where I voice my frustrations and turn negative, on this day, I was not. I was elated at what I was running, even if I was slowing down. 11:57
In mile 11, I began to wonder what was possible. I knew a PR was out of the question, and I wasn't going to beat my 2nd best 1/2 marathon time (2:15:48), but I thought if I ran well and smart, I would beat the time from last year. I could even crack 2:20:00, which would be huge redemption from my lousy Vegas run. 11:19
In mile 12, T began to pull ahead of me consistently, being slightly stronger than I. I didn't mind though; I wanted her to run her race at this point. She patiently ran with me though. I'll be honest though; at this point neither of us was smiling. We were both digging deep mentally. 11:36
The final 1.1 miles was hell. T by this point was ahead of me and there was no way I was catching her. Again though, I didn't mind. I looked behind me and saw the 2:20 pacers. I knew that if I walked, I wasn't going to crack the 2:20 mark. So I settled into a pace that I knew I could hold, held it, and vowed to not make a break for the finish until it was right.
Turning the last corner, I picked it up slightly, keeping the 2:20 pacers in front of me. I passed 4 people in the chute, stepped on the mat, and pumped my fist, knowing I achieved something pretty spectacular.
Total race time - 2:18:30
T and I were both elated at what we did. We got back to the car and I began shivering. I think the emotion of what I had just done + the lack of food + the actual temperature got to me. T forced me to the food line, where all there was was watermelon and orange slices and bananas. I forced them down and they tasted awesome. We got some pictures and headed back to the hotel.
I would be lying to you if I told you I thought this was possible. Like I said, I figured I'd pull a 2:40 and be happy. I think there were two big things that made the difference this time around: one is that mentally, I wasn't stressing about doing well in this race. I just took it for what it was. Two is that I'm stronger than I think. The first 3 months and two weeks of April were very good fitness wise. Even though I wasn't running a lot due to injury and whatnot, my fitness grew quite a bit and it paid off.
The best part is I'm suddenly motivated again. I'm motivated. I want to work out. I want to balance everything. It's time, and I know I can do it. It's time to get back to what I was doing.