Lessons to be Learned
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Over the last 4 weeks I have done 3 half marathons – Nashville’s Country Music, Colorado Colfax and Ottawa in Canada.
As I approached Nashville my goal of walking a 3:15 race was in my mind. Even though my training was less than I aim for I was pretty certain that I would at least meet my previous best of 3:17 with the hopes of beating it. I had checked the elevation chart which showed just small short hills, the temperature was supposed to be cool which would combat the humidity. Coming from Denver and a dry climate it doesn’t take much humidity for it to affect my endurance.
On race day we (my husband and I) were up plenty early (or so we thought). We left the hotel giving us an hour to go 6 miles to catch a bus that would give us an hour before the start of the race to just hang out and relax. But the best laid plans…. The first 2 miles went quickly then everything STOPPED except for time. It took us 2 hours to go the final 4 miles and park. Luckily, we caught the second to the last bus which actually left at the time that the race was supposed to start. On the bus ride we were able to “relax” a little. I figured a faster race was still possible. But “Murphy” was in control of the universe that day. The elevation chart was shown so small that it didn’t do the course justice – there were hills, long substantial hills. At 5:15 a.m. the temp was already 70 degrees and by 8:00 it was over 80, so much for cool. The humidity was higher than expected as well. Nashville became a finish and finish well (still standing) race. I was happy with the time of 3:21:31 and the survival of the hills, heat and humidity.
Then 3 weeks later it was time to do the Colorado Colfax race. I had done this one last year and knew what to expect from the race course – uphill both ways or at least it feels that way. I met up with friends but we all knew that the race was an individual’s effort so if we split up on the course, so be it. I lost Betty early on, she ended up passing us during a potty stop and we didn’t catch her until mile 11 – she was moving. Jan and I did the whole race together, and we talked the whole way. I know talking while walking slows me down a little but I enjoyed the race so much that finishing in 3:23:15 (which was still a minute faster than last year) was fine with me.
The following Wednesday it was off to Ottawa with my son; a vacation for the two of us and another race for me. We walked almost everywhere and had a wonderful time together. For the race, I went without expectations. I knew the course had hills and though it was to be “cool” there would be humidity, also I found out there was a late start of 9:00 (I was hoping to be over ½ way by then), and coming off a race the previous week as well as all the walking around town meant “just go out and enjoy the experience.” So I walked the almost mile to the start area and hung out for about 40 minutes before the start. The gun was fired and I finally crossed the mat almost 10 minutes later. There was a breeze that kept the humidity down which helped as I climbed the many hills on the course. I had a guy (Ron) hook up with me about mile 5 because he thought I could push him so he would finish in less than 4 hours. It turned out we pushed each other. The third quarter of the course was a long, continuous uphill but the breeze was head on making it bearable. At one point Ron said we were on point for a 3:08 race which shocked me. When we turned back toward the finish with a fourth of the race to go, we lost the coolness of the wind so the temp and humidity began to climb. This part of the course had a few downs but more ups. I felt myself slowing down so I told Ron to go and finish strong. I just kept walking, watching my heart rate which climbed with the humidity. As I approached the finish line I saw my son waiting for me, taking my picture as I passed. That gave me the final energy to finish strong. I crossed the finish line and hit the stop on my Garmin. I had my chip taken off my shoe and it was only then that I looked at my “unofficial” time and to my shock and amazement it was 3:11:30! My official time turned out to be 3:11:25. Not only had I finally met the time goal I had tried so hard to reach I surpassed it, and I did it without consciously trying.
It seems as this year goes on and I continue to do my races I have been learning about myself. When our race in Olathe, Kansas was postponed due to weather and we couldn’t return to do it I realized that I really like doing races. Sedona taught me that hills are do-able and I can conquer them. Disney showed me that races are about connecting with others, something that I had lost in my previous races. Nashville showed that surviving sometimes is all that can be done. Colfax let me just have a fun race with friends. Finally, Ottawa proved that sometimes not focusing so hard on a goal allows us to meet that goal and possibly exceed our desires.
I wonder what I’ll learn the rest of the year???