I know this will come as a huge shock, but if you ask a bunch of crazy runners if it’s a good idea to run a race, chances are good they will all say yes. I had a hard time committing to running the Gusto Challenge on Sunday mainly because I wasn’t sure if an 8:00 start was a good idea and I hate running out and back courses because I get bored easily. Really though, I’m not sure there was any doubt I would run it, just whether or not I’d enjoy myself. Turns out, I’m glad I forked over the cash for this “training run.”
I signed up at the last minute, the online cut off was 4:00 and I think I finished registering around 3:00. I’m really good at procrastinating, it might be my only real talent. Because of this I didn’t get any of the pre-race emails, so I had to wing it. I was excited when I left the house in the early morning, there was a definite fall chill in the air. My worry over the 8:00 start time was no longer an issue because for one day Fall decided to visit San Antonio.
The race started at a small trail head along the Leon Creek Greenway and I knew parking would be crazy because the lot is tiny, so I wanted to arrive in plenty of time. I also didn’t know what time packet pick up would be, so using the whole better safe than sorry philosophy, I got to the park just after 6:00. I may have taken a tiny nap in my car until packet pick-up started at 6:45. Everyone working was incredibly friendly and helpful, and even worked hard to find me a shirt that would fit, one that I will actually be able to wear in the future.
The race started right on time, and I tried really hard to set myself up for an easy paced training run as opposed to an effort closer to race pace. I started near the back, around runners who said they were aiming for a 10 minute/mile pace, which is a pace I can keep with minimum effort and is perfect for a nice long run. Unfortunately, I kind of suck. See, there’s something you might not know about me. I’m hyper competitive, especially when it comes to racing against myself, I don’t seem to be able to put my legs on cruise control and just go with the flow. Some runs this is fine, tempo runs, for example, are a great time to run until my legs give out and I’m throwing up on the side of the road.
After the first mile, I thought to myself, “this weather is too perfect not to try to push just a little harder.” So, I did just that. I didn’t push so hard that I was winded, or that I wouldn’t have been able to have a conversation had anyone been chatty enough. I just felt really great, even though I was probably definitely running faster than I should have, especially since my plan called for 12 miles at a pace closer to 11:00. Oh well. I ran the first half of the course in 1:02 and the second half in 1:03 and I’m really bad at math (this should surprise no one), or I’d figure out my first half and second half splits. I’m actually pretty happy with that second half split, because the elevation profile was definitely better on the way out than back.
Now that I think about it, the return trip was a lot harder, I certainly felt like I was going up hill the entire time, and there was a pretty strong headwind trying to keep me down. Around mile 7 I somehow managed to pick up a tailgater (am I the only one who calls it that?) and proceeded to be his wind break for the next three miles. He was no more than two steps behind me, practically right on top of me, before I had enough and stepped off the path and pretended to tie my shoe. Sorry, not sorry, I’m not going to make your race easier and mine harder.
I have long been chasing a sub 2:00 half marathon (ok, not that long, maybe 10 months), and while I knew it wouldn’t happen on a day I wasn’t supposed to be racing, I still wanted to PR. I’m stupid crazy, what can I say? My official finish time was 2:05, a new PR by 6 minutes. Go me! I I fuelled with Fig Newtons and they were delicious, but hard to carry. I also used Salt Sticks every 45 minutes in the hopes of avoiding the running hangover, which I think did help quite a bit. I know I have many weeks of training left before the Houston Marathon, but this race definitely helped to increase my confidence in my running. I didn’t all out race this, but I did push harder than I have in my training over the last few weeks. I’m not sure how to describe it, I just feel now that double this at a slower pace isn’t going to kill me. I wasn’t so sure of that before.
This race is part of a series put on by Carrera Racing to prepare runners for the San Antonio RNR, and there is another race, the last of the series on October 27th. I’m glad I decided to run, even if it was prompted by A. being out of town and meant we missed out on my weekly long run. Fortunately she will be back next week and we can resume our weekly social hour(s).
Have you managed to successfully use a race as at raining run? I need to learn how to do this, or just stop doing races as training runs. Both ideas are probably winners.