Driving to the Colchester Half Marathon this morning I was joyful, almost tearful, at the prospect of racing again. I haven't raced since last summer when I hurt my foot/ankle running the VT 100. I almost didn't run this one because it snowed and sleeted off and on all night. But the race didn't start until 10 and by the time I had to leave all was fast and clear.
I love the Colchester Half Marathon. I used to run it back in my road running/triathlon days. Back then the entry fee was $2 and maybe 50 people used to show up. I guess folks were a lot less hardy back in the 90's. When I pulled into the parking lot at the high school 15 minutes before start time there were only a couple of spaces left. Weird. This race has gotten bigger. (And the entry fee has gone up to $12!) I think there were something like 200 or 250 starters. Which is great because the race director is wonderful and deserves every runner he gets. The course is lovely and quite hilly. It goes up and down through farm country on some lovely dirt roads. It was in places reminiscent of Vermont.
Despite all of the runners milling around in the school lobby I was surprised to not recognize a living soul. Have I been out of the game that long? I felt like Alice down the rabbit hole......all the names and faces had very suddenly changed.
Just before the start, bringing up the rear of the herd heading for the line out on the street, I found my people. There were the ultrarunners, Bogie and Nipmuck Dave, unconcerned about getting a good place in the pack, unconcerned, really, about starting with the pack at all. And then to my thrilled surprise I heard my name, turned around and there was Grace, my dear friend with whom I have not run nor talked in a couple of months. Hooray!
Grace and I started out together and ended up running the whole race side by side. Grace is faster than I am, but she hasn't been running as much over the winter and wanted to keep it fun. We had a marvelous time gabbing our heads off, keeping the pace challenging but not overly so. We both wanted to get our heart rates up, churn up the legs a little, but not so much that we finished in a heap like a couple of Olympic cross country skiers.
The first ten miles clipped by in a dream. I could not believe how quickly those first ten miles flew past us. I guess when you're used to running for hours and hours on Saturday mornings, a little ten-miler fails to register all that much. Mile 11 was a bit more challenging. It was mostly uphill (or at least I remember it as uphill) on ice. But I think we still banged out a low-8 minute mile.
Mile 12 got a bit tougher. We were back out on the paved roads, a long strait stretch, rolling, with little to break the monotony of the long line of runners stretched out in front of us. At this point putting one foot in front of the other was mostly a mental exercise. I struggled to keep my head in the game. I don't think I ate enough before the race or in the days leading up to it and I was starting to bonk.
The last mile was tough. The wheels fell off. I heaved myself up the last hill with tunnel vision and burning legs. I thought a lot about those Olympic skiers during that last mile. I couldn't talk anymore. I felt like I was slowing Grace down and told her to go ahead, but she was having none of it. "I haven't seen you in months," she said. "I'm staying with you."
Thank you, Grace. You got me up that last hill.
Our finish time was somewhere around 1:50. I don't know the exact time and cannot find the results anywhere yet. Doesn't matter. We got what we wanted: a fun run with a little extra effort at the end. It felt great to get the legs churning and burning. First time in a long time.
I was wiped out for the rest of the day. The kids and I watched the Olympics, played a few games, read some books. At 5 o'clock I went out for a slow 5-miler with Eddie to work all the nasty stuff out of my legs. That little run felt surprisingly good. And the late winter light at dusk was beautiful. I was reminded of the difficult days after our 3rd child was born 5 years ago. I was a post partum disaster, not eating, not sleeping and having one panic attack after the next. It was nightmarish. I remember dusk being the absolute worst time of the day. Night was coming and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The horrible feeling of dread would take over my head. It was scary. So as I was running I was conscious of being very thankful: thankful for my life now, and thankful for having survived that difficult year.
I highly recommend a little warm down the evening after a shorter race. It made a tremendous difference.
A note about shoes: I ran the race in my oldest, most worn out, least cushioned pair of trail shoes (Salomon XA Pro) and my foot and ankle held up beautifully. As I wrote in my last post my ankle often bothers me in road shoes (Saucony Progrid Triumph and Adidas Supernova) on the road, but not in trail shoes on the trail. Nor does it hurt in trail shoes on the road, though this is a bit uncomfortable. The trail shoes were actually perfect for the icy portions of dirt road on the Colchester course.
I am going to post a question on the Ultra list about this shoe issue. I always get great advice from the folks there. I'll let you know what I find out.