Right around Mile 7 I wanted to cry. In the general scheme of things, this is not unusual for me in a half marathon. At some point in a 13.1-mile race, I am going to want to cry. Occasionally I actually do cry. On Sunday, I was at the brink.
I wasn’t anticipating so many hills. Then again, I didn’t do much recon work. And while I’ve run courses with much more climbing and painful hills, if you’re not expecting that particular challenge, it can wreck havoc with your mental game.
It was at Mile 7 that I begged my friend Sue to stay with me. She agreed. Ninety seconds later, I was back in a better frame of mind. It was only a 90-second melt down, during which I kept running while I sorted myself out mentally. And that may be one of the ultimate wins of the day.
The first mile of the Lucy Town Half Marathon loops through downtown Jamestown and after a big downhill is a big, steep uphill. The race then takes you out along the lake on a very pretty route. I was feeling great, working my intervals and staying focused on how I wanted to run. A brief shower dumped about three minutes of rain on us, but the clearing provided a magnificent rainbow, which felt like a blessing from Lucille Ball herself.
I felt OK at Mile 5. Then the mid-course hills started. They were rollers, but more challenging than I was planning on facing. You know how Lucy had that loud, whiny cry? Cue that. Because that is exactly how I felt. After Sue graciously agreed to stay with me, I talked myself off the ledge by repeating my key phrases of the day. Be great. Kiss the ring. (I would explain, but it wouldn’t be nearly as amusing to you as it is to me. Suffice it to say my “happy place” phrase was an inside joke that made me smile.)
We slowed up a bit and disregarded our intervals. The goal was to just run. Thankfully there was a gradual downhill until Mile 9 and we were able to settle into a nice, steady pace, one that felt pretty good and fairly strong. In fact, after my 90 second breakdown, I started to feel better and stronger, able to pick it up in some places.
I still felt steady and strong by Mile 10. Just a 5K to go. But those last three miles were grueling. It was an endless gradual uphill. I tried to stay strong, but it kept getting harder. I knew there was one more water stop at Mile 11 and it was the best water stop of the day. The teenage girls were shouting encouragement. They looked me in the eyes and told me to dig deep, that I was doing great, that I had this. I needed every ounce of their energy and enthusiasm for those last two miles. Not only were we going slightly uphill (and trust me, at this point in the day a long gradual uphill sucks as much as a tough hill) but then entered a strong, gusty headwind.
“Are you kidding me?” I shouted, albeit with a few more profanities sprinkled in for good measure. “This looks endless.” The road stretched in one long, uninteresting line. And I knew what was waiting for us in the last half mile of the course — a long and steep uphill. Yep. An uphill finish. At this point I was at peace with power walking the steep parts. Sue waited for me at the top and we busted out the last 0.1 of the race together, sprinting as hard as my legs would carry me. I didn’t have much left. But what I had, I gave.
Confession: In the immediate aftermath, I was disappointed with time. It was the frustration of not having the result match the effort put in during training and during the race.
And thus came the most important lesson of the day — that measuring success and validating yourself through external measures is a dicey proposition. Because in reality, that was just one very small slice of the entire experience.
Overall I loved the Lucy Town Half Marathon. It was a beautiful course, well-marked and well-staffed with volunteers. The water stops were exactly where the website said they would be. (Although I could have used a sports drink. They were water-only stops. And I could have used one more in the second half of the race, but that may have been just my brain in whiner mode at the time.)
The course was fun. The people were great. There were runners dressed like Lucy while the route was dotted with quotes from Lucille Ball. My personal favorite was one I saw before the race: Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
The theme of the race was Live. Laugh. Run. I may borrow that as my own race day credo from now on.