You know that feeling when suck at running and think running a half marathon at altitude will make you feel like you don't suck? Bad idea in general. This morning I ran the Buffalo Thunder half marathon. While I did very well (a new PR at altitude! - I credit coach Liz for kicking my ass with run workouts), it was a VERY painful race. When I signed up for this race I figured it would be "easier" because it is mostly downhill. WRONG! The course starts in Santa Fe at an elevation of 7000 ft, then for 2 miles you ascend to 7300, and over the last 11 miles it is downhill until you reach 6000 ft in Pojoaque (see course profile below). Not so bad right?
I spent most of the week feeling super crappy, so I was surprised I actually felt very strong during the first two miles. I just tried to ease into the race and not blow legs in the first half hour. The fun part was that I passed (gasp!) quite a few people going up (guess those hill repeats are good for something). I was so excited when the downhill started! It is actually a pretty "steep" hill and my friend had warned me that this part will just hurt your legs. Sure enough around mile 7 I started to feel my quads tightening up, but I was still holding under goal pace, so I continued at that pace. I was pretty stubborn and did not want to ease up. The trouble came in the last 3-4 miles, when the course is rolling. Holy crap, just trying to get my legs to move up those little hills took everything out of me. They were deceptive assholes. My quads were rubber bands at this point and I was basically in survival mode. I knew I was close to a PR, so I just kept pushing (Coach Liz told me to gut it out, and I almost literally gutted it out) even though my pace falling off the last 3 miles. I am honestly shocked I didn't fall over, because I am pretty sure my legs were tight enough that I looked like a robot running. I counted down each tenth of a mile and just wanted that PR so bad. When the finish area came into view it was like it was taunting me - I saw the clock ticking and felt my legs failing. Awesome. Somehow, I managed to find some kind of second wind and was able to cross that line a minute under my previous PR. Although I didn't go the goal time I wanted to go, I knew I gave all I had and had nothing left when I finished. Mission accomplished, another half in the books.
Random things I learned about this race:
1. I actually raced according to my race plan. Finally, I am learning how to run.
2. I am actually improving in running
3. I absolutely hate when someone starts talking to you during a race. I can barely breathe when I run, so talking to you makes it worse. (I had to take my inhaler twice over the course of the run - the air is rare up here)
4. I hate when people are super loud coughing up crap next to you. Seriously bro?
5. The course was absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend it just for the views. Also, there were some great world class runners at this half - the guy who won held 4:46 pace. Gross.