It was a “Sub-2 or Bust” approach. I told myself if I my 5K was over 25 minutes, I’d just enjoy the half and not race the rest of the race.
Catherine Creek is in Union Oregon. The race is a point to point race. We were to meet at Union High School, where the race director is the coach and where the $15 entry race fee (what a steal) benefits the track team. The half marathon was capped to a total of 60 runners (the max amount of people the bus can hold) and we would all park at the finish point and be bussed to the starting point.
My hubby and I woke at 6:00. We ate breakfast and made an attempt to empty our stomachs (didn’t happen). I was under the impression there were no restrooms at the finish line (which is where we all had to meet) so I was immediately worried because I really needed to use the bathroom. Much to my fortune, we were able to use the school’s restrooms.
I don’t know if all 60 registrants showed up or not, but we loaded onto the bus and headed to the starting point. There were all sorts of happy and nervous conversations happening all around me. I was thinking positive thoughts (you can do this) and knocked every single negative thought out-of-the-way.
Halfway before arriving to the starting point, the bus stopped at a State Park (Catherine Creek). Runners were given the opportunity to use the restrooms before our final destination. Some runners took advantage of the offer and others got up to stretch. I remained on the bus and chatted with my husband. I continued to repeat positive affirmations, and when a negative one managed to seep through, I sent it off with, “I’ve been given the opportunity to race again and I’m only using the past as a learning tool.”
We arrived to the starting point and I felt a rush of adrenaline surge from the top of my head to the end of my toes. There was a flow of positive energy and gratitude running through my veins. In past races, I looked around and categorized myself as either “faster” or “slower” than “so and so” runner. This time, I was not worried about “so and so” runners. I was there to write my own story, and my race, much like my life, is completely distinct from each of the runners at the starting line. And I understood that each runner was also there to write their own story from experiences completely separate from mine.
The race director (who ran the course with us and even greeted us personally) informed us there would be water stations every two miles (that’s exceptional), that the roads were not closed, so we had to run single file on certain stretches, and that we had to make two lefts during the entire race. After that, the bus driver started the watch, and we took off.
In case I haven’t mentioned, the course has a net decline of 1100′! Yes, a net decline of more than 1100 feet! The temperature was PERFECT (70 degrees), and there was a slight wind that turned into a headwind. The first three miles were totally downhill. And when I mean downhill, I mean, you are going pretty fast downhill. Some people use the word “steep” to describe the descent. but I thought otherwise. I felt the descent was ideal for running with speed and without it hurting your quads or knees (at least for me it was). My husband advised me to pace myself, but I knew I had to take advantage of the first three miles in order to give myself enough of a head start at the beginning of the race and avoid trying to make it up at the end of the race. After all, my last half-marathon was seven minutes over the two-hour mark, and seven minutes was a big gap to shave off.
The moment of truth came at 3.1. If it wasn’t under 25 minutes, I knew it would be too much of a struggle the rest of the way and I did not want to battle it out for another 10 miles. At 3.1 miles, I looked at my watch: 25:20! My immediate thought when I saw that time was, “F*%k it! I’m not giving up! I’m going for it.”
This time around, I was going to fight tooth and nail for a sub-2. I was not going to allow anything to get in the way. I had been granted 3 miles of easy running, and I was going to remain committed to my goal and not expect anything less of myself!
At the six-mile mark, I consumed a bag of Extreme Sports Jelly Beans and gulped a cup of water (perfect timing for a water station). My 10k time read 53:02, and while I had slowed down now that the course was no longer downhill, I knew sub-2 was still within my reach. In fact, a sub-2 was mine to lose at this point. I kept pushing myself mentally and visualizing crossing the finish line in under two.
My stomach cramped around mile 8, and I remembered how my stomach cramped around this same mile during the Riverton Half-Marathon back in March. I kept on running, telling myself the cramp would leave like the way it did on the same half. This time around, I did not stop. I used that moment as a learning experience. I used that memory to help me keep going.
The cramping went away. With a 5k left, I still had a two and a half-minute surplus before going over two hours. I told myself that I had to push myself and not allow my pace to get past a 9:50 minute mile. The finish line was so close and my goal was within arms reach.
“Move your legs. Breathe in, breathe out. Relax your shoulders. Shake out your arms. You’ll rest once it’s over. Step outside of your comfort zone. Give it all you’ve got. Don’t quit. Keep pushing.”
I saw the white tent and people started clapping. At 13.00 miles, I crossed the finish line. I didn’t see the time on my watch because all I could focus on was the fact my Garmin read 13.00. I kept running past the finish line with a water bottle in hand a young man handed to me. And then, after my watched read 13.1, I stopped. 1:58:48!!! I was so mentally fatigued I could barely feel any excitement. My husband, who was using the MapMyRun got exactly 13.1 at the finish line, so I am assuming my Garmin may have shorted me.
I walked back to the starting line, and thought about what had just happened. I did it! I got the sub-2 I had been trying to chase down since 2012. This was before I got pregnant, and gained 47 pounds. And stopped running because my body could not sustain the weight. And gave birth three weeks early. And fought a post-pregnancy infection. And lost 47 pounds. And lost my grandmother the same week I had to return to work from my maternity leave. And left a career I worked so hard for to move to a small town, where I knew no one. And had to start running and begin a new life amongst strangers from scratch.
There was no pomp and circumstance playing at the end of the race. There were no medals, or awards. Nobody picked me up and carried me on their shoulders. My husband and two of his co-workers congratulated me. At that moment, only my husband knew what this meant to me. And you know what, I can’t think of a more and satisfying way to capture this moment. The reward was intrinsic, and did not need recognition from anybody but myself to make it priceless.