Saturday, April 13, 2013

6:33 PM
As mentioned in my last post, today I ran my first half-marathon of 2013. It was, hands-down, one of my favorite races of all time. Starting with an absolutely gorgeous day spent in a beautiful place, and ending with my daughter running the last 100 yards through the finish chutes with me, holding my hand. Towering redwoods, duff-covered trails, and supportive runners as icing on the cake. My legs are sore, but my heart is soaring.

Because it is sort of ridiculous, but most likely mirrors the general experience of many others, I will take you through the lead-up and execution of the race.

First, Some Basic Facts:
Race: Woodside Ramble, April 13, 2013
Location: Huddart Park, Woodside, CA
Distance: 13.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,100 Feet

The Pre-Race Experience:
The taper: 
Who has time to taper if you haven't adequately trained? Rather than adhere to any sort of pre-race, rest day protocols, I met a friend to do a 6-7 miler through the Presidio on Friday morning. It was a great run, with amazing views and a conversation that helped me start to sort through some life decisions. The timing wasn't ideal, but the run was. Same for the afternoon spent chasing after the kids at the soccer field and the pool.

The good night's rest
This is how Friday night went for me:
  • 8 PM - Kids in bed. Begin discussing evening plans with husband. Review movie options and disappointingly find that none of the movies we are interested in seeing are shorter than two hours. Decide that I am exhausted and would like to get as much sleep as possible and so will go to bed early.
  • 9 -11 PM - Lay in bed awake.
  • 11 PM - Son wakes up. It takes an hour for the husband to get him fully settled and back to sleep. 
  • 2 AM - Daughter hits me on the head to wake me. She has misplaced the plastic ring she got during her swim lesson and wants me to find it for her.
  • 3 AM - Ring is found and daughter is asleep, but I have been lying awake because I am now hungry. Finally get up and have a granola bar and glass of soymilk.
  • 6:15 AM - Son (not to be confused with sun) is up for the day - therefore, so am I.
  • 7 AM - Make pancakes for everyone. Notice too late that we have no maple syrup. Improvise with whip cream and strawberries. Not sure this is great pre-race fuel, but have no time or other options.
  • 8 AM - Pile family in car to drive to race, which thankfully starts at the perfectly reasonable time of 9 AM.

The Race Experience:
How Could You Not Love Running Here?
Huddart Park is a huge county park, with an absolutely amazing trail network. Several races are held there every year, everything from 5Ks to Ultras. Although it has literally been in my backyard for years, I have only ever run there once before. Huddart is known for its Redwood Trees, which indeed were majestic during today's race, with  bright sunlight filtering through their branches to make the moss and ferns glow.

The race started with a short trot down a grassy knoll.  I made a rookie's error and didn't sprint my way to the front of the pack before the trail tuned into a tight, switchbacky, downhill singletrack. Instead, 1-minute into the race I found myself stuck 15 back from a "I could care less how fast I am going" dude who happily let the gap between him and the front runners widen as he cruised along. I heard someone behind me trip as they struggled to pass. Five minutes later, warmed up and actually feeling pretty good, the competitor in me woke up and I decided that I had actually come to race. I started passing folks, talking to them as I came up behind them and edged past on tight turns. After a couple of harrowing minutes, I could finally find my stride and spent the next 15 minutes skimming along as the trail widened to follow a woodsy stream.

At about twenty minutes into the race, the course began switchbacking uphill, and I slogged through the tough climb to the summit for the next hour. The benefit of coming from behind was that every couple hundred yards or so, I had a new "rabbit" ahead of me that would inspire me to keep pushing. Near the top, I chased down three runners who had taken a wrong turn and called them back onto the course.

At about mile 8 (there were no mile markers on the course and I wasn't wearing a GPS watch) the climbing was mostly done. I hit the turnaround, and then pointed all 130-plus pounds of me straight downhill and let gravity do the work for the next 3ish amazing miles. Mile 11ish was brutal, with about a 5-minute climb where my legs felt rubbery. Thankfully though, with the exception of a few more short and steep uphill sections, the rest of the way home was downhill or flat. I burst out of the woods to finish the run on the same grassy knoll where we had started and there was my little family*, waving and cheering for me. My daughter, running barefoot, intercepted me in the home stretch and we finished the race together. That moment, and the whole experience, was amazing.

As I told my daughter as we drove away today "Mommy feels awesome because she knows that she did her best today. Mommy didn't win and she wasn't the fastest, but she had fun and did her best and that is all that matters".

The Glorious Aftermath
* It should be noted that while I raced, my family was happily able to hang out on a beautiful grassy hill/field and play on a great little play structure. They were also warmly invited to partake of the race snacks and other goodies. All in all, they (and the other spectator families that were hanging out) had a great time too.

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  1. Ah - the life of a Mom! I can totally relate. Makes it challenging to prep for endurance events, but still totally worth it. Way to go, you are an inspiration!