And then I looked to the west. You know - the west where today's race was.
The sky was decidedly angry at someone over there. I think it might have been me, since we all know that I cursed the sport of running simply by taking it up (note how many of my other races have been rained upon). But the sky has never been quite THAT angry with me before on race day...
I didn't let it bother me, though. I got up, ate my toast with peanut butter. Drank some water. Dressed in my race clothes. Added an extra shirt for good measure. Packed nice warm, dry clothes and shoes for after the race. By 5:30, I was on the highway and headed for Cochrane - an hour away.
I was most of the way through Calgary before the drops started to splat on the windshield. Of course, they started at Crowchild, where I had intended to turn off and I was distracted so I missed my turn and had to carry on to hwy 1. Finally - I was almost out of the city and it started to POUR! It was official. I was going to be getting wet today. Really wet by the looks of it.
I pulled into the Spray Lakes Sawmill Sports Centre at about 6:40 and dashed inside to see if they were handing out the bibs early at package pickup. They were - YAY! So I nabbed my bib and then they asked me my shirt size (so happy to size myself up to the small - another yay!) and they shoved my COTTON shirt into a little drawstring backpak (we already know my views on those and the sheer volume of races that are giving them away this year - at least this one was nicer and had real straps)
|(Pardon the sideways pic - I forgot to rotate before uploading and I'm lazy tonight)|
|Cotton shirt? For a half? Really?|
At 7, our group was altogether. Well, not quite all. Poor C had bronchitis and had been forbidden to run it so she wasn't there. We missed her :( We got our bibs and chips on and took some photos.
|JS, J, and Me (I really look like a dude in a hat - oy)|
Before I knew it - it was time for me to head to the start line. Outside. Where it was still pouring.
Outside the door, everyone was attempting to stay as dry as possible for as long as possible. One of the organizers spoke about how in the history of the race it has never rained (Sorry, guys. I take full responsibility). We sang the national anthem and then they coaxed us all over to the start line. Then we were off!
Within moments, I was worried that this race was going to take the same kind of turn as the Big Run had a couple of months ago. The group turned onto the grass and started to head in the general direction of the trails. When we started to tramp our way through some long grass - it wasn't feeling very official. Then, suddenly, we were on a road and heading straight for asphalt pathway. If we were off track at the start - it was quickly corrected.
The group fairly quickly thinned out. My goal for this race was to run consistently - stick to my 15:1 walk breaks and try to stay strong and at a fairly level pace throughout. Because of my treadmill dismount yesterday, I was already going a bit slower than I normally would. I still had high hopes, though. I thought maybe I could still PR. So optimistic...I hadn't hit THE HILL yet...
The path wound along the Bow River and the red shale trails were quite soggy. Running around puddles and leaping over them was slow work. At 4K, we went under a bridge that had transformed the path into a lake and in an attempt to keep my shoes dry for as long as possible - I jumped up on the fence and shimmied across...only to jump down too soon and soak my feet.
Cursing myself with every squishy step - I was now looking forward to blisters (though I did make it through blister-free. I credit my socks: the Fox River triathlon ones).
The path meandered along and through a little forest and then we were up on the highway and crossing the river to head into residential. We curved through one neighbourhood and then, just after 6K, THE HILL was in sight.
It was an awesome sight. Seeming to rise straight up! You'd wonder how cars could drive up it, let alone mere bipeds traverse it. Keeping in mind all of the hill tips I had gotten at the seminar last night, I concentrated on stepping up the hill - knees up, land soft on balls of the feet. THE HILL slowed me down a bit, but I was running strong. It wasn't killing me! After reaching the top of that section, I realized the elevation map had been a bit misleading. The worst part of THE HILL was just this part. After that, the next 4K were still inclined but it was a much gentler incline.
Right as we hit the gravel road that would take us to the turnaround point...the rain kicked it's intensity up a notch. Ok - maybe it was more than a notch. It was really coming down now! The gravel road was awash with puddles and muck. I started to feel like I was in one of those Muddy Buddy races I've heard about. Dodging puddles, I wove around that road all the way to the turnaround. About a kilometre before I got there, I accepted that a PR was not in the cards today. It was going to be a BIG accomplishment just to finish this race - battling conditions like these.
My clothes were plastered to my body and I felt like I was carrying a lake in each shoe. I was feeling good, though. I was doing my best to keep good form and stay consistent and I could feel it was helping a great deal. The volunteers were so wonderful...standing in the rain - soaked or under an umbrella - they were all smiles and cheering. Not a dour one in the bunch. These were class A volunteers and their enthusiasm and excitement was contagious. With weather like this - it would have been easy to be depressed, but each and every one of them encouraged us and cheered us on. It was really inspiring. I could see why this race always ranks high on the Top 10 in Alberta listings!
After navigating back through that gravel road, I was really looking forward to coming down THE HILL. I figured I could make up some time and have a boatload of fun...and I did. Following what I'd learned last night - I went tiptoe and full tilt and FLEW down that sucker! A quick glance at my Garmin told me I was going about 3:10/KM WHEEEEEEE! At the bottom, one of the volunteers called out to me "Wow! That was really impressive!" My hill learning had really paid off for me!
Then it was back through that residential and back onto the shale paths to head through the last 6K to the finish line. I was still feeling really good. No oddball pains. No knee issues. A little hip tightness, but I think that was just from holding my hips forward further than normal. The paths were MUCH soggier than I'd left them an hour before and the surrounding grass that had been my savior on the way out was now a soggy marshland. There was no keeping the shoes dry now. I just tried to stay away from the marshier parts and, if I had to, I'd go right through the puddles. I was just focused on finishing.
It wasn't easy, that last 6K. My mind started to really mess with me. I did take a few extra walk breaks during the next 3K. I got a good laugh on one of them, when I looked down and saw foam around my knees! Guess my washing machine isn't so good at getting all the soap out! There was even a point where I wondered if it was all worth it and I just wanted to sit down. It was at that moment that my inner medal whore kicked in and kicked my ass into gear. THE FOOT MEDAL! WHen I get to the end, I get the foot medal that was my reason for signing up in the first place!!!
Like a woman possessed, I took off. I was going to finish this race and get my medal. My mantra became "foot medal. foot medal. foot medal." Suddenly, I was in the homestretch. I could see the sports centre and was heading in for the win. Well - it was really just a finish - but doing a solo half...I'm calling it a win!
They had corrected the course on the way back so I didn't need to tramp across the grass again...it was all road and then into the parking lot and up to the finish line. I knew JS would be gone already (she had family commitments), but I didn't expect that J would be waiting outside to cheer me in! So awesome! I wouldn't have blamed her if she'd just wanted to get home to get warm and dry again! (Thanks, J)
The finish line volunteers handed me my highly coveted foot medal and I looped it over my head and went inside! J snapped a quick pic of me to show just how drenched I really was:
|One soggy momma|
Oh - my official finish time was 2:27:07. Nowhere near a PR, but an accomplished race nonetheless.
And my super cute foot medal:
Would I do it again? You betcha. It's a beautiful course and I had fun. I'd probably even do it in the rain again!