Yesterday I raced for the first time in quite a while and it went....well. Surprisingly well. Especially for being a half marathon, on technical trail, & full of hills! Before the race started I scoped out the competition and picked out a few women who I thought could be in it to win it. I lined up at the start right behind them and figured I'd take it out at their pace and see how long I could hang on.
There was just under a mile of paved road before the single-track trails started and one woman got off to a pretty swift start. So I followed her b/c I thought, "Hmm, this could be the race right here." My Garmin is still broken so I really have no idea how fast we were going. We got onto the trails and I stayed behind her, probably about 30 sec back. However, after a while I felt like I was going a little too hard and decided to back off around 2.5 miles and settled into my own pace b/c I was getting a side cramp - not a good thing that early in the race (or ever really).
At 3.5 miles the trail broke onto more pavement for about a quarter mile and I could see that I really hadn't lost much ground. This was encouraging and as we got back onto the trails I noticed I was gaining on her. Of course this was exciting! It took me until about mile 8 to fully close the gap and I ran right behind her for a mile or so. Then the trail broke into a wider grassy section and she motioned for me to go ahead of her. I really didn't want to b/c I was tired and content to just run at her pace. I wanted to stick behind her for a while then race the last 1-2 miles. However, she wasn't having any of that, so I made the pass with about 4 miles to go. I kept an honest pace for the next mile and we passed 1 guy and caught another who tagged onto us. My legs were hurting but I could tell she was breathing harder than I was so I was pretty sure I could pull out the victory.
We got to an aid station before starting the last trail section and I took a swig of water. I had planned on eating a gel every 30 minutes but my stomach wasn't up for it. I am not used to working at such a high intensity and I felt like I was going to vom from miles 11-13. Anyhow, after the aid station, the woman behind me slowed and the guy and I put a bit of a gap on her. I let the guy take a turn leading, though his draft smelled terrible, and finally when I noticed that the other woman was creeping back up, I re-passed him.
By mile 12 I was very fatigued! I must have hit a root or something b/c I took a pretty hard fall. The guy behind me was like "Whoa! Are you ok???" I got up as quickly as I could b/c I didn't want to concede any time to 2nd place. Thankfully I only had some superficial scrapes on my knee & elbow.
Now, before the race started, the race director informed us that the half marathon was a little long, more like 13.5 miles rather than 13.1. I got to mile 13 in 1 hr 28 minutes and was so thankful to know that at absolute max I probably only had 4 more minutes of running! However 4 minutes went by and the trail kept going. I was like, "OK, 2 more minutes max." Two minutes later, no end in sight... Finally, a full 11 minutes later I reached the finish line!!!! Craziness! I felt completely beat and the volunteers at the finish said "You don't look very good." Gee thanks. Actually, the volunteers were very helpful - they cleaned up all my cuts and filled my hands with pretzels, bananas, water, & soda, which was all much appreciated!
All in all, I was happy with this race considering my state of fitness and level of training leading into it. I had fun, got to run a race I've always wanted to do, and even came away with the win and a respectable time. It definitely motivates me to train more and I'm already trying to decide what race I'm going to do next. It's gonna be another 1/2 marathon for sure, probably November time frame. I kind of like the idea of running a race on Thanksgiving morning so I can spend the rest of the day feeling completely justified in pigging out!