The Wi Dells half marathon has been on my schedule for awhile but for some reason, in the week leading up to the race, I completely forgot that I was doing it. I normally try and do smart things in the week before a race, things like drink lots of water, get lots of sleep, eat good foods, do a lot of calculus and brain surgery. However, in the week before THIS race I did none of those things. (Which is strange, because I usually perform at least one brain surgery a week. Except I call it watching Glee.)
I didn’t think it would really affect my performance but it’s just weird that I literally forgot that I had a half marathon coming up in a few days. I mean, come on – it’s still a half marathon! I think because I’ve been so focused on these long, long runs on the weekend, the number 13 is – well, it’s not small – but it certainly feels far more manageable than I’ve ever viewed it before. I think I got a little complacent.
So I haul my complacent self along with my buddy Amy (freezerpop) up to the Dells on Saturday night. We pick up our race packets and stroll the expo. (all 3 exhibits) Then we decide to dine like Kenyans – pizza and beer. That’s how they do it, right?
Sunday morning arrives and oh fun – it’s raining. Oh well, more incentive to run a good race – be quick and spend less time in the rain dodging raindrops. My plan was to try and keep it at 8:30s – just stay consistent and strong for the whole race. And I came up with that plan approximately 15 minutes before the gun went off. Had I known what I was getting myself into, I might have reconsidered that plan.
You see, the Wisconsin Dells contains hills. Many of them. Many, many of them. Having not visited the dells since high school, I was not familiar with this geological information. And man, did it end up biting me in what the british refer to as the arse. I knew the entire first mile was downhill – which then meant that the entire last mile was uphill since it was an out and back course. So I knew I’d have to save some in the tank for that last final push. What I didn’t realize is that the entire course was like that.
I took it out pretty conservatively since it was a) crowded b) downhill c) raining so it was a very wet downhill. Didn’t feel like wiping out in the first half mile and running the entire thing with skinned knees. Skinned knees only look cute on 6 year old boys who have yet to develop sweat glands.
So the amazing thing is that I did actually stick to my plan of staying consistent and considering how tough it was, I’m super happy with my pace. (I managed to stay between 8:25's and 8:50 for the most part)
As we were approaching the turnaround, I started counting the women to see what place I was in. I have no idea why. I’ve never done that before but I needed a distraction and counting seemed like a good one since it’s such a difficult task for me. Just recently someone I work with sent out an email reminding us creatives to attend a workshop that was titled something like “Financial Strength and Consistency for the Non-Numbers Crowd.” I replied “Why do people always assume creative types aren’t numbers people? I can totally do math! Watch. 2+773=kitten”
So there I am, counting with no idea why. I get to the turnaround and realize that I’m in something like 58th place. I needed a goal to get me through the second half so I decided that I would try and be in the top 50. That seemed like a fun place to be.
Also occurring at the turnaround – me saying quite loudly “Seriously??!?!”
The course went down this huge long hill and then the turnaround was at the bottom of it so you had climb back UP the huge long hill. It was a bit demoralizing. And also just knowing that OH EM GEE – we are now going back through all that hill crap again. I definitely had a couple of moments of not knowing if I could make it – well, I knew I could make it but I had no idea if I’d be able to keep a consistent pace.
At mile 7 there were two girls directly in front of me, one wearing a bright blue shirt and one wearing a bright yellow shirt. They kind of looked like MnMs and since that sounded like an amazing thing to be eating while perched on my sofa watching Jersey Shore, I decided I needed to pass them asap. So we come to a downhill and I fly past them. And then the course immediately turns back up and I slowed a bit. Well, those two had the MOST consistent pace and sure enough, they passed me within about a minute. Argh. This happened a good 6-7 times. I would fly past them on the down, they’d evenly chug right past me on the up. We didn’t say a word but I know they were totally annoyed with me. I’d be too! But I wasn’t able to really work the up and I kept losing time so the only place I could make it up was to work the down and really let it go.
From about mile 11.5 to mile 12, there was this awesome long downhill that I took full advantage of. Flew down it, passed a ton of people. By this point I had kind of lost count of the women I was supposed to be picking off in order to make the top 50 – I knew I was close but I also knew I’d have to hold some off at the end. It had helped me a TON just getting to this place though. Having a reason to pick it up – even if it was a completely made up random reason – made a big difference. But by mile 12 I was having no fun. And I knew that I had a giant hill still to conquer.
I start up the hill and I’m feeling strong, just trying to keep it even and glancing at my watch counting down the minutes until I’m done. I’m also trying to hold off those dam MnMs who I know are right behind me and likely to catch me if I slow down too much. So I make it up the hill and I’m all Woo-hoo!!!! Almost there!!! I’m almost ready to cry I’m so happy it’s almost over. And then the road winds around and wait – WHAT?!?!
There’s still another hill! I had totally forgotten that the course flattened out and then went up again. ACK! RUDE!
I stopped and took a few walking steps to just gather myself and wouldn’t you know it, blue and yellow MnM chug right on by. Son of a …. I tried to stay right behind but I kept falling off the pace slightly. And then, like a donut waiting for a kid at the end of fat camp – there was the finish! Aw sweet spooning cows. Thank you! I kicked it in with everything I had left and passed the MnMs and a bunch of other people who had been plodding up the hill in front of me. And yay! I finished as the 43rd overall female! It’s so fun to hit random, mean nothing, made up on the spot goals.
Overall it was a good lesson in perseverance. And also – KNOW THE COURSE! Had I been expecting it, it might have been different. Or maybe it would have been worse since I might have psyched myself out? Who knows. All I really know is that I’m glad it’s over.
After race, I walked around, took some time to gather myself and assess the damage. In the past two half marathons I’ve done, I’ve had some pretty annoying leg cramping and pain. After Lake Country in Sept, I literally couldn’t walk down the stairs. So I’d made a pretty solid effort to increase my leg strength. It was a nice surprise to have my legs be relatively fine at the end. Made it feel like all those dam squats I’ve been doing were actually worth something.
After leaving the race, FreezerPop and I drove through the downtown area of the dells and we somehow magically wound up in a candy shop. We have NO idea how that happened. So they have one of those MnM dispensers where you can pick your own colors and guess what I got? Yep – a lovely little bag of yellow and blue MnMs. Delicious.