For my last race of 2015, I decided to run a half marathon that’s been on my “bucket list” for a few years now; the Last Chance Half. This is a trail race which goes along one of my favorite trails for long-distance training runs. There is a half marathon option and a full marathon—the full marathon does the out and back course two times. One time was sufficient for this runner.
When my alarm went off on New Year’s Eve, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and checked the weather on my phone. It was 25 degrees, with little chances of climbing above freezing at any point during the race. I knew I was in for something chilly and frosty.
I dropped my daughter off at pre-K and drove to the park where the race started. There was a cheerful crowd of trail runners congregated in the (thankfully heated) park shelter. A few minutes after waiting around, we jogged over to the start, and the race began.
As I mentioned before, I had no time goal with this race. My hope was to simply enjoy the last month of the year. Typically, before I run a half marathon, I am doing longer training runs up to 12 miles. In this case, I had done some mid-length runs (6-9 miles), but my efforts have been focused more recently on running at least three miles per day. Even though I was not going into the race with terribly long training runs, my cumulative weekly and monthly mileage is at its highest right now… even compared to marathon training. I think that net mileage helped me.
The first four miles were really about getting my engine warmed up. It took some time. I took some walking breaks. My quads were absolutely frozen and the cold air made it more challenging to take deep breaths. After the first forty minutes or so, however, I started to feel like my normal self. I proceeded to have an utterly blissful run for the remaining 9 miles, completely avoiding any walls, aches, pains, or mental distraction. It is extremely rare that I get a run in with that much time “in the zone”—but I really think that the spectacular views of the bay, frosted trails, and glistening branches in their wintery glory really helped me to remain in the present and enjoy myself.
Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line. 2:26—not shabby! This was 6 minutes slower than my last half marathon in September, but the difference was that I finished the Last Chance half with enough energy in me to feel like I could run the 5-6 miles home. This is a good sign for my long distance training this winter and spring, as it means that my goal toward cumulative mileage and regular shorter distances is paying off, even with long runs.
The next day, I woke up and ran two laps around Lake Padden with my running buddy extraordinaire, Private Robot (my nickname for her). We celebrated the beginning of what is sure to be a great year for running. We are both strong and determined, and I am really proud of us both for sticking with our respective running practices, even through some illnesses, injuries, and life circumstances. Running is amazing medicine.
The next evening, we did a headlamp trail run in our neighborhood, which was really fun. The day after that, we attempted a 6 mile “airport loop” that I swear is cursed. Every time we do this run, it either rains buckets (one time we were actually scared we might be struck by lightening) or something else crappy happens. This time, it was just really hard. In retrospect, I think the poor air quality (lots of really cold clear days without any wind) was impacting us, as well as tired muscles. But hey—we pulled through and did the miles, even if it wasn’t pretty.
Last night I ran my regular 3 miles, and I plan to do so again tonight. Nothing longer than that planned until the weekend, when I might do 5 or 6 miles one of the days.