If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I recently ran a marathon and have been kinda bummed about being sidelined with an injury. Before my marathon, I planned to run the Hill Yeah! Half Marathon on June 7th. Unfortunately my IT bands (yes, plural) had other plans. When I contacted the race director to tell him I was out, his response was, “can you run 3 miles?” I hemmed and hawed but obviously I said yes. I recruited two of my favorite gal pals and together we formed team “We Run CLE.”
Last week I was still struggling with the decision to race or not. Luckily I was cleared to race by my chiropractor. He told me to run 2 miles the day before the race and if nothing hurt, I should go ahead and do it. He also said that even if it started hurting during the race, the damage I would be doing would be minimal in the grand scheme of things (as compared to running on an angry IT band for 20 miles).
It was a glorious day last Thursday when I got the news that I could run. Unfortunately the gloriousness didn’t last long. On Friday I ran a mile. On Saturday I ran 2. My legs were talkin’ by the time I got to 1.8 miles. It’s like they knew I was going to race them on Sunday and just had to throw a kink into the plan. I rolled and stretched extra times on Saturday. After going back and forth all week about whether to race or not, I was not about to bail on Saturday.
Saturday evening I got my flat runner together, got all my gear and post-race necessities together, and went to bed. I woke up bright and early Sunday morning. Partook of the pre-race usual water, a few sips of coffee, and toast. I taped up my left leg, and off we went. Julie picked me up, and we met Eugenia at one of our favorite local eateries before heading to the race.
We pulled in, parked, and headed to packet pickup. We weren’t really sure what to expect. All we knew was the varying distances and who was running which leg. Eugenia was up first with 4.6 miles, starting at Lake Farmpark. I was taking the shortest leg at 3.2 miles because of my injury and potential failure, starting in Chapin Forest. Julie, our fastest runner, brought us home with 5.3 miles from Penitentiary Glen back to Lake Farmpark. Obviously we knew the course would be hilly, but since none of us were really planning on running it, we didn’t really prepare — mentally or otherwise.
As it got closer to go time, we said our goodbyes at the starting line, and then Julie and I made our way to the buses. After a few minutes, Julie and I parted ways and before I knew it, we were off to our positions at the exchange zones!
The camaraderie with the other runners on the bus was a lot of fun. I heard, while en route, that the leg we had was by far the easiest of the three. I was grateful for that since I wasn’t sure how my IT bands were going to hold up, but I felt a little bad for roping Eugenia and Julie into such a challenging race at the last minute. When we arrived at Chapin Forest, we got off the bus and had some time to kill. I was talking with the bus driver (awesome guy, one of our local police officers, and a fellow runner), some of the runners, and the owner of one of our local running stores. There was a wide range of athletic ability among the 3.2 milers. Some were [really fast] high school students, others were my age just out to have fun, and some were families (dads and middle school-aged sons).
|Leg 2’s awesome bus driver!
As the time approached 8:30, we started getting a little antsy. The bus driver guy (sorry I didn’t catch your name if you’re reading this!) turned to me and he said, “you’re getting anxious now aren’t you?” I didn’t realize it but I totally had my game face on. I knew to expect Eugenia starting any time at 8:40 or later. I got my music ready and my watch ready, and before I knew it I saw her! We completed the exchange and off I went!
|Chapin Forest exchange zone.
My leg was really fun. I honestly have never been as happy running as I was on Sunday. I had a smile on my face for almost the entire distance. I was running, and running well. I was running hard. I was pushing myself. My GPS was a bit of a fail as I didn’t have it ready to go when I saw Eugenia, so I didn’t have it for the first mile or so. I really just wanted it for pacing purposes, but I realized I was just going to have to ballpark some time and run by perceived effort.
I was passing people left and right. And I felt amazing. I felt a little guilty passing people because I’m sure they had no idea I was on fresh legs, while they had already been running almost five miles by the time I jumped in. But my legs were strong and I was in great spirits. My left leg was solid. No problems whatsoever. I have no idea when it started, but at some point my right IT band started flaring up and was threatening to lock my knee. I wouldn’t hear of it. I would not be defeated. I decided to go faster. Surely I was more than halfway through my leg, so why not. Plus going faster seemed to make the pain go away. Win-win in my book.
I haven’t run as hard as I did on Sunday since my first Fleet Feet 5K experience when I pulled a Coach Keller at the end of the race and ended up dry heaving. I think I must have been at about mile 2 when I started feeling the heaving sensation. I dialed back the speed just enough to get myself under control. But as soon as I saw the exchange zone in the distance, I pushed forward again. As I was coming in, a well-meaning volunteer was offering me water. I flew past her to Julie, gave Julie the band, and made a beeline to the side of the course in case I had to barf. Thankfully I staved off the heaving, dry or otherwise, and went to find some electrolytes. It was such a great, welcome change to push myself really hard for 3 miles instead of run really slow for 15. I forgot how much I missed the speed of a short distance. I wish my GPS had been working because I would have loved to have known my splits.
After I got myself together, I met back up with my bus buddies. We swapped stories and tips for next year (because there will be a next year), and then we got back on the bus and rode to the finish line.
|Watching Julie’s leg of the race from the bus. The hills looked enormous!
|I’m so happy! I ran!
After being dropped off, I found Eugenia and we waited by the finish line to cheer for Julie. Julie ran in strong despite having the toughest leg of the race. After we got our medals, we went to check out the post-race festivities.
|Julie bringing us home!
|Yay for an awesome relay!
It was such a fun post-race atmosphere. There were people milling about, music, the post-race food was ah-maze-ing (hello, Dorito-nachos in a bag! And fresh watermelon and popsicles!), and it was generally a really positive energy area.
If I tell you the Hill Yeah! Half Marathon was one of the best races of my life, that would be a complete understatement. I still have the runner’s high. I had a blast. I don’t know if it was because I was so amped up to be cleared to run again, or if it’s because I got to run with Eugenia and Julie, or maybe because the weather was literally perfect. Or a combination of all three? It definitely wasn’t because of a PR or anything like that. I don’t know, but it was amazing. I highly recommend this race.
After the race, Julie, Eugenia, and I celebrated with brunch at the restaurant where we parked Eugenia’s car. Mimosas, pancakes, and eggs were had by all! Another great race in the books.
I am so grateful I was able to run the Hill Yeah! Half Marathon relay, even if it was a departure from my original plan. Running short, fast, and sweet was just what I needed to get my head back in the game. Running a marathon is so different from running a 5K. I think I was in danger of approaching a burnout with marathon training and then the subsequent injuries. I really needed a good, solid race to realize how much I truly love running, and the 3-person relay was it.
Special thanks to my awesome girls, Julie and Eugenia. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to get out there at all, and I’m grateful they ran with me. It was so much fun. I miss running with you guys! We need to make this happen more often.
I would also like to thank Geoff W. for allowing me the opportunity to be a race ambassador for the Lake Health Running Series. It’s been an amazing experience thus far and these races are among the best in our area.
Speaking of races in the greater Cleveland area, there’s another awesome race coming up that I’m going to tell you about on Thursday. If you’re in for what’s slated to be a phenomenal event, save the date of August 23, 2015. You won’t want to miss it. More on that in a couple days.
Have a great day, friends!
What was your favorite race?
Why was it your favorite and what was the distance?