Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My First 7 Mile Race - Run the Bluegrass

You all. I did it. I know for many runners, 7 miles isn't a big deal. But for me it was a huge deal. Let's rewind a bit. Before I had Adalyn I had been running for a couple years and had just told my girlfriends that I would train with them for a half marathon. (Thankfully I hadn't actually signed up for it yet.) I can still clearly remember the day Billie and I went on an 8 mile training run. I remember feeling weird and not knowing why. The next day I took a pregnancy test and yes, I was pregnant. I tried running while pregnant, but that didn't last.

Fast forward 3.5 years. Jonathan was signing up to run the Run the Bluegrass Half and asked if I wanted to sign up for the 7 miler. Even before kids, the longest race I ever ran was a 10K (6.2 miles). Plus it is a known fact in the running community that Run the Bluegrass (RTB) is one of the hilliest and most difficult races you will ever run. Sounds fun, no? I decided it would be a good goal for me so I let him sign me up. But I was scared!!!

Fast forward to last fall when I was running at least 3 times a week and feeling really strong. RTB joined with the Derby Mini to do a race series where you could get an additional medal for completing both races. And RTB still had the ability to change races from a 7 to a half. I seriously was considering switching it. I felt confident in my running. But I didn't make the switch. I decided to just keep with the 7.

Then December hit. And the most miserable winter decided to hit the bluegrass state with wrath. I'm pretty sure it was making up for the lack of snow for so many years. There was so much ice that I just wasn't willing to try to run outside. So I took a bit of a break...that turned into about two months. When I started back running in February, it was like starting from zero. (So thankful I hadn't switched to the half.) I seriously was running 2 miles at a time and it was so frustrating. I was also nursing an injury from January when I tried to run with Lindsy at the Lakehouse.

Thankfully I was able to get enough training in before the big race and as of the weekend before, I had run 6 miles in my neighborhood. Now, by most people's standards my neighborhood is quite hilly. (I have proof of elevation from my gps watch!) So I thought I was doing well to train on the hills. Little did I know what the hills in RTB would be like. I honestly don't even have a description for them.

The week of the race arrived and it was supposed to be sunny and nice on that Saturday. The closer to the day we got, the colder and wetter the forecast was. It ended up being 100% chance of rain with a temp in the 30's I believe. I had joked earlier in my training that in order to conquer the hills I had heard about, I needed near perfect running conditions. I honestly don't know if there could be WORSE running conditions than what we ran in on Saturday. It was absolutely miserable. I am thankful that it was only slightly sprinkling while we were waiting in our corrals. But when that rain came down during our run, it was so windy that it was an angled rain.

The week of the race a girl I know from church noticed my pace on fb and realized we had a mutual friend who had the same pace who was running the 7 miler. I was so thankful to hook up with Nikki before the race. We stuck next to each other the entire race. It was so helpful to have someone next to me pushing me to not ease up on my pace. There were some really congested spots in the beginning of the race before the half runners split off to a different street. I would start weaving through the crowd and when I would pop out on the other side, Nikki would still be by my side. It was awesome.

Let me just state for the record that the hills were more than killer. (And the 7 mile course didn't even have the biggest hill!) I'm pretty sure there were zero flat stretches. If we were not running up a hill, we were running down a hill. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. (And my shins and calves were feeling it later that night even with my compression sleeves on.) There was a huge hill about halfway in that seriously almost made me stop to catch my breath. It HURT. That's when I'm glad Nikki was there. I didn't want to slow her down so I just sucked it up and kept going.

I had to add this elevation map. (This is obviously for the entire 13 miles but you get the idea.)
See? I wasn't being dramatic. There is not a flat portion in there! You can see where those two halves almost touch and that is where the 7 mile course connected. (We just did that bottom loop.) It makes me long for the flatlands of Ohio. (Except then I'd miss the beautiful scenery of the world-renowned horse farms.)

As we were rounding the last turn and we could hear a band playing (even in the pouring rain) it was the best feeling knowing that I did it. Nikki and I crossed the finish line together and it was amazing! We finished with a time of 1:10 which gave us a 10:00/mi pace which I was pleased with considering the conditions we had run through. I finished 82nd overall and 10th in my age group. I was actually hoping for a 1:15 finish, so I was happy that I did better than my goal! Here is a picture from the race photographer. (Not flattering! But I was sprinting to the finish and giving it everything I had left in me.)
(I never run in a hat. I didn't even own one and actually had to buy one at the Expo just because I knew I needed something to keep the water out of my face. But now when I see the pictures I feel like it doesn't look like me!)

Jonathan wasn't far behind me. He finished the half in 1:32 which is amazing (which put him 9th in his age group and 40th overall)!! He's an all-star! We went inside to get out of the rain and cold. We both brought dry clothes (that we checked in the gear check) but didn't feel like it would help since we would have to walk back outside and forever away to get to our car. But we were shaking we were so cold! We didn't stick around for awards even though J earned an award for improving his time over his time from last year. We got a picture in front of the official backdrop. Of course since it was inside the lighting was poor and I had my hat on so you can't see my face:)

We did ask someone to take a picture with my phone, which I think ended up better than the official pictures.
 And after we made what seemed to be an unending journey to our car, I took this picture to show what the weather was really like that day. HORRIBLE!
We received a discount code for next year's race. Is it crazy that I'm actually pondering whether I want to sign up for the half? I mean, those hills are still in my recent memory. Am I crazy that I am thinking about doing that course plus 5 more miles?? Probably. But next year HAS to be better weather conditions. That should help. Right?? There is no description of the feeling you get when crossing the finish line after you tackle a goal that was bigger than you thought possible. Which is why I now need a bigger goal! :)

Jonathan posted these pics on instagram, but I have to share them here too. It's amazing what a difference a year can make. I remember being at J's RTB half last year and looking at the runners thinking "these are my people but you wouldn't know it looking at me." And I remember feeling like I would never be at a point where I could run even the 7 miler. I think that's why it's so emotional to me to think about how I crossed that finish line on Saturday under my goal time.
 (Look at that beautiful sunny day and my tiny babies!)
I am so glad that I took my health seriously last May. It's amazing the difference a year can make! I wish the kids could have been there this year but it was just too cold/wet. Maybe next year they will be there to cheer us on!
And now we both have medals hanging around our necks! 


Murdock's mama said...

So're a rockstar! I'm training for my first half right now and I have TONS of anxiety! :/

Jonathan said...

I'm so proud of you Abby! Proud that you have "gotten back on the horse" after babies, after injuries, and you finished your goal. I love running races with you and can't wait for many more. I'm one proud hubby to say the least.

Lindsy said...

OK, first of all - mission complete! Awesome and awesome: check, check! Second of all, I really like the really: super cute. I love running in hats because it = no headaches post race from squinting. I'm so happy you beat your goal and can I just say my breath caught in my chest when I read your comment about last year: "these are my people but you wouldn't know it looking at me". I swear all of us runners have been there (especially us Mommies). I remember specifically after Grey thinking "I just don't know if I can do this anymore" and yet I did and so did you - it's just amazing. Keep up the good work. Let's do the half!!!!

Janine said...

You, my friend, are a ROCKSTAR. Super proud of you and I know you are super proud of yourself! Way to accomplish that goal. And heck yea, you can do the half! No problems. :) You did this, you can do that. And I love the hat on you, too. I think you look authentic! Ha!