Last week I posted about my second half marathon road race, the Locomotive Half Marathon (read it here) and briefly mentioned the fact I had another half marathon only six days after. This weekend I pulled off a major accomplishment, I completed two half marathons in six days. What makes this so difficult is that racing raises the adrenaline and forces a runner to push harder. At the end of a race is an official time, unlike long weekend runs where its just your front door. For me, racing takes allot more work than a nice casual long run. But I was determined to try to complete these two races over six days, and in the end success was mine. The biggest difference in this second half marathon was the fact it was entirely on trails. I am much slower on trails and up to this point had only ran nine and a half miles on trails.
The race was the XTerra Thrill in The Hills 21k and 42k trail race. I got there early enough to pick up my packet and race number, meet up with friends and get ready for the run. The run started facing down a steep hill, which at first I thought we were initially going the other way. The gun went off and away we went, the half marathon trail race was starting, my third half marathon in 86 days and my second in a week. The first mile was almost entirely on asphalt as we ran to the start of the trail. Soon we were away on our way around the lake for a total of 13.1 miles or 21k of running. Unlike the week before’s race, I stuck to my 1:1 run/walk strategy tightly. I knew trails were harder on my hips, ankles and glutes and that this might be harder than the previous two road half marathons. I stuck to my intervals, powering up a few hills and extending a few downhill sections passed the ratio amount.
It was a gorgeous day and running in the woods proved a better race on the eyes. I enjoyed romping through the woods, and occasionally running along the edge of the lake the trail circumnavigated. Somewhere before mile ten the trail suddenly involved an extremely long uphill. I kept up with my run/walk intervals and got up it slowly. The miles ticked on and the day warmed, I got into a rhythm and stuck with the ebb and flow of running on trails. All the while I noticed a couple of sore spots erupt in the hips and growing soreness in my ankles as I ran. I was not sure if some of these flare ups were purely caused from running on trails or if they were build ups from racing in a half marathon the week before or a combination of both.
I just kept moving and looking at the scenery and listening to my music. By the point I hit mile eleven I was truly struggling. In either of my two previous half marathons I got tired by mile eleven, but never felt totally beat and warn out by mile eleven. On this run, mile eleven provided a sudden drain of energy. My legs were more tired than they had been in a long time. Weeks before I ran fifteen miles on the road and they did not feel this bad. While I had continued to take gels and suck on Cliff Shot Blocks, I felt huge pangs of hunger. My body wanted solid food and it was no longer happy with the constant rolling up and down terrain. Never had I felt so exhausted on any run as I had at mile eleven to twelve.
I put a foot down and just focused on running every minute followed by a walk for a minute. It became automatic, yet every footfall was beleaguered and my body wanted to quit. I only had two miles, yet I was uncertain how many miles really remained as my watch befell the trail gps curse and had started to estimate shorter distance. So I knew somewhere in the next two miles lied the finish line. I just had to push on and get there, even though I was hurting like never before.
I went up a hill and back down and then around a bend and suddenly I saw the road I had started on that morning. At the bottom of that hill was the finish line and the last section of trail. As I ran the final stretches of trail I saw my friends sitting there cheering me on to the finish. With them were two Marathon Maniacs (an organization like the Half Marathon Fanatics dedicated to running the specific distance. Both clubs have strict requirements for membership, often involving running three half marathons in 90 days or 2 half marathons in a week for entry into the Half Fanatics) I had met earlier. With the completion of this race I could now join the Half Marathon Fanatics and wear their kit, basically I now had friends at every race. I ran past and took the turn onto the road leading to the final down hill, straight into the finish line and the end of my race. In the end I was spent and worn out and I had pushed myself harder. I had beaten the four hour mark, which I earlier had figured this trail half marathon would take me over four. I had now ran two half marathons six days apart, three total half marathons in 86 days.
I did not finish last, but really close to it. I am a tortoise runner, I might even change my nickname to the Raging Tortoise. It has a nice ring. The first half marathon I was an emotional wreck because of how far I had come to finish a half marathon, even though I did deploy a system of run/walks. This half marathon I was a wreck out of sheer exhaustion. My legs and ankles were screaming from being so tired. I wanted solid food and I was emotionally spent. Getting myself past those last two miles took allot out of me. And then seeing my friends, new and old standing there rooting me on to the finish was so incredible.
Now its time to look to April and my final half marathon for the first part of the year, just before transitioning into my triathlon season in May. That is the big goal I am now working towards, the Peach Jam Half Marathon in the middle of April. March is a regather and recoup month. A time to get the mileage in without the stress of distance racing (currently anything greater than a 15k is distance racing for now, even though the minimum is slowly moving up towards half marathon distances). March will only have a night time 5k and trail pitch black in the dark 5 mile run. All the rest will focus on the final race before triathlon season begins. For now its good to know I was able to finish these half marathons and I will be able to join the half fanatics. For now I will enjoy my feeling of being a bad ass off of completing two half marathons in six days and three in 86 days. Til next time.