Here’s my answer: No.
I was supposed to run the Snohomish Women’s Run Half on Sunday, but the week leading up to it I started to question whether or not I should.
It started when I had a sore left shin after back-to-back runs last weekend (it went away over the week). And then later in the week, I looked up the driving directions. An hour and four minute drive each way. I started to do the math in my head.
Gotta be there early for day-of-race packet pick up…gotta park off-site and take the shuttle…so I need to leave my house at 5. I need to get up at 4:15.
My lovely friend Chelsea lives about 15 minutes from the race and offered me a place to stay, but since I felt unsure about going, I did not want to commit. I decided Saturday night that I probably wouldn’t go.
I’d been hoping to see what I could do at the half, though…speed-wise.
I want to break 1:50, but I’m not sure what I’m capable of at the moment. Since I did not go to the race, I decided to do a 10K time trial. I also felt there was less likely of a chance of injuring myself with a 10K vs. a half.
You can’t recreate a race-like atmosphere when you’re alone, though. You’re at a disadvantage because there isn’t the energy of the crowd to feed off of, or the quicker paces. You always run a little harder at a race.
But there are also disadvantages of a race. Those very people whose energy you soak up? They can also be in your way, so you may have to weave more.
Since I was running for time, I drove 20 minutes to a good starting point along the Cedar River Trail (CRT), which is a paved path that runs parallel to the Maple Valley Highway that I’ve run countless times since 2009. It is raised and it is in plain view for most of the way, so it feels safe.
The CRT is straight. And it is also fairly flat. I say “fairly” because, going east, the trail is just slightly uphill. You don’t feel it really until you turn around and go slightly downhill.
The bad thing, though, was that I did not fuel properly.
I had a buckwheat waffle at about 7 a.m. Then I had a banana with PB on it at 8:45 when thought I was going to run at 9:30.
I didn’t get to the trail until 10:15, and I was starving. I found two little Starbursts (okay, I stole them from my son’s baseball game treat bag) in the car, so I ate them. Obviously that’s not enough fuel. I took a few swigs of watermelon Nuun, then got out of the car for a half mile warm up.
At home, I’ve been warming up with a circuit of jumping jacks, pushups and crunches. But I feel weird doing that out in public. (I should probably get over myself.) So, instead I did some lunges plus the half mile, which included some butt kicks and high knees, and strides and slow running.
Then I reset my Garmin, and took off going east on the CRT with the goal of keeping my pace under 8:20 a mile for 6.2 miles. I was pretty sure I could do it, but the hunger pangs in my stomach were causing me a lot of doubt.
I was hotter than I thought. It was overcast, but humid…and warmer than what it looked like. I had on capris and a tee-shirt, but shorts or a skirt would’ve been better. Going east, I was running into the wind, which while annoying, it did help to cool me off.
The run was a mind game for the entire first half: warm, windy, uphill (even though it is slight, I know that it is uphill and it’s always in the back of my mind).
I doubted my abilities, even though I repeatedly caught myself running sub-8. I quickly corrected that each time.
I didn’t want to die out there alone.
Mile 1: 8:15
There were some people on the trail and I ran faster when passing them…just like in a race.
Mile 2: 8:18
I contemplated grabbing some weeds growing along the trail and eating them. I was that hungry.
Mile 3: 8:22
The uphill seemed more noticeable. I found myself daydreaming about the Nuun sitting in my car. I turned around early (before 3.1) because there was a shady looking pick-up truck parked along the highway next to the trail. I knew this meant I’d have to run past where I parked and then do math in my head at the end of the run, but I did not want to pass the truck, which had a dude sitting in it, by the way.
Mile 4: 8:10
Going slightly downhill makes a big difference. Also no wind now. Just hot. I must’ve been running the same speed as the wind because I couldn’t even feel it at my back.
Mile 5: 8:14
I felt like I was going too fast, and tried to slow down. My legs were on autopilot. I forget most of this mile, really, as I was thinking about going swimming with my son after the run. Then, my music decided to stop playing for some reason.
Mile 6: 8:10
I restarted my music using my headphone controls somehow, but then it shut off again. After three or four times, I just left my music off. Now that I could hear my breathing for real, I got into a rhythm. I thought I sounded a little like a train. I ran past my car, but could not figure out when to turn around and go back toward my car, so I just guessed.
.2: 8:05 pace
Well, guess what? I turned around and came back to my car too early because I was thinking 6.1 in my head even though I needed another .1 after that. So I ran back and forth on the trail in front of my car for a few minutes. You’re not a runner if you have not done this.
My head felt like a piece of coal, one of those glowing ones at the bottom of a campfire that’s perfect for toasting marshmallows. One of the ones that if you get your roasting stick too close, your sugary pillow bursts into flames. (Burnt marshmallows are the best, don’t you think? You can pull that burnt sugar shell off and eat it, and then you have the gooey inside left.)
At the car, I pounded my Nuun. I always think Nuun tastes different/even better when you have just finished a run vs. tasting it at an expo or something. Am I right?
Surprisingly, I wasn’t that hungry anymore, although I knew I needed to eat as soon as I got home. Being hungry during the run was probably was a good thing.
It showed me what I could do in conditions that were less than ideal.
My overall pace was 8:15, which is better than I thought I could do! A 51:14 10K translates to about a 1:53 half marathon. So, now I know what I can do and what I need to do to train for a 1:50, and I didn’t injure my shin running 13.1 miles too fast, too soon.
I was as proud of myself (if not prouder) running that fast all alone than I would’ve been at a race.
No medal, no problem.