Summer of 2007 was the first summer that I was able to run through. Since I had started running in '04, I'd had some sort of injury or incident that had kept me from running through the hot months. This summer, my goal was simply to run all summer without getting hurt. I found out quickly that I'm not a very good hot weather runner. Plugging along was about all I was able to do. I had some tough classes that year, and I remember recording my notes and listening to them while I ran...boring stuff. By the end of the season, I was getting over my slump and starting to feel more energetic.
One morning, one of my running buddies announced that she wanted to run a marathon, and she had her sights set on the Cowtown in Fort Worth the following February. Hmmm, I looked it up, and it sounded pretty fun. I decided to do it to be supportive of my friend, wink, wink. I started training for the marathon somewhere around October. This time, I had a few anatomy and physiology and ex phys classes under my belt, so I was not as clueless about how to prepare. I followed a Hal Higdon training plan to near perfection--even through the holidays. Nutrition was a little more difficult, as it always is for me, but about two or three weeks away from the race, I became very diligent in following a fueling plan. I learned to consume gels, and how to plan my hydration to maximize performance without getting sick. This also had been difficult for me, because I tended to suffer from GI problems. My friend and I trained together up until the New Year, when she got hurt and had to drop out of the race. It was a big disappointment for her, and I felt almost guilty for going through with my plans. This had been her idea, after all, and now she wouldn't be able to do it. I decided to do it anyway, since I had worked so hard.
February 23rd was the big day. My husband and I loaded up the kids in the motor home on Friday and drove up to Cedar Hill State Park, which was about a five hour drive. It was dark and cold when we got there, so we went straight to bed. To my surprise, I slept like a baby until my alarm went off at 5 am. I ate my standard prerace breakfast, toast with peanut butter and banana. I had been carefully carb loading for a few days, and I had my gels ready for the run. I was not going to make the same mistakes again. Fort Worth was about 30 minutes away, and we got there at about 6:15. My husband and kids saw me safely to the packet pickup line and waited for me to get everything I needed. After making it through the porta-potty line and getting the chip on my shoe, I could hear the announcer at the starting line a couple of blocks away. I kissed the family goodbye and scurried off to start the race. It took a few minutes of walking to get through the starting line, but once I did, it felt so good to start running. I had a lot of positive thoughts going on, and I knew it would be a good race.
The course started with a cruise downhill, and continued through the streets of Fort Worth, one hill after another. I'm from the flat lands of Southeast Texas, where the only hills we have are overpasses or parking garages. I had not trained for hills, to say the least, but I was surprised to find that they weren't as troublesome as I had feared. I wish I could remember all the details of that run. I know I felt alone, but not lonely. I didn't use an ipod or have any friends to keep me company, but I enjoyed every minute. Well, almost ever minute..it was pretty tough at times, but I gave myself lots of pep talks and made it through. I found several runners to chat with here and there along the way. Two miles from the finish line, just when I was feeling overwhelming relief and excitement, I turned a corner and found myself staring straight up a monster hill. This was by far the cruelest part of the course. The rest of the race was a series of hills. It was all I could do to finish. The sight of the finish line was up there with some of the best things I've seen in my whole life. I finished strong with a sprint into the corral. Where was my family? I looked everywhere, but couldn't see them. Then I saw my husband dashing down the street to meet me. He had taken the kids to get pizza in a little shop near the finish line, and saw me run by while they were enjoying their pizza. He thought he had a few more minutes. I guess I showed him! My finish time was 4:27...13 minutes faster than my first. Considering those crazy hills, I was extremely proud of my performance. My first half was 2:09. I didn't stick around for the after-race party.
I loved this race. The weather was perfect, and I was well-prepared. It was my best ever, but would I do it again? Probably not. I have never been so sore after a race. I lost both big toenails and had IT band problems for the first time ever. I blame it not on the hills, but on the severe camber of the road. It was a full week before I could attempt a run, and a while after that before I could really enjoy it. But, I learned something about myself. I learned that I am capable of reaching and trying new things and improving my performance. I don't know if I believed that before, but I do now.