After finishing the 25 mile bike ride and enjoying our post ride bbq lunch, Jon (my partner in crime for the crazy weekend) and I headed down to Salisbury to pick up our packets for Sunday's Hidden Treasures Half Marathon. This was a route I knew well, having spent a semester driving between the two cities while working at an internship. It was fun to see both the familiar sites and changing landscapes along the way.
We must have been quite the sight at pick up, still wearing all of our bike gear. Ok, maybe we left the helmets in the car. We met an older couple while waiting for the elevator at the hotel. The gentleman asked what we had been up to that day and could only shake his head when I filled him in on our weekend exploits. After catching up with my wonderful friends Anne & Matt over dinner, it was an early bedtime. We were both completely exhausted.
Unlike most, if not all, of my other halfs, this did not require a crack of dawn wake up. Race start was 9am and our hotel was only about 10 minutes away. Plus, with a small field, about 200 runners, parking was not an issue either. While I greatly treasured the extra sleep, I felt almost like I needed to find ways to fill the extra time. Another plus was being able to eat the complementary hotel breakfast. I got to have some hot oatmeal for a change.
We packed up the car and checked out before heading to the race. Late race start, meant no time to get back to the hotel for a shower before hitting the road for home. After getting to the Civic Center, where coincidentally my college graduation had been held, it was more of a hurry up and wait. I did get to say a quick hello to another college buddy, Jim, who was running the 5K for the third year. Finally it was time to head toward the start. There were no signs, people just pointed toward a row of trees and said it was past them.
I took up a spot near the back, and then we were off. I felt good and was in a decent groove early on, feeling like I was moving slowly but actually doing a decent pace. Around mile 4 we turned onto the Salisbury University campus. It really was like being home again, not that I ever ever would have dreamed of running through there before, lol.
The course then turned into neighborhoods along the water. It was beautiful! I was by myself, expect for one other woman who I kept ping ponging back and forth with for awhile. Eventually we turned onto Camden Avenue and headed back to the college. This was fun since I knew where I was and would be at mile 8 soon. My outer toe was bugging me a bit for no apparent reason, so I stopped and took my shoe off and adjusted my sock a bit. I should have realized at the time that this was essentially the beginning of a massive wall I couldn't overcome. It continued to annoy me, but again, I couldn't figure out the root of the problem.
Back through campus, and mile 8 was done. While the first part of the course was through shaded neighborhoods, the last miles were in business and industrial areas, minus some parts near corn and melon fields. Most importantly, they were all in full sun and it was pushing 11am. Physical and mental exhaustion kicked in at full steam at mile 9. I allowed myself a pity party of sorts and told myself I'd walk to the mile 10 marker but then I had to run the last 5K. It would only be 3.1 miles. The worst would be behind me.
Except, it wasn't. Mile 10 came and I went to run and everything hurt. My body was in full revolt and I ended up trudging along. The sag wagon drove by a couple of times while monitoring the course, and I summoned the energy I could to give a friendly wave when deep down I wanted to jump in and just be done with it all. I just kept repeating to myself that it was ludicrous to quit when I'd gotten that far.
I must have looked kind of rough. At one of the last water stops one of the volunteers pretty much made me stop so he could fill my water bottles for me. His help and kindness was much appreciated. Then, I got to mile 12, and basically the last intersection I'd have to cross. Not only were there no cops or volunteers to help me, it was also confusing as to exactly where I had to go. That part of road also made up the 5K course, so traffic cones were going in a couple of different directions and the one sign only said 5K, not half. I also couldn't find any spray paint markings on the road.
Up to this point the course had been very well marked so I couldn't believe what was happening. Fortunately, I had grabbed a course map "just in case" and had put it in the pouch on my water belt. Once I got my bearings I continued on my way, again, slowly walking along, counting practically every 10th of a mile and praying to be done.
In addition to the late start, another quirk of this race was the indoor finish line. I could barely muster the energy to run over the finish line, but somehow I finally finished. And there were about 3 people inside at the time. No people cheering, no music, just the photographer, time keeper, and a volunteer handing out medals. Organizers had moved all of the post race festivities outside, and across the street. And the medal I received was a generic running medal without any kind of info even identifying the race. They had some pulled pork sandwiches and other hot food for race participants, but the smell just nauseated me at that point.
Despite the problems, I did actually like this race and would do it again, but likely only if it started at least an hour earlier. I also learned that I'm just not cut out for back to back events. I had the same miserable final miles back in May when I did the Run for the Dream 1/2 the day after doing their 8K as part of the Patriots Challenge.
Two pretty rough races has been a bit demoralizing. It's been a further reminder of how much losing time to injury last fall affected me and how slow coming back from it has been. It also reignited a debate I had with myself last fall about whether or not I should consider listening to music when running solo. There is no longer a debate, I bought myself an iPod Shuffle earlier this week.
Onward and upward.