Thanks to Facebook posts I can update the training logs, even though I can't remember details of many of the runs listed here. But, the two-week stretch did end with the VERY memorable Winslow Half Marathon last Saturday. So I'll just make this post a race recap.
Training Week: September 10 - September 16
Training Week: September 17 - September 23
Janice was out of town last weekend so I decided to head up to Winslow on Friday night and just sleep in the back of the Blazer. The town is small, even for rural Arkansas and runners were warned to arrive early because parking would be scarce. I got in about 1 AM and didn't have any trouble finding a place.
Winslow is the highest incorporated town in Arkansas, nestled snugly in the Boston Mountains. I had all ideas it would be plenty hilly when I signed up, but I didn't know how hilly. It should have registered with me when I overheard a conversation near the start. One guy asked another if it was bad and the second said, "It's pretty flat compared to what you'd expect in Winslow." Turns out flat by Winslow standards isn't really flat at all.
Before the start I had the chance to share our story with several people, including several from Conway with whom we'd run a few weeks ago, 10 miles in their Running Down the Night event. This is a fun bunch and I look forward to running many more races with them. I started out with some of them, but we separated in latter part of the first mile.
I was ready for the long climb that made up the first mile or so because the elevation chart had clearly showed it. What I wasn't ready for was the constant up and down, up and down throughout the middle 11 miles of the race. An elite runner might feel like s/he's on a roller coaster running this race. It didn't seem like we were ever on a flat stretch.
Around mile 2 or 3 I caught up with a couple I'd been running behind for a while. He was mostly running but walking most of the uphills by this time. She was chugging steadily along, but falling behind when he began running and catching him again when he walked up the hills. About the time I passed him going up one of the hills he asked her, "Why did you pick this race?" Then for the few more minutes I was within earshot they exchanged a friendly and fun argument about which of them really chose Winslow.
Not long after I left them, another man wearing a Dallas/White Rock Marathon shirt caught up with me and asked what was the farthest I'd carried the pictures on my back. It gave me a chance to run with him and tell our story for a bit. His name was Mike and he explained to me that he began running marathons when his wife died of cancer. She had been training for her first when she was diagnosed and never got the opportunity to run one. So he decided he would train and run after she died to see what it's all about. So far he'd run 4 marathons. He was running Winslow because he was in Fayetteville for parents' weekend at the University of Arkansas where his daughter is a student.
The out and back had plenty of water stops, approximately one every mile and a half until just after mile 4. That's where the pavement ended and the course continued on a dirt road that carried us to the turnaround. It wasn't bad for a dirt road, but it wasn't like running on pavement either. Just before the turnaround we started into a pretty lengthy downhill. Of course that meant we'd turn back and face an immediate long uphill on the dusty path.
It was kind of rough climbing back up, but seeing and encouraging Mike and my friends from Conway kept me chugging as I crept up the hill. On the way out as I passed a lady struggling up one of the hills I said, "Every one of these hills we have to climb on the way out is one we get to go down on the way back." I knew when I said it that it also meant every downhill would be an uphill when we turned around but that wasn't something I wanted to say.
Now though, it was irrefutable as the never-ending up and down just kept on going and going and going. At this point, the increasing numbers on the mile markers gave encouragement as the small field was separated and I found myself pretty much alone with only 3 other runners even in sight.
They stayed ahead of me for a while until I passed them going up a hill at mile 11. That's when I found my second wind knowing only a little more than two miles were left in the race, with the last mile a big downhill. By the time I passed the 12 mile mark I was pretty much alone. If anyone was in sight, they were behind me and I didn't know it.
The final turn was staffed by two volunteers who promised after the steep 40 yard climb that I faced after the turn, it was all downhill. And DOWNHILL it was. A long, steep downhill that tested the knees and took everything one had to keep from toppling head first and sliding to the bottom.
That ending downhill made for a fast final mile though and helped me knock the pace per mile down a little. The last 50 yard stretch went through an S-curve after reaching the bottom of the hill. The momentum that carried me down the hill was still pushing me through the finish to make it appear like a really strong ending to the 13.1 miles.
All-in-all it was a great race, well organized and staffed with adequate volunteers. The hills were tough, but I knew they would be going in. So it would be pretty sorry of me to complain about them.
My goal coming in was to finish averaging a 10 minute mile. I thought if I could do 13 miles in the hills at that pace, I can surely do 26 on a level course at the same pace. I finished the race in 2:06.38 chip time, a 9:40 pace, so I considered the race a success though it was nearly 7 minutes off my PR.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13
This was the first time I can remember running an entire half marathon without stopping to walk (except for a few feet at each water stop.) I don't count the walking at the water stops because I do that even in 5Ks. But even up the hills the Good Lord kept me pushing, never giving up to walk.
I have to say that it's a race I'd like to do again someday. Challenging for sure, but fun just the same. I couldn't have done it on my own strength, only the strength of a mighty Savior could have kept me going the distance.
If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.