I ran a half marathon in hilly Clermont, Florida, last Saturday, but I almost didn't.
This is what happened: My friends, Lee and Jackie, had planned to do the race for a while; it was, in fact, a goal race Lee for which she had been training for several months; anyway, since the four of us are good running buddies, they suggested that my daughter Wendy and I do it, too.
Now, my next goal race is not until the end of February, and that's not a big goal for me, even then. I'm only just now feeling like I am fully recovered from my marathon in October. No, for now, I am just in the mode of staying in shape to do some of the many area races during the winter. Then, I will move into triathlon season when it warms up. No, I'm not really looking for races right now, BUT I do love to race, especiall when it is with my friends and Wendy, and I do love half marathons. I've been wanting to see what Clermont was like, too, because it's a popular triathlon location.
So, I caved, and Facebooked Lee, "I'm in." Wendy actually committed before me. So, the plan was in motion, the date on my calendar. I started to do a little extra hill work and planned a minor taper prior to the race.
Fast forward to last week, the week before the race. The group decision was that we would meet at 4:45 a.m., which meant that I would need to get up at 4 a.m., at the latest. That's when I started to wonder if doing this race was the right decision.
You see, last week was just not a good week for me, the week leading up to the race I mean. It was just extra hectic and quite stressful, so, not having pre-registered, I seriously considered staying home and going for a long run at sun up, but I had told them I'd go, and there was also that nagging voice whispering in the back of my head, "You know if you go, you'll be glad you did. You know you'll enjoy being with your friends. You know you're ready for this race and likely to have a good time. You know you can take a nap when you get home. You know that even though the temp will be in the forties, you'll be toasty after running a couple of miles. You know that no matter how hilly it is, those hills are probably not any more intense than the ones you trained on. You know you run well in the hills. Bottom line, you know you'll be sorry if you don't go!"
Turned out, the temperature was, as predicted, in the middle forties, but the wind was really blowing as well, making it feel much colder. Now, I should divulge here that I am a big, baby when it comes to cold weather, so this did not make me happy. Some runners, many runners would say this was ideal weather but not me.
I would never have predicted that we would all have excellent races in the wind on those hills, but guess what, we all did. It was one of those magical mornings, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. The voice in my head was dead on.
A small and low-key race, there was no photographer and not a lot of food, but piping hot hot chocolate made up for that. Nice touch. And they let me take my 1st place age group award and leave right after the race, which I liked because it was just too cold to stand around waiting for an awards ceremony.
It was only Jackie's and Lee's second half marathon, and both had huge PR's. And Wendy, who has done many halfs, dropped a huge chunk of time as well. The course was the kind that doubled back on itself several times, meaning I was able to keep track of how my friends were performing throughout the race. What I saw was that they were all doing extremely well; I was delighted every time I spotted one of them. As for me, I had my best time in several years, only two minutes off my best half marathon time ever, even in the hills. I will definitely put the Clermont Half on my half schedule for next year.
We had our own personal one man photographer, support crew, and cheering section, too. Thanks, Michael. You were great!
There is a reason why that voice in my head had so much to say. It's because I've done so many races over the years, and don't regret any of them; every one was worth doing. I didn't like every race, and there have been a few I didn't enjoy, but each experience was illuminating in some way. Certainly, each was a learning experience.
In Miami, I learned never to take a spinning class only 48 hrs before a race. At one inaugural race, I learned that rookie race directors sometimes don't properly promote their races, resulting in such a small turnout that the race becomes more like an expensive training run. Yes, every race is an educational experience: I learn about me, I learn about that race, and I learn about racing, in general. Each race is like a class which teaches me about the effectiveness of my training; it's a test that provides the proof of the effectiveness of my training and the response of my body to that stimulus.
For sure, some races are much better experiences than others. This happened to be one of those. Once again I find myself thanking my friends; I certainly would not have gone if it weren't for them, AND once again I find myself appreciating the voice in my head that is much wiser than my conscious self.