Yesterday was a major milestone for me, as it was the first time I have ever earned the title of female champion of a running race – and a half marathon at that! Achieving a PR was a goal I had set for myself going into the race, but the overall win was completely unexpected. So was my second consecutive lucky palindrome race number. And to know that I probably could have pushed a little harder and extended my PR by another minute or so was also reassuring, but I was not feeling 100% and did not want to do anything stupid (aka completely bonk or blow up).
I participated in the Sunriver Half Marathon for a Cause last year, so I knew what to expect on race day. The course is very flat with a couple of gentle hills around miles 7 and 11. One of my favorite things about the race is that it starts at 7:30am. Early and cool. The temperature was a brisk 43 degrees when we started, but warmed quickly once we got out in the sunlight. I felt comfortable the entire race and was reminded of how much I love running in cooler temperatures – even if they mean summer is coming to an end and fall is just around the corner.
The marathoners got a head start and took off at 7:15am, while the half marathoners listened to some upbeat music vibrating through the air, stretched, and took care of last minute “business.” I saw my friend Karly at the starting line and the last thing she said to me before the horn blew was “you are going to win this.” I laughed because I honestly had no expectation of winning. There is ALWAYS someone faster than me.
I immediately positioned myself in the lead with a group of speedy men in front of me. I tried holding back like my coach instructed me to do, but the first mile came and went faster than I had intended. I kept repeating to myself, “slow down, don’t bonk” for the next five miles, which is typically where I have a tendency to go out too fast.
For some reason I was completely out of my race element that morning and forgot my gum, GU, and glide (three critical Gs). My husband was a lifesaver because when I saw him at mile one, I was in a panic and let him know that I did not have my nutrition. Sure enough, when I saw him again at mile six, he handed me my long lost GU Roctane. I would not have made it mentally without any nutrition.
After the first six miles of weaving through Sunriver Resort’s Meadows and Crosswater Golf Courses, and enjoying spectacular views all around, I began catching up to some of the marathoners, which was encouraging. Everyone was so incredibly friendly and cheered my on as I passed by, yelling “first female” and “you’re in the lead.” It kept me smiling and optimistic.
After seeing my husband again at mile six, the path took me through Caldera Springs where I encountered my first little taste of hill territory and enjoyed some shade. I took my GU at mile eight and at about the same time started feeling a little dizzy and cramped in my stomach. This slowed me down a bit, but as soon as my GU kicked in I was feeling much better. At about mile 9.5 the course crosses a beautiful bridge that spans a large man made lake in Caldera Springs, which is where photographer Matt Lasala from Lasala Images snapped this photo of me – freshly energized from my GU. Matt photographs a lot of sporting events in Bend (because just being a Doctor isn’t enough for him, apparently), and I have to say this is one of the best in-race photos I have ever had taken of me. Usually the background is boring, my eyes are closed, there are other racers in the picture, I look like I’m not having fun, etc., etc.
The hardest miles for me mentally during a half marathon are 8, 9 and 10. I usually struggle a lot at this point and then recharge and kick it into gear during the final few miles to the finish. I got to see Justin a lot between miles 8-11, so that really helped keep my mind off of any mental shutdowns I was facing. I honestly don’t know who puts in more work during these races, Justin or myself. He is always running around all over the course making sure I am good and have everything I need, including GU, gum, lip balm, water, and the occasional in-race pep talk. And taking lots of photos for my blog in between.
It was so beautiful running through different areas around Sunriver and the volunteers were absolutely amazing. Because there are so many turns and paths going in multiple directions, more than the usual number of volunteers were placed throughout the course to help direct the runners. I swear it takes an army to put on these races – cheers to them!
I parted ways with Justin one last time around mile 10.5 so he could bike back to the car and get to the finish line. Once I reached mile 11 I had one last “hill” to conquer before it was downhill and flat to the finish. At this point I was still in the lead and decided to pick it up to remain that way. Mile 12 was a blur and as I approached the starting area near the main lodge, I knew I was almost to the finish. I definitely took it all in as I rounded the corner and heard on the loud speaker, “Our first female half marathoner is making her way to the finish line.” I smiled, engaged the crowd, and was across the finish line in a time of 1:38:04. A two-minute PR.
I. COULD. NOT. STOP. SMILING.
So this is what it feels like to win something. Everyone was congratulating me. My husband (I swear his eyes were a little watery) was there to give me a big celebratory hug. It was one of those moments I had never experienced and will never forget.
Another thing I love about this race is that they treat all of the runners to something special at the finish. All runners receive a nice finishing medal, pint glass, long-sleeve Nike Dri-Fit shirt, and can treat themselves to a serious buffet of food and beverage options. I received my free beer (yes, at 9am) and sat in a pair of compression hip shorts, compliments of Renee and Austin at Recharge, which felt amazing.
After walking around and mingling for a bit, it was time for the award ceremony and my podium debut. It felt really good to stand on the top and center for my two seconds of fame (HA!) and I received a certificate for stay at Sunriver Resort for my first place prize. The awards and prizes they offer to athletes at this event always impress me.
Another race in the books and yet another reminder that training and hard work do in fact pay off. This was just the boost I needed as I prepare for the Portland Marathon (four weeks away) and hopefully a finishing time that will qualify me for Boston. Let the final stretch of training begin!