Do you wanna Rumble?

Yesterday, our training group ran the Riley’s Rumble half marathon as part of our marathon training. This was supposed to be a practice in pacing, mental toughness, and race strategy. We were given key instructions NOT to race this half. This was simply for training purposes. I was a little worried about this directive as I’m typically one to lack the ability to put on a bib and just “coast”. Well, as it would turn out for this race, this was not a problem whatsoever.

We (the spectacular dbf K and I) spent our pre-race prep days moving from our apartment into a new-to-us (rental) house. We gave ourselves the gift of movers. After 10 self-moves in the last 12 years, this was completely worth it. I spent most of July packing a little each day but the last few days were a mad dash to prep for the final packing and movers. Once the movers came and went on Friday we were left with a teeny house full of boxes and a dreadfully dirty apartment. On Saturday, we trudged to the apartment to try to make headway in cleaning only to have our vacuum completely crap out on us. It just couldn’t take anymore Parker hair. (It breathed its last and ended up in the dumpster.) After our cleaning bonanza, we returned to our petite bungalow to do more unpacking and attic storing. We are going from a 2br 1100 sq feet apartment to a 2 br 800 sq ft house. Thank goodness for the attic and creative arranging.  (We have lots a ton of space in the house but have gained a yard for our dog!!) By the time, 8pm came around on Saturday night, we were simply dreading the 5am wake up call for a race that is sub-titled, “Hot, Humid, and Hilly.”

Sunday morning I laid in bed for a few minutes seriously considering backing out. I know if I had stayed in bed that K would have too, so I forced myself to the Keurig, slathered on the body glide and dressed up to run. This is considered a “low key club race” for our road runners club therefore entry was $5 for your annual chip/bib. No frills.  No shirt. Just a motherlode of freaking steep hills.

I met up with my 10:45 pace group but said, “I’m just going to go by feel, which today means really slow.” I decided to run with my Garmin but to keep it on total time/distance rather than pace. I just needed to get through the morning. After about 2 miles, my girls headed on without me and the 11 min pace group passed me too. I decided not to worry about it. I decided to take a deep breath, put one exhausted foot in front of the other and run easy. The hills were, as anticipated, terrible. The course takes a short loop and then sends runners out onto three country roads. A long out and back with a dog leg in the middle. On the out, it became clear that the back was going to be rough. The downhill was pounding on my less than strong knees and I knew I would pay later. The best part of the race came on the dog leg. It led us up a hill past lovely pastures filled with mama and baby cows. The gorgeous views of our Maryland agricultural land made me so thankful to live in such a diverse state. I was also incredibly thankful for the fact that our weather was unseasonably cool. Start temps in the low sixties and cool breezes through the shady course that led into temperate sunshine in the open air.


(Photo by Ann McDermott)

As expected, the back came from the out and I had to head about 3 more miles up some steep and long “rises in the pavement.” The race crew brought levity to the situation with hilarious sayings such as, “Who is Riley and Why Does He Hate Me?!” My fantastic friend-priest had put the phrase, “The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength” on my facebook wall the day before and I decided to use it as a focal point. I spent the last three miles rhythmically chanting, “the joy of the lord is my strength, amen” in my head to the beat of my footsteps. This was tremendously helpful as it kept my mind fresh as my body failed.

My pacing was all over the place. I had a mile as quick as 9:42 (mile 12) and as slow as 11:50. In the end, as was encouraged by our coaches, I averaged 10:43 overall pace.  My legs, feet, and mind were definitely finished as I crossed that line. I made a huge mistake of taking in the “free evaluation” from a local PT. She was very helpful in her thoughts about muscle weakness  and hip rotation problems. But I had never had ART performed on me before and now suffer three bright purple bruises from her working out my knee and calf (and they hurt more….)

This race was a great exercise in mental tenacity. Fighting the pain of the body with the work of the mind. That is my favorite part of training. Pushing through to what you KNOW you can do, even when your body says no.

We came home to our boxes, took freezing showers (no hot water until Tuesday), and wrapped up for naps. I slept like a dead person for two hours which proves to me that I ran as hard as my body could go. It might be slow, but it was strong.

I wasn’t sure I came fully ready to Rumble with the anonymous Riley, but I’m pretty sure I got the KO.


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