My friends were both running the "10". Quotes are with sarcasm as this race measures long, and I should know as I ran it last year. We wished each other well and I burst into tears. The emotion of the day ahead of my was showing and I was so nervous about it. But I knew that I was ready. I trained hard for it and I was already at peace with whatever the result would be and that I would be happy that my body allowed me to race this distance again.
I got my nerves under control and went in to the starting corral with all the other runners and waited for the countdown. I opted to run this race without music as I didn't want the distraction. There were a few times where I would have liked it, but I did fine without music.
The race started off easily enough, I settled into a good rhythm off the start. I could feel the tightness in my right glute, which wasn't that surprising and it reminded me that I forgot to do my release exericses. Whoops. I knew it was something I could ignore. A friend found me during the first km and we chatted for a bit but I ended up getting ahead of her.
One thing I have to say about the Red Deer course is that it is beautiful. It runs on mostly paved trails along or close to the river. There are a lot of ups and downs and 2 significant climbs, one in the 9th km and one in the 20th km, both about 9%.
I felt great for the first 5km. My glute was bugging me a bit but it was manageable. I had relaxed and controlled breathing and I was keeping my strides fast. I was having fun! The first 7km felt like a breeze. I was sticking to my gel schedule, drinking water at the stations and having a salt tablet because I knew I needed it. the first climb was approaching and my stragegy was to maintain the short quick strides. It's not that long, the steepest is about a 15% grade but it continues at a false flat for another km or so. At then end of the steepest parts my legs felt like they were done. I will admit that I didn't do any hill training, and relied on my cycle classes and some strength to help me, but I was shocked at the feeling in my legs. They were starting to cramp. So I drank from the little bottle I had wih me and had half a gel to see if they could use some energy and that seemed to help in the short term. I was pretending in my head that I was walking and stretching and they were starting to feel better. Mind over matter.
The 13-14th km lose the paved trail to gravel and it circles an island that is in the river. It really is pretty and most other days I would be happy to run it. I didn't enjoy how the gravel seemed to be sucking my energy, and I just focussed on keeping the same distance ahead of the people behind me, and not letting the person ahead of me get too far ahead. Internally I was just waiting for it to be done.
I was relieved to be off the gravel, but this is where I started to mentally struggle. The next 4.5 km are full of those short steep up and downs, woth some false flat sections in between. The cramping in my legs wasn't getting better, even after taking 2 more salt tablets and electrolyte drink at every water station. It was a struggle to keep going. At 16km we run past the Bower Ponds, which are lovely, and it was at this point I considered texting my friends that I wasn't doing well and I didn't know if I would make my time goal. I did a quick 10s calf stretch and kept going, silently moaning in my head. I was at 1:29 and that meant that I needed 31 minutes to run the final 5.1km. I felt lke I could do that. If I kept all my splits under a 6/km then I would do it. I knuckled under.
That was the longest 5km of my life. I kept saying "fight for it" over and over OUT LOUD! DIG DEEP! YOU WANT TO GET TO BOSTON? Stuff like that over and over. With about 3km to go another woman caught up to me and she said that she never had run under 2 hours. I told her to get after it.
At 19km my legs are screaming at me. All I am thinking about now is that I want to be done. 1.5km to go and the path splits, us lucky half marathoners get to go right to the finish, marathoners have to go right. The path is flat and I can hear the finish line. I pass 20km and I have 7 minutes to make my goal. One giant hill, one downhill and a sprint to the finish. I ignore the pain in my legs and I run (ok shuffle) up that hill, and them embrace the downhill. I round the corner and I can hear the crowd cheering. I see 1:59 on the clock. I do my best sprint impression and I cross the line at 2:00:01.
Chip time is 1:59:48 I have finally broken 2 hours on that course. I stop my Garmin with the 1:59 visible and take about 100 pictures of it. I practically collapse on the grass. I had absolutely nothing left to give that course and I am pretty sure I left pieces of me out there.
I am so proud of myself. I believed that I could break 2 hours in Red Deer, and I did.