This was the 5th running of the Gorges Half and it was my 5th time running it!! During those 5 years the race has had 3 different courses. I thought back to each of them this morning.
- 2015 (2:01:46) The course started by going up Remington hill. I remember being SO proud that Jenny and I ran the entire way up. It ran through Cornell's campus and it was a really challenging course.
- 2016 (2:06:05) The course was different than the first year but still hilly! I ran with Christina and Jenny and had a really fun time.
- 2017 (2:13:10) This year Christina and I intended to race it. It was a new course with a fast start and all downhill for the first half. Unfortunately Christina struggled a lot with cramping (she later learned it was due to low potassium levels and is something she will always have to deal with) so our focus turned to finishing. I'm so proud of her for sticking it out and finishing that day!
- 2018 (1:50:32) I raced it. I was pretty psyched with my time. It was solid and while my goal was 1:45, I was sick and I pulled this time off. The last 6 miles of this were really hard.
- 2019 (1:56:50) A new course again. I was sad to be 5 a full 6 minutes slower than last year but proud of my time considering my training.
This year we again had my dad drive us to the start (thanks Dad)! Scott decided we needed to be there by 7 so we could hit the porta potties before the race. I thought it was too early. THANK GOODNESS Scott won this argument. We arrived and chatted with a few other locals who had been dropped by friends and then saw the first wave of buses arrive. We dashed into the potties before the instant 20 minute line started.
After that Scott went to warm-up and the kids and I talked with different people. I haven't had great training this spring, I felt tired and I wasn't all that excited about the change in course (it now starts with an uphill and had less time on the Black Diamond trail).
I don't want to do this. I don't even feel like running. Why did I sign up?
I said this all aloud to the kids as a man passed by us. He laughed and said, "it's a little late for that now you think?" Yes it is. Time to be positive.
We ran into my friend Rob and he asked how my training had been going. I started to give my typical "I haven't really been running" and "I don't feel prepared" when I realized that yes I have been running. It hasn't really been focused training but it is most certainly running. I run to Bikram Yoga almost every Sunday on the Black Diamond trail and that run along with the yoga is a highlight of my week. It is meditative and relaxing and I really look forward to it. I workout consistently 6 days a week, lift weights 4 times a week and I run at least twice. My friend Christina said years ago that her goal was to always be half marathon ready. I just took that mantra from her and decided it would be mine too. Yes, I am always half marathon ready. Today was no exception.
Mantras and the first miles
I am very good at focusing on ONE thing at a time. This year has been a year that I'm trying to focus on more than one thing and struggling to give everything its due attention. Like most people my focus is split between many things. This year it is:
- Teaching Middle School
- Being a good daughter
- Being a good mom to my teenagers
- Staying fit and ready to race
Right now teaching and baking are winning out over the other 3. On a recent morning at breakfast Xander and I were talking about school for the millionth time and Elizabeth and Scott looked at each other and laughed. I said, "what?" They commented, "Is it possible that mom is more OCD about school than Xander (our all school all the time boy)?" I responded with "what are you talking about?" and Scott said nothing while Elizabeth said, "Dad we talked about this." They agree that both Xander and I are too focused on work. They are probably right. I think my running is suffering because I'm always "doing one more thing" for school and then dashing off right into baking.
First miles and mantras
After openly making the comment that should have remained in my head I decided a positive mantra was needed. I chose, "trust your training" which is something that we always tell Xander about school when he's stressed. Just trust that you studied enough and that you are ready. I would trust my training today and accept that I had plenty of time on my feet even if it wasn't all the most ideal and focused running that one could have.
I didn't run tech free but at a half mile into the course I decided today I would not be looking at my watch at all. Yes, I'd have all the data when it was over but I would run by feel. I don't do this often and I didn't know what "by feel" would mean for me today. Some days I think I am running "fast" and I look down and I'm running 10 minute + miles. Looking down just makes me annoyed. Some days I feel slow and I look down and I'm running 8:30s and I feel joy. However unless I'm trying to hit a specific split, looking down to see my timing doesn't usually change my pace. I figured today would be no different and chose to enjoy the run without personal judgement.
One change to this course from last year was that we started with an uphill and we were on road a lot longer before we hit the Black Diamond trail. I wasn't jazzed about that so I was THRILLED when we hit trail. I saw the mile marker for mile 4 1/4 when we got onto the trail SO I would be on this for 3 3/4 miles. I wished for longer but I'll take it. This part of the run was so happy. I was in my Sunday zen mode even though there were many many others with me. I cruised along filled with positivity, trying to keep the negative thoughts about what was coming up out of my head.
Cass and Stewart parks
A lot of people LOVE to run the trails in these parks. I wish I was one of them. I feel like the miles pass slowly through this area and I struggle to find joy in the terrain. I got water at mile 7 and said to myself that it was time to just power on and stay the course. I was over halfway. I set my sights on reaching the FLX Fit Club crew that I knew would be set up a bit after the Ithaca farmer's market. One cool thing about this part of the course is that you can see people heading out of the trail as you are on the waterfront. This meant I could look for Lize.r.d. and see how her race was going. I saw that she was about a mile behind me so that gave me motivation to keep moving!! I saw mile 8 and then a gust of wind blew my airPod out of my ear. I caught it but engaged Siri and my music stopped. I got that all settled as I hit another aid station and grabbed some more water and sports drink. Soon I was through the market and I saw the FLX crew. They had watermelon and smiles to share and I got a nice little boost from seeing them. I hit Siri again trying to adjust my airPods and this time I had to stop to open my phone and fix the playlist. It had switched to classical music and that was not going to fly for several miles. The greatest thing about this part of the course was that somehow I missed the mile 9 marker! Soon I was running by the mile 10 marker.
The course from here crosses suspension bridges in Stewart park. These are so hard to get in sync on so it is a really odd stop and start motion. I ran into my friend Scott and Laura's son Austin and we chatted briefly as we ran along the bridges. The park was lovely and very soon it was time to head into the final stretch. Even without tech I knew I had slowed down a lot. I tried to rally and focus on form, while at the same time knowing that while I'd have very uneven splits for this race I really think you need to work with the course. Those early miles need to be quicker for me because I almost have a full halt in speed come the flats.
Beyond mile 10
When I was a new teacher one of our training days included a presentation where we were asked to visualize a scene. It was supposed to invoke a calm feeling or something like that. I am embarrassed to say that I whined through the whole thing and refused to even shut my eyes. My middle school team of teachers probably thought, "Wow I have to teach with her? Yikes."
Today when I hit mile 10 it was so easy to visualize running out of my door and heading out for my neighborhood 3 mile loop. I could imagine where I was in the loop as the miles passed. I know the person hosting our presentation was surely trying to help us find our way to a coping place in times of stress or other need. With many more years of wisdom I can see how visualization is very helpful!
I focused on trying to move a little more quickly than I knew I was actually running and looked forward to the finish for these last 3 miles.
How did you do?
After the race we got our favorite homemade energy bars (Cayuga Medical Center makes them) and refilled our new finisher water bottles. As we stood in line for water we met Ben, someone we know from Viva which is one of our favorite restaurants in Ithaca. We didn't know his name so it was fun to be properly introduced. I asked him how his race was and he said it was ok. He hoped to be faster but he really didn't train that well.
I echoed what he said. I didn't train all that well. I wrote a plan and loosely followed it. Many days after work I was tired and while I put in the miles there wasn't much focus on speed - it was all just about getting the run in. On not so lovely weather days I chose to ride on my indoor bike and watch Gossip Girl on Netflix or use my elliptical and also watch Netflix. Maybe if I didn't have something to watch I would have made myself go outside! Sill I'm proud that on many a Sunday I went out for my run regardless of the weather. One of my very best runs was in the pouring rain on my way to Bikram.
All of us after the race. Photo by Brenda Michaud.
Finally the beer and food
So yes I admit that part of this race is the beer and the food. I think it is just fun and decadent to be eating lunch at 10 am and enjoying beer. It seems crazy. It is nice to accomplish so much before noon and I absolutely love that our entire family does it together. This year there were so many people in cool outfits and matching clothing that I asked Elizabeth if she wanted to consider running in something fun next year. She's a maybe on that one!
Did you enjoy reading about the race? Head on over to Scott's blog post for more about his experience running this year's race!
1:56:50; pace 8:56; Age Group 11/81; 132/641 females; 293/990 finishers.