Main image for Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon 2019 Time to Read: ~9 min

It's not a race, it's not a race, it's not a race. This was my mantra for my 2019 running of the Skunk.

Injury and recovery is a long road

I injured myself in August and have spent the last 7 months recovering. After months of reflection I finally accept that overtraining was the cause. My sister recently visited and we were reflecting on our August days in Oregon. We remembered 10-15 mile hiking days followed by family runs and group runs. This, after a summer of training and a spring of training with no breaks. I said aloud to the room, "maybe we shouldn't have run after our days of hiking." Sarah chuckled, "you think?" Read more about my injury and recovery.

I signed up so I am going to do it

Scott and the kids and I signed up for the race shortly after registration opened. The kids planned to do the 10K and Scott and I would again participate in the half. I knew I was in injury recovery mode but figured I'd be fine by April 7th. Then, the months went on and I became less certain.

Scott and I were talking one night and he said something about not being in quality shape to race it the way he had last year. I kind of snorted at him and said, "there's a difference between not being ready to race and not being ready to finish! I'm not even ready to finish." After this conversation I considered ditching the race and already planned on how I'd position it to Scott. We knew by now that Xander couldn't run because he had auditioned and accepted a role in a musical that conflicted and that Elizabeth was likely going to choose not to do it if her brother was not doing it. I figured Scott would be fine with my decision. He was actually more ready to race than I was! But in another part of my head I was worried that dropping out of this race could kick off a chain reaction of pulling from races and not trusting my recovery.

Then, one evening in mid-winter I bumped into my friend Melinda in Wegmans. We always talk race things when we see each other and we quickly started discussing the upcoming Skunk. "I hope to just finish" summed up how we were both feeling. For me saying this aloud to Melinda somehow sealed that I would actually participate in the race. The conversation served as a promise to myself and my friend. I knew after this that I would indeed run the Skunk.

An object at rest stays at rest

Most winters I keep a 30 mile weekly running schedule. In fact it is one thing I've been relatively proud of as a runner. I run in any weather and I kick myself out the door before I can change my mind. This winter was different. I found myself thinking of Newton's 1st law of motion.

An object at rest stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion.

When I injured my knee very early on in my running my PT said of my running. "Well you've already mastered Newton's first law." He proceeded to talk at length about staying in motion and keeping healthy. I internalized that and strongly identified with the motion part of the law. I got so attached to it that I started to struggle to see how the opposite could be true. My injury showed me that part. It is just as easy to stop running as it is to run. Suddenly after having a forced break from running I found myself opting for the elliptical when the weather wasn't great. I chose the stationary bike after work more times than I care to admit. While I wasn't exactly "at rest" I was certainly not choosing running as often as I should. I made a training plan that I barely followed and suddenly found my weekly mileage sorely lacking for a half marathon.

A winter of not so much running

I am a person who usually does what I have to do at the very last possible minute that I can do it and still have some small amount of success. So, several weeks before the half I realized I actually had to run more than 8 miles in a row. Well, I didn't have to, but to have the race be at all fun I really should. I had struggled with out and back and loop runs in recent weeks for odd reasons. I would just hit a point where my mind refused to run. My body was fine but I would find myself negotiating with my body the way I did early on in my running. "run to that pole and then you can walk" and "you can walk to that pole and then you must run again."

Downhill training is better than no training

After a winter of barely 2 digit run week totals on March 18th I went out for 11 downhill miles mostly on the Black Diamond trail near my house. This was where I got my stress fracture to begin with, but it also provided a nice soft surface and would come with a ride home from Elizabeth. Scott was out of town on a business trip and that day at work we had a teacher training day so the kids were home. I don't handle these days well so I armed myself with a container of tea, hatched a plan to come home for lunch with the kids and used our plan as my motivation to get through the day.

When I returned home at the end of the day the kids shared that piano had been cancelled because their teacher was sick. That meant no one actually had to drive to Ithaca. Usually the kids go to piano and then get groceries at Wegmans before heading home. Usually Scott has Community Chorus rehearsal at night and I go to yoga. Today they had planned to get me on their way into piano and I'd sit and do work while they had lessons and the 3 of us have dinner at Wegmans. Oh man, at least I was still able to use this as motivation for the day. Now what though? I really shouldn't make them drive in to get me. Maybe I should suck it up and do an out and back?

Elizabeth said, "What about this? I get groceries while you are running and pick you up on my way home?" "YES! That would be amazing. Are you sure?" She was absolutely certain as long as I would agree to watch Jane the Virgin with the two of them after dinner instead of going to yoga. Scott doesn't like this show so we don't find too many opportunities to watch it. "Sure thing. I can skip yoga," I said.

I had a delightful, albeit snowy run to Ithaca. It felt safe and familiar as I listened to a podcast for the first 3 or 4 miles and then switched to music for the second part. I focused on gratitude for the ability to run and tried hard to not think about pace at all. After this day I had one more nice long run (same route) before the race. I wasn't thrilled with my haphazard training but knew my body would be fine for 13 slower than normal race miles.

Race morning

We woke to sun and a forecast calling for temps in the 50s on race day. I have learned from experience that this means shorts and a tank top. I decided on disposable gloves too, just in case. I gave little thought to my clothing choices though, selecting a new Athleta tank that Elizabeth had bought me for Christmas. Halfway to the race I realized I didn't want to pin into it. I decided my shorts would be a fine surface for pinning.

As we popped out of the parking garage I realized neither of us was carrying a phone. That means no pictures. Bummer.

And I knew it was going to be a good race when

The very first person I bumped into that I knew was my friend Melinda. "Do you have your phone?" She did. "Can you take a picture of us!!" She was happy to oblige. I reminisced about seeing her that day and knowing that once I told her I was going to run the race that I would actually run it. That morning it felt like a good omen to see her. We were both here despite our doubts of being ready. The Skunk felt just like it always does to me - a chance to see running friends as we all emerge from our respective winters. I suddenly felt really happy to be here.

With Melinda before the race

With Melinda before the race

The start and beyond

I popped into the start pack near my friend Brenda and Michael. I waved to a few other friends and soon the gun went off. Just stay slow was my mantra for the day. I was running without music (required for this race) and felt a little bummed about it. I listened to lively conversations and looked for people I knew as I ran. Shortly into the race I ran a few steps with my friends Jeff and Ashley. It was fun to see them out on the course.

At a 9:09 mile my pace felt pretty comfortable. I was running slow enough that I could take things in and I wasn't using up energy having a conversation with anyone. I briefly considered trying to race this and pushing the pace. Ultimately I didn't though. I likened racing after my winter of training to secretly hoping for an A on a test when I hadn't cracked a book to study. Today my job was to enjoy the run.

The Final Countdown and other spectating notes

At mile 4.6 a pair of teenage boys played The Final Countdown on their instruments. I couldn't help but chuckle since we were not anywhere near the end of this race. I smiled though and got a nice boost from their music. Toward mile 7 there was a big crew of people cheering for a specific person. They were playing music from their car and were just generally positive. Spectators have such power for mood lifting! As we turned left into the mile 7-9 slog I knew that the Hashers and their aid stop would soon arrive. Chalk affirmations started to appear in the road and soon the familiar "Beer Near" mark was there. They offered the standard Gatorade and water but also had beer and mimosas. I smiled as the memory of Christina's first mimosa on this course came into my head. I opted for Gatorade and water and continued toward the hill at mile 9.5.

My hill buddy and later my finish partner

As I rounded the corner and started up the hill I saw a woman power hiking just ahead of me. I took note of my stride against hers and realized I would move faster if I were to power hike. I joined her and we exchanged a quick hello. At the top of the hill we were again serenaded by The Final Countdown boys. This time it felt appropriate.

Soon it was time to head down and start the home stretch!! The last miles were gently downhill and/or flat and I felt pretty good. I didn't feel like I could change my speed much but I was in fine spirits. I set my goal on passing 10 people in the last 2 miles, just like the goal I had set for Christina a couple years ago when we ran this together.

The last mile

I didn't quite hit my goal but it gave me some focus and I managed to pass 6 people. Two of them I had been running behind since mile 5. As I ran near them I learned from their conversation that they had just met while running that morning, found themselves near the same pace and just ran together. Scott often manages to connect with people like that on the course but I never have. I think it is cool when that happens though!

I saw the photographer on the last corner and knew it was time to run it in. Racing or not, I was definitely going to run the home stretch as quickly as I could. I saw my hill buddy up ahead of me and decided to run it in with her saying, "come on hill buddy let's get this!"

Near the finish. Picture by Steve Gallow.

Near the finish. Picture by Steve Gallow.

I crossed at 2:01 and change - not really a great time for me. Under 2 without proper training would have been lovely but not deserved.

Awards and yoga

After the Master's winner was stripped off, Scott came in first in his age group so we were waiting around for awards. I ran into my co-teacher, Rocco at the race. His girlfriend had run and he enjoyed spectating. He congratulated me on a nice run and then I headed over to get some yogurt. My friend Laurel walked over as I was starting to peer at results and said, "Congrats you both got 2nd in your age group." I thought, Huh? why would that be? Last year I ran a good race and didn't get anything and this year I run much more slowly and get an award. Laurel ran SO much faster than I did and didn't win an age group award. I found that laughable and remembered that racing really is all about who shows up. Turns out that after Master's winner was stripped off both Scott and I left with first place. Pretty fun! Read all about Scott's race.

Someone offered to take our picture after we got our awards. So sweet!

Someone offered to take our picture after we got our awards. So sweet!

We went home and fell into our typical post race pattern. Reflect on the race. Think about how fun it was. Look ahead to the next one and how we'll do better. We walked around our loop with our new bunny and Elizabeth and then I did some baking for my business before we headed back in for Bikram Yoga.

Laurel, Brenda, Scott and I took front row spots and enjoyed an amazing session of Bikram at Pure Sweat Yoga. Yes it was challenging post race but in a really good way. I admit that I looked forward to the laying down part of the session from the very first breath! Since it was Xander's last show that afternoon, we all met up for dinner after he finished with the set deconstruction. Of course we chose Viva. Our favorite waiter (friend Scott) waited on us for our post race/post yoga/post show dinner!!

Race Results

Time 2:01:47
Age Group 2 of 22
Gender 80 of 227
Overall 226 of 452