I had pretty high hopes for this race going in - I've been feeling really good about my fitness these last few weeks. So I rested up for this race, hydrated and ate up, and hoped the weather would cooperate.
The forecast for this race had been coy all week - it had become warm and humid towards the end of the week, but a front would blow through sometime Sunday morning, with cooler and drier air behind it. The question of the day - when would the front come through?
As it turned out, not in time for the start of the race. Oh well. I had raced a half-marathon in warm conditions before, so I knew how to do it - carry a water bottle and start very conservatively. My coach's advice to me was "keep it very careful the first 5K" and I was absolutely going to comply.
The race started, and I went out gently, letting the crowds surge around me, before settling into a very controlled pace. What felt very easy for the first mile started feeling a bit harder after the second mile, so I backed off slightly, letting a teammate pull ahead of me. We still had 11 miles to go, and I knew I didn't want to push it early on. "Keep it very careful." Though it was still warm and slightly sticky, the front was starting to come in with a brisk wind, and I suspected we'd be dealing with a headwind for several miles to come, so I wanted to stay conservative now.
Things continued to toughen, though, and my chest started to tighten some. Not a full-blown asthma attack, but I definitely wasn't getting the air I needed, with the "breathing through a straw" feeling.
Ugh. I didn't want to, but with 8 miles to go, I needed to take care of this. So I stepped to the side for a second, puffed my rescue inhaler, and then picked up where I left off. Soon after, the breathing eased a bit, and I was able to focus on the group I had been running with - now a bit ahead.
My breathing still wasn't great, though, even after controlling for the weather (which honestly wasn't THAT bad). It's hard to explain, but there is a difference between simply dealing with humid air, and asthma. Humid air just feels like...moist air. It still goes in and out of the lungs. Asthma feels like my lungs are clenching up into fists, and the air gets stuck and doesn't go where it should. I'd go through periods where it felt a bit better and my lungs would loosen up and I could talk, and then it would grab up again - never to the point of making me wheeze, but not good. But all I could do was work through it.
The thought of dropping out did cross my mind. But I nixed it for a lot of reasons:
a) I was running on a team, and I didn't want to have my drop out affect the team if they needed my score;
b) I didn't know how many masters females were ahead of me - there was still the possibility of an award there, even though I was having an awful day;
c) half-marathons, even if they go horribly, are still a great tempo workout, and one that I sorely needed;
d) I think dropping out of a race can really linger in one's mind, more so than a bad race. I definitely would have dropped if the breathing became too much of a struggle. But it was somewhat under control, so I just kept on.
(this long list all went through my head as I convinced myself).
That was pretty much how the rest of the race went - running fast when I could, backing off (sometimes way off) when needed. There was a sharp hill climbing to a hair pin turn about mile 9 - my lungs grabbed up as we climbed, so I pulled off just after the turn to take another puff - I was struggling enough that another puff was a good idea to get me through to the end, and a sharp turn with a downhill was the best place to do it - I could use the downhill to get me back up to speed.
More slogging, and I finally made it to the finish. This race ends with a steep downhill for the last tenth of a mile. Amusingly, I ended up "out-kicking" a few people - not because I had anything left, but because I am a very good downhill runner (speedwise; not in terms of handling the pounding), especially when the downhill is fairly steep. And then it was over, and I was glad.
Mile 1: 6:56
Mile 2: 7:27 (long)
Mile 3: 6:06 (short)
Mile 4: 6:55
Mile 5: 6:56
Mile 6-7: 14:17 (7:09) -inhaler
Mile 8: 7:06
Mile 9: 7:21 -inhaler
Mile 10: 7:05
Mile 11: 6:57
Mile 12: 7:08
Mile 13: 6:50
Last bit: 36 seconds
My frustration with racing at this time of year continues. I have a habit of being massively disappointed in September half-marathons - I've never raced one where I felt good, even when the weather was fantastic. I know why it is - this is a rough time for me, allergy-wise, and the bad breathing days battle with the good. In fact, I have just enough good days to convince me it's going to be different this year. Effectively I have an abusive and toxic relationship with my own breathing. Heh.
Every year, I swear I won't do another September half-marathon.
What do you want to bet I'll run this race next year, and be optimistic (as I was this year) that I'm primed for a great race?
- Arrived around 6 am, which was perfect timing to park, do bag check, and warm up. I did warm-up fairly early, ending around 6:45. I was OK with having the extra time pre-race, since I wanted to make sure I was cool at the start, and I didn't care if I went out a bit slow.
- Ended up second Masters Female, which was nice, and shows why you don't drop out of races just because you're having a shitty day - you never know what's going on ahead of you (well...unless you're in the lead pack).
- Temperature was supposedly 70, with a DP of 60 at the start. Which is weird, because it felt stickier than that. *shrug*
- This race is in its fourth or fifth year now, and it's really nice to note the work the race management is putting into it. The expo this year was well-run, and an easy trip. And the course was redesigned this year to avoid any intersection between the half and the five-mile races. Well done.
- One puff of my Foradil long acting inhaler at 5:30 this morning plus two puffs of the rescue inhaler pre-race; two more puffs of the inhaler during the race at 40 and 60 minutes into the race. For you Alberto Salazar fans - no, neither of my inhalers have steroids - they're both broncho-dilators. One takes longer to kick in but lasts longer; the other kicks in very quickly but doesn't last that long.
- Tossed my water bottle at Thompson's boathouse - worked perfectly for retrieving it after.
- Took two gels - one was a Strawberry Kiwi rocktane at Mile 4, the other was a Maple Bacon (actually quite yummy) around mile 9.