Lately I’ve been working on eating local and unprocessed foods. I decided to translate that to running races this year, too. After traveling around to races over the past few months, most of my races will be close by this year. I’m running local!
By racing local I don’t always have to stay in a hotel, which is easier for my schedule right now and my wallet. I also get bored by the monotony of running the same paths for long runs and am really trying to run at least two long runs a month somewhere new and unexplored. This keeps running fresh and exciting. By signing up for races I also ensure I get all of my long runs done. I don’t have the I-want-to-sleep-in opportunity and then it gets too hot to finish every mile. It also prevents last minute plans from interfering. Races hold me accountable. They also stop me from having too many beers the night before. Been there, done that, learned that lesson.
Whenever I run a new race in Wisconsin I always get excited to explore new parts of the state, see new trails, and experience the diverse beauty of our state. On Saturday, I raced in Wisconsin Rapids. I had been to Wisconsin Rapids once before when I was in middle school, and drove through it a few years ago. So basically I knew nothing about this city. When looking at the race overview a few things attracted me to this race: 1-distance from my house, 2-the course (all bike path trails), 3-SHADE, the course was mostly shaded (amen in the summer), 4-it supported the Boys and Girls Clubs, 5-price (it was only $35) which included a t-shirt. When I picked up my packet I was surprised to see some other great swag for such a small race. Often small town races don’t offer anything which I understand. The juice, chapstick, granola bar were all unexpected, but awesome additions.
I worked the night before getting home around 11:45. I was in bed an hour later and you guessed it-didn’t get much sleep. Five hours later the alarm went off and I was up to get ready. Same old story, just a different race it seems. BUT the totally new thing! Wait for it, wait for it…I was not running late for the race. I go to the race 30 minutes before the start. While this may not even be close to enough time before a big city race, it is LOTS of time before a small race.
Speaking of small, I knew the racing field would be small, but I had no idea just how small. There were 41 of us a the start. No I didn’t count as the national anthem was being sung, I looked at the race results. The 5k which started an hour later had many more runners and walkers. Don’t get the small size thing wrong; the race was very well organized and had many features of a larger race such as an official start and finish, well marked course, very well aided water stations, and medical people always nearby.
My goal for the race was to treat it like a long run and run smart. I was not running this race to race, but rather as a training run. By running smart I mean, not start too fast like I’ve started doing recently. I needed to remember when I got the urge to go faster that when I crossed the finish line, I was not finished. I would have three more miles to go. The last five miles I had planned to run at goal marathon pace or faster as my training schedule dictated. I wanted to run comfortably fast.
The race started outside the Rapids mall along the Wisconsin River. Mile one took us along the Wisconsin River and then mile two led us out onto the shaded bike paths. The bike paths are part of a larger system of trails along the Wisconsin River.
It had been raining until about an hour before the race, but the clouds stuck around for about 3/4 of the race. Mother nature must have been on my side that day. Mile 3 continued on the bike path leading closer to the city of Port Edwards.
Miles four and five we passed through Port Edwards via the bike path. At one point there was a family standing on the bike path cheering runners on. Their young daughter said as I passed, “She’s running really, really, really, fast.” I smiled and thought to myself, thank you small child! Your view of the world is so awesome because in truth I am not running really, really, really fast.
Mile six and then the turnaround at mile 6.5 were in Nekoosa with a turnaround in Riverside Park. One thing I love about out and back courses is you can see the competition as it is coming back after they’ve turned around. Around mile six I started counting ladies to see what place I was in. At the half way point I was the sixth female in the race. I had stuck to my race plan of running this like a long run. I was feeling great.
While the course didn’t take us into Nekoosa the Swiftwater Mural is a unique work of art in the city.
Mile 8 marked the last six miles of the race, so it was time to pick up the pace to my goal marathon pace or faster for the rest of the half marathon. This is when I began passing other girls.
Mile ten I was in third place for females, and I could not see the first two women. I was running just barely comfortably fast. It was warm enough out that I didn’t have a dry spot on my body. Mile ten I passed a man in his sixties who was movin’ butt. I love how the sport of running can be so humbling. Here I am 30 some years younger than this man and he has been ahead of me for ten miles. He was awesome.
I started to get a bit tired around mile 11. By mile 12 I didn’t have a lot of gas to go much faster. I had stuck to my plan, maybe a bit quicker. I didn’t need to go faster, but the inner competitor just makes me. It’s like it takes over your brain and body and you CANNOT stop it. Your legs just go faster, your arms pump harder, your brain focuses harder. Even if you’re tired, you still find a way to go faster.
I crossed the finish line as the 3rd female. I had hoped to be under 1:50, but just missed it. Overall I was super excited about how I ran, where I am at in my training, and how I handled the very humid and warmer day. Normally I really struggle when it gets in the 70’s and/or is humid. Today I didn’t. In a race that I kept the pace comfortable during most of the race ended up being my third fastest half marathon. I feel my speed coming back. Maybe I’m turning over a new leaf.
Either way I wasn’t done with my run. I was pretty sure one of the first two runners was in my age group and they only gave awards to the winner of each age group, so I had a small bottle of water which they handed out at the finish and continued on for my last three cool down miles in the opposite direction of the race.
I ran along the Wisconsin River, past the “wisconsin” rapids, and turned around. It was a gorgeous day with great trails. How lucky these people are to have shade available all summer long. Experiencing a new city was just what I’d hoped it would be. It adds a bit of adventure to the everyday. And Cran-Grape never tasted so good after a warm long run.
Race for the Heart Half Marathon
Age Group: 1/6*
*As I wrote this post and looked up my results, it turns out I did win my age group. I need to enjoy this last year in this age group all year. Next year it will be a different ball game.