Monday, May 2, 2016

Volcano Valley Half Marathon: Be Careful What You Wish For

In my last post, I talked about the value of taking on challenges. Well, be careful what you wish for. 

Yesterday I ran my second half marathon in three weeks, the Volcano Valley, as part of my plan to run a total of three within a two month span, which will qualify me to be a Half Fanatic. The Volcano was supposed to be the easiest of the three, with very little elevation change and half of the course meandering through shaded overgrowth, but I had to go and talk about wanting a good challenge.

Ten days before the Volcano, my 10 year old daughter tested positive for strep throat; and the next day, my wife started to get a sore throat. Two days later, as I was out on my last long run before the race, I got a dry, scratchy feeling in my throat as the run progressed. This was not good.

During the following week, my scratchy throat evolved into full blown upper respiratory congestion, and by Thursday I was wondering if I would even be able to run the race at all. I quickly consulted with all of my different running circles, and the common theme was essentially, "If it's in your chest, you need to rest". The race director even offered to switch me to the 10K or 5K event if needed, but I was only going there if absolutely necessary.

Things felt somewhat better by Friday afternoon, with all of the nasty stuff leaving my lungs and taking up residence in my sinuses. I decided to go out for a slow-paced 3.3-mile test run Saturday morning, and was pleased to find that, while my sinuses burned like jalapeno in the eye, my lungs were fully capable of handling a run. I didn't know what kind of mileage they were good for, but I felt I could at least finish the 13.1 if I just took it easy.

I'm not so good with selfies.
The end result? I finished the Volcano Valley half marathon, turning in my second best time of the five races I've done at this distance. I felt marginally better Sunday morning, with less burning in my nasal passages, which was a good sign. Before I left for the race, I kissed my wife "good-bye", and she said, "Go get your PR". From then on, I couldn't get that out of my head. I kept telling myself, "You're still sick. Just be happy to finish. You don't need to PR".

The weather was perfect for a road race -- about 49 degrees as I set out at 6:15 AM, with clear skies and a projected high right around 80 degrees. During the hour or so that I waited at Willamette Mission State Park for the race to start, that phrase kept popping into my head, "go get your PR"; and it never left my head, even as the race started. 

I started out following my original plan of taking it easy, finishing the first mile at about 30 seconds per mile behind my normal half marathon pace. I had planned to try and keep "negative splits" throughout the race, so with each successive mile, I gradually picked up my pace. After completing one full lap of the double-loop course, my RunKeeper app updated in my ear with a cumulative pace that seemed to be within reach of my record, but I would need to kick it into another gear; and at that time, I was feeling good. I blew my nose one more time, popped an energy supplement, and stepped up the pace.

All went well along the back stretch as I encountered a short downhill section, and my fastest one-mile pace came from mile 9 to 10, and the next mile wasn't too far off, but right about 11.5 miles in, I hit the wall. My fingertips were starting to tingle, a sure sign that my oxygen supply wasn't keeping up with my pace; and I started to feel nauseous, possibly because I took the energy block too early. But mostly because my body was still recovering from the illness, and was pushing back. I had wanted a strong finish, but it just wasn't going to happen. I need to be happy with knowing that despite my upper respiratory ailments, I was still able to finish with my second fastest race time ever. 

Despite the course change, it was technically my first repeat race.

I definitely didn't ask for this challenge, and really don't want to have to face it again, but it is good to know that the mind is stronger than the body... even if the body does give some resistance of its own. Next challenge on the list: The Oregon Spring Half Marathon.

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