This past weekend, I took part in the Love Me Two Times challenge at that Labor of Love races in Lovell Canyon outside Vegas. To be a part of the Love Me Two Times challenge, you have to race on Saturday AND Sunday in any combination of races you choose. I decided to run the half marathon on both days. I was nervous when I signed up for it but thought I could do it. The question was...how well?
The plan for Saturday was to take it easy and check out the course for Sunday. I would treat it as a long, easy run and not a race. The course is out and back and the profile said we would have a long uphill thru mile 4 and then a good downhill to the turn around before climbing back up and finishing with the last 4 miles downhill.
Saturday morning was cold! About 35 at the start. The high was going to be 50 so it would be great for racing. I did a little warm up before and then we were off and running. As planned, I paid attention to my breathing and kept it easy the first 4 miles. It gave me a chance to talk to some of the other runners and check out the scenery - which was gorgeous: big puffy clouds floating over the desert valley and the hills in the distance covered with snow.
After mile 4, we hit the downhill and when I saw how steep it was the only thing I could think of was "oh crap, we have to climb back up that!". And then my shoe came untied so I had to stop and tie it. Argh. Rookie mistake! I think I only lost 20 or 30 seconds though. I started up again and hit the turnaround feeling pretty good and prepared myself for the hill. I told myself to just run it and not think about it. And anyway, the faster I ran it, the sooner it would be over. And it wasn't so bad. Not! But I got thru it. Then it was all downhill to the finish. Again, I held back and took it easyish. Mostly. :) No, really I did. I didn't want to blow my quads before Sunday's race.
I finished feeling good. I felt I gave a good effort but didn't push it and felt ready for Sunday. The best part of Saturday was that despite taking it easy and stopping to tie my shoe, my time was 2:06:40! A 7 min 15 sec PR for the half! Woo!
And then...when I was checking the results and scrolling down the list, I found out I'd won my age group (40-49)! I was totally shocked and checked a few times to make sure. Yep, 1st. Woo! I was 10th woman and 28th overall.
First half marathon of the weekend was a success! Here are the stats from Saturday's run:
On Sunday I woke up feeling pretty good. My quads were a little sore but not too bad. I felt like I could put together a good race on Sunday and was really looking forward to it. Even knowing about the big hill. I wore my Vizi Kinvara's and an orange tank to match them since Orange is a fast color. It put me in a racing frame of mind. ;)
It was about 5 degrees warmer on Sunday but still a cool day and great for racing. The number of people running Sunday's half marathon was less than Saturday's. I recognized a few people from Saturday's race so there were a few people doing the Love Me Two Times challenge. The race photographer had us gather at the start line for a photo and somehow I ended up at the front! Then the chatting and photo taking was over and it was time to race!
We took off and I settled into a good pace. My legs felt good so I tried to keep it 20 to 30 seconds faster than Saturday's paces. I relaxed and focused on the runners in front of me as we climbed to mile 4. I passed a few people and was working hard but not too hard.
When we hit the steep downhill, my quads protested a little but not too bad. I knew there was at least one woman in front of me and I could see she was extending her lead on me as we went downhill. I didn't know if there were any women in front of her but figured I would be able to tell where I was as we got close to the turnaround. That is definitely one of the advantages of an out and back: yu can see where the competition is. I remember thinking to myself "are you actually thinking of a top 3 finish?" and the answer was yes. But I didn't know who was in front so I just ran my own race with the hope of beating Saturday's time.
Then we were at the turnaround and I realized I was in second place! And then as I was heading back I saw that I had a good lead on the next two women in 3rd & 4th place. I began to hope...
I could see the woman in front of me and she seemed so far ahead that I just kept telling myself "run your own race". And then we were going up the hill and I saw she was walking. I was so, so tired going up the hill but I made myself keep running to see if I could get closer to her. And then I was at the top of the hill, thank god, and after a bit, I recovered from the hill effort and turned it up a notch. There were only 4 miles to the finish and I was feeling strong and my quads were doing fine on the less steep downhill.
And then...miracle of miracles...I was closing the gap on the woman in front of me. I kept getting closer and closer to her and caught up to her at mile 10! I remember thinking "should I pass her or should I settle in behind her?" Then I gave myself a little kick in the butt and said "duh, run your own race!". So I passed her! I was in first! Totally frickin unbelievable! I remember thinking she might pick up the pace when I passed her. That maybe she'd thought I was too far behind and hadn't expected me. But I passed her and her pace didn't change. So I ran my little heart out!
But I also tried to keep it in control. I knew that it would be my race to lose and I didn't want to make any mistakes: no tripping, no over doing it, hopefully no cramping or side stitches. Just ran good and hard. There was a man running in front of us and I focused on him as my next target. And then I passed him and there was no one in front of me to use as a rabbit. So I just kept it steady.
With about 1.5 miles to go, I passed the course photographer. He congratulated me on how well I was doing and I asked him if he could see anyone behind me. He said I had a good lead but I didn't want to look back so I just kept going.
The last mile was the hardest. You could see the finish in the distance but it seemed so far away. And then there was a headwind. Crap! I was starting to get tired but I WOULD NOT let myself slow down. There was no way I was going to work that hard and then give up at the end.
I looked at my watch when we hit .2 to go (the marker for Saturday's marathon was still up) and I saw that my time was 1:57. I had a chance to hit 2 hrs! So close. I pushed harder. As I ran up the last little bump up to the finish, I could see my mom at the top and she and Tony (her boyfriend) were cheering me on. I gave it my all and finished in 1:59:23! I'd made it under 2 hours! And I'd got another 7 minute PR. And...I'd won! Woo! Oh. My. God. It felt unreal.
It took me a minute to catch my breath and then they took my chip and gave me my two medals (one for the half marathon and one for the Love Me Two Times challenge). I grabbed some food and waited for the results to be posted. The race director gave me my award and a goody bag with a hat and some samples. And finally the results were posted. I was 6th overall. 5 men and then me. Me! Who would have thought.
I know that it was a small race, smaller even than Saturday but I won! And I did it after running it on Saturday too. I. Won. Sorry, I'm still a little shocked over it. Race #2 was a success. The whole weekend was and I couldn't be happier. Here are the stats for Sunday's race:
My mom, Tony, and I went to grab something to eat after and they asked me where I wanted to go to dinner to celebrate. I said I didn't care as long as it was steak. I was craving a really good steak. We went down to the Strip around 3 and walked around and we ended up eating at the Hardrock Cafe. The steak was delicious and really hit the spot. Then we went for ice cream after. And I thoroughly enjoyed every lick of it. :)
More thoughts later but for now I just want to thank my coach, Jason, who has really helped me grow as a runner. He's helped me really strengthen my legs and get to a place where I can run strong and recover quickly. Thanks Jason!