One year ago, I was having an ultrasound done to determine what the bump in my stomach was. I remember how scared I was about what the ultrasound would find. I had no clue then what the next year would have in store for me but let me tell you, the six weeks between that ultrasound and the surgery that removed what we found out was a cancerous ovarian tumor were hell. People would sometimes tell me that I looked terrified at the start of a race and sometimes I was a little - when I was about to race a new distance or a difficult trail race. But not anymore! Racing is easy compared to cancer. Never again will I be afraid to race. As a friend reminded me last month "It's just a race." Whatever happens, happens. If it doesn't go well, it's not the end of the world. So I was pretty relaxed for this weekend's adventures. Maybe too relaxed.
Yesterday, I ran the Leading Ladies Half Marathon. I'd originally signed up for the marathon but fatigue and foot issues derailed my training and I asked if I could drop to the Half. I'd run the marathon there a couple of years ago and thought it would be a good one to come back with. It's pretty small, only for women, and really beautiful. I also didn't get to see a lot the last time I was there so wanted to go back.
Because my kitten, Jenks, is still pretty young, I didn't take the long weekend I'd originally planned and just did a quick Saturday/Sunday trip. So I packed A LOT into Saturday. My flight arrived at noon on Saturday and I immediately headed over to the race expo to check in. Picked up the beautiful bib and cool shirt and the chip and then headed out to do some exploring.
First, I went to the Spirit of the Wild Sanctuary. It's an animal sanctuary for lions, tigers, bears, and other wild creatures who were in captivity or as pets but not able to be taken care of anymore. I took the tour which took about 2 hours and was pretty cool. I even saw a coyote cousin there. You should have heard one of the mountain lions screaming. Gave me chills. But then there was this cutie in a tree. Almost makes you want to hug him. Almost.
After that, I drove to Devil's Tower National Monument. If you've seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you've seen Devil's Tower. It is amazing and weird! It's also pretty popular with climbers.
I did the short 1.3 mile hike that goes around the tower. It was beautiful and I got to watch some climbers for a while. I didn't see any aliens though. As I was driving out of the park, I stopped to take photos and one of the stops had a large field across from it filled with prairie dogs! They were cute and fun to watch.
Then I drove back to Spearfish to check into my hotel, stopping once to watch the sunset for a bit. I tried going to sleep but tossed and turned all night. I'm not sure why. I wasn't nervous.
I got up at 3 on Sunday and got ready to head over to the park to take the bus at 4:30. It was cool but not too cold. I got to talk to some women while we waited for the start and I met a woman who knew me from my blog. So wild! We were supposed to start at 6 but didn't start until about 6:25. I hadn't had breakfast except a Lara bar and then a gel about 15 minutes before the start.
Finally we were off! I tried to hold back because I was planning a 2:45 finish but felt good and ran a faster pace than I'd planned pretty much until mile 9. I only stopped once to take a pic of Bridal Veil Falls (which I missed the last time because you had to cross the road and go out on a deck). I tried taking pics as I ran but only 1 came out. I guess I need to practice that. Hmmm...
I had another gel with me but ended up not taking it because my stomach was unhappy starting about mile 9. I walked thru 2 aid stations to grab some pretzels to see if it would help and it did a little. I never really found my pace again so the brief glimpse I had of a 2:30 finish faded away. But besides those 2 aid stations, I didn't walk at all which I am very proud of. The unhappy stomach and my legs being sore were voting for walking and settling for 2:45 but I outvoted them! I distracted myself from them by trying to remember how many races I'd done that were a half marathon or longer (53 including this one) and just counting steps. I finished strong and was really happy to see I made it in before 2:35. :) They gave me my medal, a rose, and a warm, lemon scented towel and then I headed over to the pizza cookies which were just as yummy as I remembered.
Then I headed back to the hotel to shower and pack for my flight home. It was a SHORT but sweet trip!
I probably could have done a few things better. Like having a good dinner the night before and not doing all that walking with the running thru airports, tour, and hike. I could have also had a real breakfast. And remembered to bring salt pills. Oh, and I didn't taper. I really thought I would be doing some walking so hadn't done the usual pre-race rituals. Next time, I'll be better about it!
But maybe I wouldn't be better about it. I would hate to have missed the sanctuary or Devil's Tower. I mean, that's the whole reason I race...to see new places and explore this incredibly strange and wondrous planet we live on. So I wouldn't change that part. But the nutrition part and the tapering...yeah, that I have to work on.
One final thought...I definitely do need to lose more weight and get stronger all around because my legs and back were pretty sore after. If I'm going to run hard, I better make sure my body can handle it.