Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cummins Falls Half Marathon Recap

On Saturday, I ran the Cummins Falls Half Marathon in Cookeville, Tennessee. It was my 33rd Half Marathon and one of the most beautiful… and cold races I’ve done!

I hadn’t really planned to run this race but my friend, Dallas Smith (RIF #79) is on the committee and he encouraged me to run it. I hadn’t seen Dallas in a while and knew I would get to see many other TN peeps so I decided to do it even though it would put a kink in my LA Marathon training plans.

I’m really glad I did it because it was one of the craziest, most fun adventures I’ve had. And I feel pretty proud of myself for running it too.

I flew to Nashville on Friday morning. I was worried that the storm heading for the area would delay or cancel flights but both of my flights were on time and I had no problems. Once we landed, I went outside to wait for my friend Leanne (RIF #45)who was picking me up…and promptly froze my butt off! It was 26 degrees. And snowing. Snowing! I was thankful that Leanne was picking me up because I would have been really nervous about driving.

Leanne picked me up and we drove over to packet pick up and got our bibs, goodie bags, and shirts. Dallas was there so I got to say Hi and meet a few other people. We then headed over to Leanne’s to hang out til dinner. We met Dallas and the others at Mama Rosas at 6. I got to meet a few other RIFers there including Dallas’s daughter Jill (RIF #356) and Charlie Taylor (RIF #353).

Dinner was fun and filled me up and we headed back to Leanne’s to relax and get ready for the race. And by get ready for the race I mean not freak out! Holy moly! The weather was insane. The forecast talked about freezing rain and ice and this So Cal girl was really, really nervous. I had never run on ice before and I wasn’t sure I could do it for 13.1 miles. I’d brought some Goathead Gear screws to put in my shoes and I put some in my shoes and Leanne’s while we watched tv. Then we saw a post on the Cummins Falls race page about the bridge…
Photo by Cummins Falls Marathon
And I thought, oh crap, I’m going to fall in! It would be just my luck! (The bridge was washed out in a flood a few years back so they put up this temporary bridge so we could run a loop course.)

Because of the weather, they also posted that the race would be delayed an hour so it would start at 9 instead of 8. I was thankful because it meant I could sleep in extra and get up at 6 (4 my time) instead of 5. I set my alarm and went to sleep and actually slept pretty well. Too well! Because I slept til 6:30! Thank goodness Leanne knocked on the door to wake me up because I’d set my alarm for Sunday, not Saturday. Oops! I ate breakfast and got ready and then Leanne and I walked over to her dad’s so he could take us in his big truck. We were both thankful that we didn’t have to worry about driving and sliding on ice or getting stuck.

We made it to the race site in plenty of time and headed over to the heated tent. We met a few more RIFers in there Leslie (RIF #417), Kerri (RIF #407), and Susan (RIF #368). And then we also found RIFers that I already knew Dallas, Charlie, Heather (RIF #44), Donna (RIF #310) and Whitney (RIF #37). Sadly, some of my RIF peeps did not make it because the weather was crazy and the roads were a mess. Boo!

They ended up delaying the race until 10 but I was okay with that because of the warm tent. They also offered us fruit and Clif Bloks while we waited. And did I mention there were heaters? But alas, it was finally time to start. The RD led us out to the start line and it was go time!

My strategy for the race was “don’t die, don’t break anything”. I had originally hoped to finally hit 2:05 here but when I saw it was hilly and going to be icy/snowy, I decided to just have fun and enjoy the run. So I was nervous at the start but not too much. I wanted to get going so I could see if I could actually do it.

They counted us down and one of the rangers in a Revolutionary War costume fired off a musket to signal the start of the race. We were off!

It actually wasn’t too bad to run. You could feel your feet slipping slightly almost like running on sand. I took it really easy in the beginning, especially on the downhills so I wouldn’t slip. It was really pretty so I stopped to take a few photos in the first few miles. I tried to take some while running but those did not come out. I really need to practice that!

Just after mile 4, we got to the bridge. I was with a big group of people and I let most of them go first so there would be less movement on the bridge. They had a rope up so it was actually pretty easy to cross and felt stable. After the bridge, we had a big hill to climb. I tried running the hill but it was so tiring. It was a not traveled road so there weren't any tire grooves to run in and you slid a little or sank a little depending on what footing you chose. I mostly chose the snowy part so felt like I was working twice as hard to get up the hill. After that hill, I was thinking that if there were more hills like this, I would be lucky to make it under 3 hours!

Luckily, that was the hardest/biggest hill and at the top we were back on main roads. The roads were a little better on the main stretch and I was able to stretch my legs out. I even had a 9 min mile in there. I didn’t too bad on the hills either. I knew there were some at the end and thought they would be worse than the mile 5 hill but they were more rolling and I only had to walk one tiny part of a hill that was steep and icey. I got a brief bit of encouragement at this point when I looked up and saw a Run It Fast shirt coming towards me. I thought it was a hallucination but then realized it was David Pharr (RIF #185) who’d missed the start of the race because of road closures and was running back along the course too encourage runners. Thank you David!

It had rained pretty much the entire time and there were times when it stung a little so not sure if was turning to sleet. The worst part was that the tire grooves we were running in filled with water so you were up to your ankles in freezing water. I kept trying to decide which was the lesser of the two evils - frozen feet or slower times from running on snow. I mostly picked frozen feet.

I definitely feel like I ran the first half of the race too cautiously. I think by the time I got to the top of the mile 5 hill, I had more confidence and that helped and it only got better after that. I hadn’t seen anyone behind me while going up that hill and thought I might be last. I decided to start fishing for runners to get me to be more aggressive. From mile 6 to the end, I passed 11 runners. Once I passed one runner, I’d set my sights on the next and try to reel them in. I thought I might not catch that last runner I could see but passed him with one mile to go.

I was so excited to be almost done. My feet and fingers were numb and I was hungry! LOL. Anyway, the only time I really slipped was in the last mile because I wasn’t paying attention in my excitement. Thankfully, I didn’t fall and was able to catch myself. Then I turned into the park and could hear the announcer and the music and ran as hard as I could over the ice to finish.

I’d done it! 2:40 but I’d done it! Woo!

Leanne & Whitney (thank you Whitney for the finish photos!) were there cheering me at the finish, bless their souls. After I caught my breath, we walked over to the tent and I got my medal and then went back to the truck to get my clothes and change. Ha! Trying to change out of wet clothes with numb fingers is HARD! LOL. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was giving myself more encouragement in that bathroom than I had on the course. There was another runner in the stall next to me going through the same thing and we were laughing. But finally, I got changed into dry, warm clothes and headed back to the tent.

And surprise! When I got back, Leanne and Whitney met me and they told me I was 1st in my age group and they had my age group medal! I was like “For real?” Woo!

Isn’t it pretty? :)

I basked in the glow of this...while basking in the glow of a heat lamp! And Leanne was kind enough to get me a bowl of chili. It's funny the things you think about when you are running and during this race I was dreaming of a big bowl of soup. Usually, it's burritos or pancakes. THAT'S how cold I was! The chili was great but it was cold and we left soon after.

When we got back to Leanne's, she made us hot chocolate (another thing I'd been thinking about on the course and actually wondering if any of the aid stations had it) and tried to thaw out. Then later that evening, we went out to dinner with her husband for some good Southern food (bb1 pork, beans, and hush puppies!) and then ice cream! It is NEVER too cold for ice cream!

The next day, I was lucky again that both my flights got out and relatively on time. My quick adventure to TN was over but wow, was it packed with some fun memories.

So...I was 1st in my Age Group (there were 3 of us), 4th out of 14 women, and 16th out of 34 brave runners who battled and won the Icepocalypse Cummins Falls Half Marathon! I am so glad I got it together the last half and got over my fear of falling.

I want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to the organizers, volunteers, and rangers who were totally AWESOME during this. I give them very high marks for being out there in the rain and cold for us. I was not worried at all while on the course because there were so many volunteers & rangers out. Despite the conditions, everyone was really cheery and I had a lot of fun. There was one moment at the 10K turn around where I thought about calling it and dropping to the 10K, mostly because I was nervous. I am SO glad I didn't.

This was truly epic.

Thank you so much to Leanne for hosting me and driving me around! I probably would have stayed at the airport if not for her. I also want to thank Dallas for providing me with one heck of a story to tell my friends. :)

And thank YOU for reading! I know it was long. Sorry about that. :)

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