Last Sunday I ran the local Cascade Half Marathon. In terms of performance, I had nothing riding on a set time and I didn't take the lead up to the race very seriously, yet, the day before the race I found myself really worried. I realized I was using this race as a test, a test to see if I really could control my asthma and get back to racing again. Because I had a lot riding on this emotionally, I kind of went into panic mode before the race, taking extra reflux meds, revisiting the steroid inhaler and taking the regular inhaler twice before the race started - I was going to make sure I was well medicated for this thing! (To keep the lynch mobs at bay, I will point out that everything is WADA legal. And contrary to what many people think, asthma drugs do not require a TUE).
I thought a 6:40 pace would be doable even in the pouring rain (you can count on miserable weather for the Cascade Half) and made sure my pace didn't dip below 6:30 on the way out to the turn around. On the way back, I just tried to keep a steady effort and ended up with a ten second negative split for a 1:26:44 finish, which is now the median for my 7 life time half marathons. Despite being a middle of the road time, I was ecstatic: I felt completely in control, I had no breathing issues, and my legs felt like they were working exactly like they were supposed to work, and the race left me exhilarated, not completely exhausted! In summary: I passed my test! If I never got any faster, I'd still be happy and able to enjoy running and that is a very nice thing to be able to say (finally!). Plus, I did actually win the race (the farm town of Turner, OR is not exactly a mecca for speedy runners in the middle of January), which was a nice little cherry on top. I parked eight miles from the finish line and caught a ride with a friend which forced me to do an extra long cool down, which made for a pretty good day in the log book!
One funny little story: a generous doctor in the area donated $100 for both the men's and women's master runners, but there was only a plaque for the overall winner, who is typically removed from the age group awards. I politely asked the race director (and friend) to give the overall win to second place and make me the masters winner - I prefer a hundred dollars to a plaque! The RD thought that would be awkward so he ended up paying me $100 from the race coffers and the second place 40+ lady got the donated prize money. Everybody wins! (well, except maybe Cascade High School, which is now getting $100 less from this fundraiser. I volunteered to help for a couple hours the day before the race, so let's call it even!). I guess I'll use it to cover all the co-pays for my asthma meds, cause they seem to be working!
In the few days after the race, I couldn't believe how sore my hamstrings were! Geez, don't my legs remember how to run 13 measly miles?? But a friend reminded me that I took ten weeks off and I have to think like I am starting all over again. I am optimistic that this means there is still lots of improvement to be had. I will test myself at the half again in three weeks at the Roaring Run, which will be 13 weeks since I started back running. Last year I ran 1:26:01 while suffering and feeling terrible (and experiencing several bad workouts ahead of time), so I will definitely be hoping for something better. Now that my hamstrings have recovered, it's time to get training!