Three weekends ago I ran my first Paavo Nurmi Half Marathon in Hurley, Wisconsin. To say that I’ll definitely be back to run this again next year would be pretty accurate – I think. To say that I did my best would be fitting. I didn’t smash any records or meet the goals I set for myself but over the course of my training this summer I learned one big thing – I AM NOT a fan of training during the summer. 🙂 Big thumbs down for that.
So lets get to the recap!
Friday night I left work around noon and we started our 5.5 hour drive north! I was greeted by a torch lighting and a huge bowl of spaghetti at one of our favorite restaurants.
The torch lighting was pretty cool. The Hurley High School Cross Country team did a relay along part of the Marathon route and ran the torch in to the Mayor of Hurley. It was pretty inspiring to be there, I’m glad we made it just in time!
I went (or at least tried to go) to bed early. I think I ended up falling asleep within an hour, but of course I had to get up and make sure Flat Meredith was all ready to go.
I had my three gels all laid out and my nuun along with a pace chart with three different options to meet my goal. So lets talk about that goal…
My main goal was not to walk at all and I was going to beat this goal by monitoring my pace and making sure I didn’t get tired. So when I made the map for my mom, Alan and Alan’s mom I wrote down that I wanted to beat my last half marathon of 2:31:44. I mapped out what I thought I could run for a pace each mile and totaled the time to be 2:20 if all went well. I printed out a pace chart with three different “plans” for paces to achieve that goal. wI set my eyes on the “anti-cramp” strategy with a 10:41 goal pace, I “redneck laminated” it with packaging tape and wrote “Run YOUR Race” and “Don’t Stop Believing” on it with red Sharpie. I printed out some inspiration from a friend to carry with me.
“Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else. It’s the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells “can’t.” But you don’t listen. You just push harder and then you hear the voice whisper “can” and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.” I tucked the quote into my race pace chart and I was ready to go. I had a plan and I had my mind in the right. Needless to say, the best laid plans often go awry.
I woke up early, ate some oatmeal and some toast with jelly… but then I felt full and I didn’t eat a banana like I normally do before long runs. I think I was nervous, I know I wasn’t full. I drank some Spark and got dressed. I did some light stretching and foam rolling for my calves. The whole rest of the morning I felt like I had to pee, but every time I tried I couldn’t.
The race started at 8am, so around 7:30 I was ready to head down the hill to Gile, WI where we started. There were runners everywhere warming up, jogging, stretching, standing, sitting. I took a light jog around the block and chatted with my mom and Alan while I waited for 8am. I tried to pee again – what the heck… I hadn’t even drank all that much!
We lined up, I turned on my music and got my watch ready. Next thing I know, the gun goes off and there we go! I stuck to my pace for the first two miles – it was hard – my legs wanted to go faster. I often say that the first three miles are the worst, but when you’re trying to police yourself and your body wants to do the complete opposite, it makes those first three miles even worse. I had lost my print out of the quote by mile three, it must have fell out of my hand – so I recited it over and over in my head.
On the hills – oh yes, the hills – I felt like Thomas the train… I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. CAN, CAN, CAN, CAN! I had trained hills for 12 weeks. I repeated my mantra “knees up, toes down, push hard” and up the hills I went, only walking when I crested the top. The elevation on this race wasn’t terrible for the half marathon – I heard the marathon is worse – but there were a few hills that were total killers. Looking at the actual elevation chart and thinking back in my head… yeah I guess it was pretty bad.
But I kept my legs moving which is important for me, the second I walk it’s all over. I kept my eye on one or two runners that I had settled into a nice pace with. But by mile 6 that “can” turned into “I have to pee, oh my god where is the porta potty?”
Rewind to about mile 4… I’m coming up on this young woman in pink compression calf sleeves I’ve had my eye on for the last two miles and I see she’s wearing a familiar shirt. I’m a huge fan of The Oatmeal and I love his comic about The Terrible & Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. Her shirt came to me at the perfect time… and so did she. I introduced myself to Amanda, my new bff for the day. We ran – not my goal pace – but we chatted for about a mile and a half. It was her second half marathon also, she ran the Paavo in 2015. She said her goal this year was to beat her time last year of 2:45.
Our talking and pacing with each other continued until we parted ways at the next aide station. I ran ahead keeping pace with my chart – like I said, had to pee. Mile 6 aide station came up… no potty! A worker said the next porta potty was just around the corner. Well I’m not sure which corner he was talking about but I didn’t see one. I found a driveway that looked unoccupied and somewhat private and pulled over to pop a squat. When I continued running Amanda was ahead of me. I kept my eyes on The Blerch and just kept running.
As I came up on Amanda again, I secretly told myself that I was just going to stick with her, I didn’t care about my goal any more and the only thing I could think about was making it to mile 7.5 where my mom, Alan and Alan’s family and friends were waiting at the farm. The nice thing about this race is that I’m familiar with the territory, we snowmobile most of this area all the time and the race route is the route from the farm to the trail. When I rounded the corner to the farm and crested the hill just before the driveway I could see Alan in his bright orange Arctic Cat shirt and I had never been so happy in my life. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders as I yelled BRAAAAAAAP! and whistled our whistle and they all turned and smiled. They had all kinds of signs made up and were waiting with Gatorade and encouraging words, but no ice – shit! Ice was the one thing I was looking forward to. But I grabbed a little Gatorade, yelled to them “this is Amanda” and pointed her out as we kept running. Alan was nice enough to bring me ice on the 4wheeler – he almost got yelled at by a cop that was escorting the 1st place marathoner, but I’m thankful he was so thoughtful!
The 1st place marathoner ran past and a few more after that… the only plus about that? Nice calves and shirtless runner men. 😉 I digress… At this point I was just trying to make it from aide station to aide station. I walked when I needed to, ran when I could. By mile 9 my right calf was cramping up so bad. I said to myself “4 miles left, I’ve already done two sets of 4 miles, what’s another set?!” Amanda and I went back and forth, her leading then me leading then running together and so on. She told me to grab some bananas for my calf cramp at the next aide station and of course, it was the aide station that was totally not prepared and didn’t have the bananas set out. Oh well!
Mile 9 and 10 flew by. I was jogging and walking, walking and jogging… mom and Alan were in the car following me, parking a little farther up and honking at me as I ran past. Normally your mom cheering you on would embarrass someone, but I could never be embarrassed about someone cheering me on as I was struggling through the last miles of this terrible and wonderful long distance run. Mile 10 I caught up with Amanda, she said “we only have a 5k left!” and we sorta vowed to each other that we would stick together through the rest of the race. We were on schedule to beat her goal, my 2:20 was long gone and we were approaching my 2:31:44. I told myself that as long as I helped her meet her goal of beating 2:45 that I could be happy with that, because lord knows she was keeping me going. My brain whispered “can” one last time.
Mile 11 and 12 were all up hill back to downtown Hurley – Amanda and I talked, walked, ran, set goal points and ran to them then walked to recover. My calf didn’t hurt anymore though, sweet! Thank you banana slices! At one point just before mile 12 she said to me “Alright, here comes the big hill. I want to make it up it but I want to save a little for the last chunk before the finish line.” We did the majority of the hill and walked a little at the top.
We continued jogging and when my watch said 12.75mi it was go time. I unplugged my headphones and Spotify turned on Fireball by Pitbull at the perfect time! Funny how that happens. We both cranked up the pace. We turned the corner, saw the finish line, got a few hoots and hollers from my mom and Alan and we were bookin’ it! My legs burned, my lungs ached and we both let out a sigh of relief when we crossed the finish line.
Check out that in sync stride – It’s like we were meant to be! We finished in 2:38:59 and I finished with a new friend. I thanked Amanda for getting me through it and hugged her.
I went and grabbed my free beer, orange slices and a banana. The Mojakka (Finnish stew) smelled delicious but I couldn’t bring myself to eat something hot at that point. When I met up with my mom and Alan they had a shot ready for me – Fireball of course.
All I wanted after that was a massage and to go sit my butt down and relax…
At this point I think he was telling me that I needed to get more massages “you should be having monthly sports massages”… I can’t argue with that, can I?
I showered and we went to the farm, where Alan’s parents had lined up all the signs they made down the driveway. They told me people were running past all day saying “Man, I wish my name was Meredith!” Made me feel very fortunate that I have such a support system! I’m very thankful for all the encouragement.
QUEUE CHEESY PICTURES and Alan making me wear my medal the rest of the day. Don’t mind the compression sleeves and Birkenstocks… I know they’re the height of fashion.
And of course, I had to start Chester up for some aromatherapy… BRAAAP!
That’s all for now. Next up on the docket – The Last Call Half Marathon. Hopefully less hilly and less hot! I’ve got snowflakes in my veins so why not run a Half Marathon on December 4th.
113 days til winter!