This past Sunday, April 14th, I took part in the Bucks County Half Marathon at Tyler State Park in Newtown, Pennsylvania. I was familiar with some of these trails as a former Bucks County resident and used to walk these trails frequently during the warmer months, what I was unaware is that these trails seem never-ending and discovered – on Sunday – that it involved a lot of hills, something I didn’t train for.
Race was scheduled to begin at 7:45 and I was running a bit late. The entrance that I was familiar with was not the starting point and my GPS could not find the address I was given. Fortunately we arrived at 7:30. I parked right out front on the lawn and walked over to the course. It was crowded and I started to feel nervous. I tried to find my Twitter buddy (@_twelv) so we can chat a bit and calm nerves before taking off and luckily he spotted my autism puzzle socks and chatted briefly before taking off.
Announcements commenced at 7:46 AM and they started to call the faster corrals first: 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 mm runners, followed by 9:00, 10:00 mm runners and so on. We went ahead once the 10-11:00 mm runners were called and crossed the start line at 7:51 AM. Turned on my GPS and my iPhone music and was well on my way.
The roads were narrow but quickly thinned out. I started running a 10 minute mile for the first 5K, then the hills started and my pace slowed. I wasn’t feeling tired but I was feeling dehydrated, therefore I made sure to stop at every water station and grab both water and Gatorade. I carried my iFitness hydration belt filled with both water and Nuun electrolyte drink.
I passed fields and farmhouses, people riding their horses, the Neshaminy Creek, the nature, the animals…it was just beautiful scenery. At times I removed my headphones so that I could just listen to my surroundings: footsteps, birds chirping and the river flow. Soothing.
Mile 3-4 and I’m averaging a 12:00 minute mile pace. So much for negative splits! I’m thinking I’ll take it slow for now, save my energy and pick up the pace later.
Mile 5 and I’m down to 11-minute mile pace. If I keep this pace I may finish around 2:30.
Mile 6-7 and the hills are getting to me. My right foot is swollen, the ball of my foot hurts and my left hand is so swollen that my ring is stuck and I can’t close my hand. Am I dehydrated or did I over hydrate and diluted my blood that now I’m hyponatremic? This nurse can’t figure it out. I’m slowing down my pace. Now I’m power-walking up those hills, continuing to stop at every water station. Met a lady who asked me about my running gear. Said her 6-year old son was just diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and was walking for him. I told her my brother has Asperger’s and I was running for him. We chatted for a bit and encouraged one another and we were both well on our way. Average pace: 13-minute mile.
Miles 8-9, I’m feeling better. Stopped by a water station, saw the lovely ladies from Black Girls Run who cheered on with bells and signs and told me to hang in there, that a few downhills were around the bend. Average Pace: 11-minute mile.
Slowed down a bit during miles 10 and 11. A few more uphills and I’m trying to ignore the pain on my hips. It’s 3 more miles I say when I begin to feel pain on my right calf. I’ve never experienced calf pain before but I don’t let it slow me down. Passed a few ladies who were struggling as well and I told them they were doing a good job. They were proud to be running their first half and so was I. Proud of strangers who had the courage to start.
Mile 12 and now I was struggling. I sent a text to my mom saying that I was now walking because the pain was unbearable and she said, “You’re close now. I’m so proud of you, you can do it!” I walked most of mile 12. Every time I reached another hill I yelled and cursed the damn hill. I was angry because now my time goal was out of reach. Average Pace 14 minutes.
Finally I saw the parking lot and the sign that said Mile 13. Thank God!!! I turned the corner and found runners and spectators cheering on and giving high fives. Saw my stepdad and my brother holding the sign on my left, then I glance ahead at the finish line and I see my mom, holding her Blackberry, ready to take a pic of this very proud moment and I wanted to cry but I held back I choked up and I couldn’t breathe.
I had to keep on moving. Picked up my medal and grabbed a bite to eat. I’m so thankful to the spectators who cheered and encouraged total strangers, to the volunteers and the companies who donated so much: food, goodies, etc. to make this event happen.
While I was disappointed with not reaching my time goal of 2:30, I finished in 2:47:28. I’m sure had it not been for the hills, I would have done it. Not sure that I’ll run this next year unless I do some serious hill training!