Alternate post titles:
- What The Hills
- The Time I Ran Up The Side Of A Mountain
- A Mile High And Then Some
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. I spent the entire week being PUMPED for this race. Like ridiculously excited. I decided ahead of time that even though this was not my goal race, I was going to run it with everything I had in me. I had no idea what 1000+ ft of hills looked like, felt like, or anything like that. I just looked at the course map and saw hills and that the first half went up and the second half went down, and figured that was a pretty smart way to do it.
We stayed at our friend Dan’s house which was only 4 blocks from the start which meant a pretty stress free morning. We left to walk down at 6:15 for the 7am start. Unfortunately the lines at the porta potties were long and we found ourselves wishing we had left a few minutes before, because we ditched out on the line in order to get to the race start.
This is a no bells and whistles race. The expo was literally empty, with only an energy drink stand, a compression sock table, and a chia seeds table (I loaded up on the chia samples 😉 ). So when it came time for the start, there was no count down, no Star Spangled Banner, just a gun shot exactly on time and we were off. Lisa and I started off really strong. The rolling hills began immediately, but we kept good pace on the uphill and made up some time on the down hill.
At the second mile we were faced with a pretty massive hill that slowed us down, and by the time my Garmi sang to me to tell me we had hit 2 miles, I already wanted the race to be over. Just 2 miles in it felt so hard, and I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
It’s hard to remember exactly what time everything happened, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere before mile 3 that the hills got too steep for me to run up. I knew I needed to reserve energy in order to finish, so I made myself a deal that the only time I was allowed to walk in this race was uphill. I had lost Lisa right around the mile 2 mark when she stopped to use the bathroom (since we had ditched out on the line at the start). She told me to go ahead and she would catch up to me, and she is super speedy, so I figured that would work out. Pretty soon I came across a hill that I was literally staring up into. It was so steep–we don’t have anything even resembling that in Phoenix!! There was a sign at the bottom that said “What the hills?” I walked up that hill, and then all of the uphill (which was pretty much the next 3.5 miles) I had to resort to alternating running and walking (minus the very few flats and downhills).
It was insane. It was more like hiking at this point than running, and the climbs were so steep and so long. I would look around and it seemed like everyone around me was walking. By this point, we were literally running up a mountain. There was a semi paved road that turned into a dirt road, and they were winding, and just like the kind you drive up if you’ve ever gone up to a secluded cabin. I’m not gonna lie, it was absolutely gorgeous, and ridiculously hard. I mean I didn’t expect it to be easy when every race website calls it one of the toughest marathons in the US, but there was just no way of knowing how hard it would be. By mile 6, it was mostly walking, and the only thing keeping me optimistic was seeing the amazing runners starting to come down the other side, flying down and still managing to cheer us on! That was pretty amazing!
Finally at mile 6.5, I reached the turn around, had a gu, and prepared myself to fly down this bitch.
I was shocked at just how quickly I was flying! I kept glancing down at Garmi to see sub 7s flashing my screen!! Ummm, I have never seen sub 7s, even in speed work! It became even more clear just how steep these hills were! Mile 8 was filled with “This is amazing!!!! I love running!!! I’m Poca-freaking-hontas running this mountain!!” But I knew I was going beyond my pace, and every so often I would reach even more uphill, and I felt like I hadn’t remembered there being any downhills the way up–where did this Fing hill come from??? Shortly after the turn around, I also saw Lisa coming up. We waved and yelled, and I figured she’d be back with me before I knew it.
Mile 8–8:34 (this one was my favorite 😉 )
By this point, it was back to up and down again. Even though there was now more down than up, my entire body was exhausted and even the flat points felt unmanageable. I found myself secretly hoping for uphill segments so that I could walk. I realized pretty quickly that I have absolutely no idea how to run downhill. I felt like I couldn’t control my pace, and I was going faster than felt good for my body, but I knew in the moment all I could do was try to go with it, and be careful not to injure myself. Around this time I stopped to walk up a not very steep hill. Because I was tired, not because I absolutely needed to. This woman next to me yelled for me to keep going. Then that Jason Mraz son I Won’t Give Up started playing on my ipod, and I started crying. A little emotional? Maybe. But all I could think was that even though this course was so incredibly hard, I couldn’t believe I was doing it, that I was capable of finishing, and how far I’ve come in the 7 months I’ve been running. I felt so proud of myself. The entire time, I did, actually. Even when things got hard, there was never a moment where I felt like I wasn’t fighting and achieving something amazing.
I was really surprised I hadn’t caught back up with Lisa yet at this point, and I was kind of bummed, but also amazed that I had been able to keep going and make it this far mostly by myself. I don’t know what I expected myself to do, but I just never imagined I’d be able to make it through the kind of challenge my body had been through so far. I slowed way down, and my only walking up hills deal turned into I will not walk downhill. And I kept that, but during the uphills and even flats, I could barely run a few feet before having to go back to walking, and instead of speeding up to finish strong, I just kept slooowwwwiiiinnnggg down…
When I got to 13.1 and I still couldn’t even see the finish line I had a big “I hate running!! I hate this race!! F the world!!” moment. Then I walked some more. Finally, the finish was in sight and I forced myself to run to it as fast as I could.
Yeah, the fastest I could muster for the last mile was 10:54. But you know what? I crossed the finish line feeling nothing but absolute pride!
This freaking race. I can’t even begin to describe how hard it seemed. I can tell you this, the person who came in first for the half marathon at RnR AZ finished in something like 1:02, and the first place for WR was something like 1:27. It is no joke. I finished in 2:21:50. My slowest half by far, but I felt as proud of that time as I did my 2:04:59 from The Lost Dutchman!
Almost immediately after finishing, I started walking back to try to find Lisa. I waited about an 8th of a mile from the finish line, and when I saw her, I started trying to run with her. I made it only a few feet before my right calf tightened up like a ball, and I knew if I tried to keep going, I would end up injured, so I dropped back off, and walked to meet her at the end.
We had grand plans to hang out, eat, drink and celebrate up in Prescott before Steve and I went back to Phoenix and Lisa and Sam went back to Flagstaff, but about half an hour after we finished, all of the sudden it was like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. I was dizzy and nauseous, and I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without having to stop, sit and catch my breath for several minutes. My heart was racing, and I felt shaky. I started to freak out a little, and got really anxious. I’d never felt like this before, and I was scared. I tried to go upstairs to go to the restroom at the shopping center we were in front of. I made it to the second floor, saw a sign saying I had to go to the third floor, and sat on a bench for about 10 minutes, certain I couldn’t get up or back down. I just sat there, trying not to lose whatever was actually in my stomach at that point.
I began frantically texting my racing expert friend Diana who has done this race before, asking her wtf was wrong was me and if this was normal. I told her everything I was feeling, and she told me she was pretty sure it was altitude sickness and told me to take some advil ASAP, and get back to Phoenix. Lisa came up and ended up helping me to the 3rd floor (there was an elevator the whole freaking time haha), and I called Steve and told him he needed to go get the car, and come pick me up.
I was so sad because I wanted to hang out with my friends, and I couldn’t believe that I felt this sick after a race again. Steve was so nice. He packed up all of our things for me since I couldn’t even bring myself to get up and get out of the car once I was in. He stopped, got me some water and some food for in case I felt like I could eat anything. I couldn’t. That has never happened to me. I always get hungry. About half way back to Phoenix, I started to feel slightly less nauseous, and by the time we were back in town, just like that, it was almost as if it never happened. I felt exhausted, and I still didn’t have an appetite, but I didn’t feel sick anymore. It was bizarre.
I wasn’t able to actually eat until after 2pm. Not good, I know, but there was just no way. Finally when my appetite came back, I got my pizza and beer.
Diana, I know you said not to drink. I’m sorry I didn’t listen. I took every single other piece of advice, and it was all amazing and made me feel better! But so did this beer. I’m sorry!!
Then we took pictures of me with my medal that I had not felt up to post race.
I know this is a long post—thank you for sticking with me! My final thoughts: I am so happy I did this race. I proved something to myself. I learned that I am stronger than I think I am, and that I am capable of tackling huge challenges and obstacles. I am beyond proud of myself. I also have no desire to ever do this particular race again. Once is enough for me, and I learned that I need to consider things like altitude when choosing courses in the future. I am not invincible to legit things like thin air, and even if I can get through it, it doesn’t mean that going up there the night before, and running in that altitude without giving myself time to aclimate is a good idea, or that I should do it. Lesson learned, But I have no regrets, and still feel only proud of finishing, and my time.
Also I want to give a shout out to Christina who crushed it, running it in like 2 hours!! AMAZING!!