I was so, so happy to be done with last week – what a strange week! The week started off with my car battery dying on Monday. After I grabbed Audrey from school, I went to turn on the car and…nothing. My car is only 5-6 years old, so up to this point, I had never experienced anything like it! Anyway, the nice thing about working at a university is that there is a department on campus that will come and jump your car for you. The guy who did it said that the battery seemed fine (not corroded or anything), so he wouldn’t worry about having it looked at until it happened again. Needless to say, it happened again the very next morning, and it was a challenge to get it to the mechanic. Everything is just fine now, but that totally threw off the rest of the week. The rest of the week itself was odd, too, because of the shutdown. It is bizarre seeing so many of your neighbors home from work. We are lucky that Brian continues to get paid, but everything else on base is shut-down (commissary, etc). He seems lonely at his office, too…
Another negative consequence of this pointless government shutdown is that my half marathon was cancelled this past weekend. I was pretty bummed about it for a lot of reasons, one of them being that I was just genuinely looking forward to running it. I signed up for it so long ago (like, March) because I really wanted to run it! It was postponed, but I can’t make the postponed date because it’s the day after an out-of-town wedding, so I’ll be waiting until 2014. My race schedule seems empty without some half marathon bling to add to the collection. Another reason it was sort of a bummer was that Danny & I needed one last 20 mile long run for MCM training, and the plan had been to use WW1/2 as an anchor, and tack on the last few miles afterwards. Planning a runner-friendly 20-mile route was not appealing to either of us, and I went into slight panic mode about how we’d accomplish that without a pre-planned 13.1 to help us along!
Luckily, I am a good internet race sleuth, and I happened to find a 20-mile race going on about 50 miles south of northern Virginia. It sounded pretty cool, too, as it was along Stonewall Jackson’s ambulance route and some of the battlefields (Chancellorsville, specifically). Because we are lazy route planners, and really like a more “race” atmosphere for these super long runs, we decided it was worth the extra money to sign up for it in hopes of salvaging a little happiness/sanity from our last 20-miler. Plus, I saw pictures of last year’s race volunteers in period dress and who can turn that down?
We were expecting this race to be small, and it was. Only 157 people finished it, and most of them were super crazy, hardcore, fast, serious runners. Overall, the small size of it was nice, though Danny and I kept worrying we’d be close to the back of the pack with this one (but we weren’t last! We were 105 and 106). It takes major commitment to a) run 20 miles and b) drive to Spotsylvania to do it, so we knew only the hardcore runners would be there in abundance, so we didn’t think we stood a chance! We did get to meet General Lee & his men prior to the race start…you can’t say that about too many races! You know you are in Virginia when…
Danny and I were both happy with the end result of this 20-miler. We ran it about a minute faster than the Penguin 20-miler (our official time was about 8 minutes faster, and our mid-point bathroom break was longer, so huge win, right?), and conditions were much more challenging this time around. For one, it was HOT and sunny. It was already 86 when we finished, and the second half of the course had minimal shade. We did walk a few times the second half, partly because of heat, partly because of traffic issues. One thing that I did not appreciate about this race was that both lanes of the road we were running were open to cars. This really made a difference in the second half of the race when it was a normal morning hour (not the crack of dawn) and there were actually cars trying to go somewhere. There were no sidewalks, either, so there was a huge chunk of time that we had to all run single-file. There were other times when there would be a line of cars at a crawl in front of us waiting for runners, and we’d be stuck walking behind them because there was no way to run around them. At mile 16 or 17, I was already crabby enough, and this added “challenge” was not something I embraced. A curse word or two was uttered for sure (though to my credit, it was on the tamer end of the curse-word scale).
Another challenge was that it was really hilly (Penguin was flat). We came into it knowing it’d be hilly because Virginia is just a hilly place, but there were some tough ones towards the end! We also ran on gravel for about 5-6 miles when we ran through the battlefield area. I hate running on gravel – I feel like I can never fully relax and have to watch every single step, though I do acknowledge that the trade-off that comes with gravel is usually SHADE. Without fail, every time I run on gravel, there is at least one instance where I hit a rock the wrong way and my ankle starts to buckle underneath, and Saturday was no exception, but at least it was in the shade, right?
Overall, our watch time was 3:20, so we were under a 10-min mile, which was really the only goal (besides finishing). Since training run pace time is supposed to be 30-45 seconds slower than race pace (or more, even), I feel good about it compared to what our MCM goal is. I honestly don’t think either of us thought we’d beat our Penguin time, so we were happy when we did! Our first 10 miles was done in about 1:30 (including the gravel portion, and I am way slower on gravel), our 13.1 time was about 2:05, and the second half was where it all got harder w/ traffic, heat, & sun. Luckily MCM does not have cars driving next to you and pushing you off the road, so hopefully we won’t lose speed thanks to that 😉 .
Despite all of the challenges, I would probably run this race again. It’s just so easy to have someone else plan out a 20-mile run for you, including bathrooms & water stops! To me, it makes the downsides worth it. One funny thing that I will leave you with, though, is that Danny and I started taking a tally of the road kill we passed along the way. We were definitely not in the DC metro area anymore! We saw: a cat (well, I did), a possum, a raccoon, a snake, a skunk, a deer, and probably some more animals I’m forgetting. At least it distracted us for a little bit!
But with that, we are TAPERING FOR THE MARATHON WHICH IS ONLY 20 DAYS AWAY, OMG.
(A special thank you to those who have donated to my Fisher House campaign so far! I am in the top 50 fundraisers for MCM, and would love to stay there for the duration! Donations are being accepted through October 20th, so please consider giving if you have not donated already (link on the sidebar of the blog). We love military families!)