The title of this should actually be “How to carb load with beer, why Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh is like childbirth, and how to be the worst wife ever” – but it’s a bit wordy and won’t fit well in a twitter post.
Oh Raleigh, how I both love and loath you. I didn’t initially sign up for this race. Chris signed up a few months ago, intending this to be his first half marathon. I abstained for a while. I ran it last year and decided it was a bit too hard to run three weeks before my first full marathon. I was intending to stand on the sidelines, funny motivational sign and cowbell in hand, and be the loving, supporting wife I rarely am.
And everyone who knows me well is rolling their eyes and saying “yeah, right” at this moment. Because I’m not good at standing on the sidelines. I’ll add that to my list of goals. Somewhere on the list. Likely toward the bottom.
But here is where running Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh is like childbirth. I remembered it being hilly. I remembered it being super hilly. I remembered hating every bit of it from mile 6 on. I remember wanting to cry a few times. I remember stumbling up hill gazillion thinking “never again.” I remember my reaction to it, but I forgot the actual pain of it. And as the year passed by, it became less of a hard race and more of a “oh, I just didn’t prepare well enough for it.”
And then there was the competitive side of me, taunting me. Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh 2014 was by far my worst ever half time – 2:26. It was like a smear on an otherwise decent race history. I could not let this stand. I would sign up and I would beast that race like it beasted me the first year.
Okay, I didn’t actually go in to it wanting to dominate (or at least, that’s what I said outwardly). I told everyone the respectable thing – I was signing up to run side by side with Chris and help him pace his first ever race. Again, those who know me, Chris especially, are laughing. Like I said before, I’m not a great wife in this way. But I make up for it in my cheery disposition and cooking abilities, right Chris? What, I rarely cook anymore? Sorry… Another thing to add to my goals.
Anyway, back to the actual race. I didn’t really take it all that seriously as far as training – treating it more as a regular long run in marathon prep than anything. The day before I broke all the usual race prep rules – I was on my feet all day at a beer festival, drank quite a bit of beer (and a couple of cocktails), carb loaded on beer and cheese smothered mac and cheese, and did not get close to 8 hours of sleep.
We woke up at 3 a.m. Sunday, loaded up our race gear, and headed to Raleigh thinking we would hit the same insane amount of traffic as last year. Nope. No traffic. Win for the race organizers but this left us with a ton of downtime pre-race. After forcing down a bagel with chocolate peanut butter we picked up from the health expo, we sauntered into the cold. And I mean cold. Raleigh becomes a regular wind tunnel and we had to seek shelter in a parking garage to stay warm.
I figured a less than happy stomach from beer and rich food would throw my race off, but come race time it had settled down. Before the race I mentioned that I was nervous about some of the issues in my training and really needed a strong race to give me some self-confidence going into the pig. Chris said if I wanted to run ahead of him, he wouldn’t fault me. Yeah, I always tell him he’s a better person than me. Marry someone who is a better person than you. It’s highly recommended.
When we crossed the start line, I knew immediately I was going to push myself. The first mile I spent easing into a solid pace, and then spent the next two pacing in the 7:50s. I just felt really strong. Chris stayed right with me through the first three miles. I suffered through a quick inner conflict – stay or go? Even though, I knew I wasn’t slowing down. So I pushed on.
The first five miles of Raleigh are rolling hills – the easiest part of the course by far. I was consistently logging times in the 7:40s and 7:50s. Mile 5 is by far my favorite – through the Oakwood neighborhood. The people there really make it fun.
Mile 6 is when the going gets tough as you push up Peace Street. I call Peace Street the stairway to hell – about a series of four or five hills with no corresponding down. After the stairway, the rest of the hills feel more like mountains – insane climbs and knee-busting downhills.
I held a solid 8 minute or less pace through the first 10 miles. In mile 11 I felt my legs start to tire. I could still maintain a solid pace in the flat portions, but the hills were getting to me and my achilles tendon on my right leg was on fire every time we went downhill. The final big hill on South Saunders almost did me in. I didn’t walk, but oh did I want to.
The final push through downtown sped me up and I sprinted solidly across the finish for a time of 1:46:32 – 2:03 slower than PR – but my PR was on a completely flat course at the beach. And this shaved 40 minutes off last year’s Raleigh course – which was my original goal. Do I think I could have pushed through the pain for a PR? Yeah. But with my tendon acting up, it wasn’t worth it. The Flying Pig matters more in the end.
Chris finished his first half in 1:51:49. That is insanely impressive given the terrain of this course. He’s going to catch me if I don’t step up my game. And
that’s okay I will step up my game. Because competition is our thing.