Yesterday was my 4th time going commando in Clarksville, TN. Each year, I somehow forget how hilly the course is before the next one. It's kind of like childbirth.
The Clarksville Visitors' Bureau did a FABULOUS job with this race--from the excellent expo, smooth packet pick up, quick shuttle ride to the start, to the finish line goodies (mini Snickers bars and coffee!). I highly recommend it. You might want to train on some hills though. A lot.
My day started at 4:50 a.m. I was out the door at 5:55 and made it to the shuttle stop at 6:15. There were two school buses pulling in at the same time to transport runners to the start. I quickly grabbed my drop bag and water bottle and jumped in line. Riding the bus to the start in the darkness made me feel like I was running a big city marathon.
I got to the start and used a pristine port-o-potty. It's nice to be first. I wandered around the expo a bit, then posed for pics with some other runners by the statue of Wilma Rudolph. Here is a group that trained with me from the YMCA and a few of my trail running friends.
After the group pic, disaster struck! On one last quick trip to the port o john, I dropped my ipod in there!
And I did!
I started at a conservative pace on the flat section and stayed there. I had three running buddies at first, but by mile four, we had all separated. That first hill is a beast, as you can see. It goes up and up and up. I just told myself to dig deep and get up it. Almost all of those around me were walking by half way. I was 4/5s away from the top when I spotted a man having a massive nose bleed. He was asking police officers, volunteers, and other runners for a tissue. He was walking on the side of the course with blood dripping off his chin. Luckily, I always carry emergency TP with me, so I ran over to him. I yelled, "I have tissue! It's kind of sweaty though." He turned around, reached a bloody hand out for it, and took it. My son has had massive nose bleeds regularly since he was about 4 years old. I could relate to his predicament! So, I paused for a couple of seconds to hand a bleeding man tissue and ran every step of the rest. I think it still counts.
The downhill side of that massive hill was fun. I tried to open up my stride and not "put the brakes on" with every step.
The back side of this course starting around mile 8.5 is really challenging. It feels kind of like this:
But it's probably more like this.
The best part of that section, though, is that you get to see all of your friends! It's an out-and-back, so you can see the leaders as they are finishing as well as pretty much everyone ahead of and behind you. I tried to shout a quick "Great job" or other encouragement to as many people as I could. I caught back up to one of my original pace buddies around mile 9 or so, and we ran together for a while. By mile 11, my legs were getting tired, and I had to dig deep to make it up the relentless hills without walking, especially the last two big ones. I was counting steps on the last one... 20...25...30...40...just 10 more steps.... Whew! I made it up ALL the hills!
I jogged it in to the finish, totally spent. My finish time was 10 minutes slower than last year on this course (when I also made it up all the hills), but it was still a victory! My goal was attained. After that marathon fiasco of two weeks ago, I needed this. I needed to know I could run up big hills. I needed to know I could run 13 miles nonstop (other than walking 3 or 4 steps at two aid stations to drink). It was a GOOD DAY.
All of the people I trained for the race finished as well. I was able to see each one of them and share in their victories! This is a really tough course for your first half marathon. Or your 25th! But hard things are worth doing.