Monday, February 6, 2012

San Blas Half Marathon

I’m pretty sure there is no feeling that compares to coming across the finish line of a half marathon.  (Well…actually crossing the finish of a full marathon would probably compare pretty well…but that’s beside the point). 

When I envisioned this blog post a few days ago, I was almost certain it would start with a phrase along the lines of, “At least it’s over…”  As the San Blas Half Marathon drew closer, I began to feel unprepared as I heard more and more horror stories about the route.  I wondered whether I would have the half marathon experience some have had, exhausting myself and dragging myself across the finish at a slow walk.  I was more than a little nervous that I would embarrass myself at the world-class event.

But that didn’t happen.

Yes, the route is definitely tough.  (For those of you from La Crosse, Wisconsin, picture running up and down Bliss Road at least 3 times).  But it wasn’t as bad as I feared.  Although I slowed down considerably when I reached those hills, only once—at the very top of the Ajoguillo Slope—did I stop and walk.  And that was only for 60 seconds max.  Then it was back to running.  Experienced runners will tell you that after the Ajoguillo Slope, it’s all downhill.  But the honest experienced runners will correct themselves and explain that no, after the Slope, it’s mainly downhill, with a few smaller hills tossed in (The Camels). 

The race elevation.  Note that from about 7K, you're climbing, and check out how STEEP it gets
at kilometer 14!  Right at the top is where I walked for a few seconds.

But I made it over those smaller hills with the help of thousands of cheering fans.  Running the route reminded me of footage of the Tour de France, the cycling race I used to be addicted to every July.  In town, the crowds were packed in along the road, many with music blaring to pump up runners.  In the mountains, people had camped out along the route and sat near their tents with barbeque and signs, cheering for each group that passed.  Many were more than willing to pass out cups of water (one little boy of perhaps 3 years old was trying to pass off a beer, much to the chagrin of his mother), but I’d of course been warned to only take water from the designated race stations.  I did, however, steal a paper towel from one woman’s table to keep the sweat out of my eyes on my way up the first climb. 

Police keeping the roads clear in town.
(Hundreds of them, lining the road on both sides)

Before I ran the race, I had already decided not to run it again next year.  After running it…I might go back on that decision.  The race atmosphere makes it all worth it.  And to finish such a challenging route is SUCH an empowering feeling! 

I’d also like to run it again just to show the spectators and my students that a woman can do it (again).  I hadn’t realized the gender distribution was so disproportional until I was checking results today.  Of 1087 runners, only 97 were women. 

About 3 miles in...

And as a woman, I think I represented my sex pretty well.  My final time was 2:25:01.  And let me assure you, I am PROUD of that number.  This route was definitely no La Crosse Fitness Festival flat, fast course!  (When I signed up for the race, before I saw the route, my finish time goal was 2:00:00.  As I trained in the heat, I decided my goal would simply be a personal record—2:07:00 or better.  As the race drew nearer and I began to get scared, my new and final goal became to come in under 2:30:00, and more importantly, to run the entire route rather than walk).

Run on!

Kelsey had problems with my flash... I just like to think I was running
so quickly, I was a blur at the finish.  Love it!!  

Want more info on the race, or to see photos?  Check out: San Blas Half Marathon

Zayas was amazing this weekend!!
 PS.  I can't end this post without explaining how absolutely amazing Mr. Zayas, the computer teacher at school, was this weekend.  He has family in Coamo, and therefore knows the area and the race route really well.  His parents have a house they don't use, right on the marathon route, and he let us stay there for the weekend!  The house is unfurnished, but we just needed a place to sleep.  On Saturday, we followed Zayas to Coamo, he drove us the entire route of the race so I could get a feel for it, and he took me to where I needed to pick up my race packet.  Saturday night there was a concert, and he took us there (we probably wouldn't have known about it, been able to find it, or found a place to park without him).  On Sunday he came through again, navigating through traffic, getting us past the police onto an already-closed off road (by telling them he had an athlete--me--that he needed to get to the starting line), took me to the beginning of the race (I wouldn't have known where to go or how to get there), and waited with me until the buses came to take the runners to the starting line (I wouldn't have known there were buses if not for him either).  He was an absolute lifesaver!!

Of course, these girls were pretty great too,
coming to support me!!  :-D


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