June 9, 2014

The time when I almost had a DNF!

Saturday June 7th was my 39th wedding anniversary and my morning was spent running the inaugural Asheville Half Marathon.  Or rather I should say surviving the Asheville Half Marathon.  This is a test for runners who want to be challenged with a very hilly course.  As someone who runs on flatland 99 % of the time, I knew this would be a hard race for me.  But even I underestimated it in a huge way!


The starting area was nicely marked and I had no trouble finding it after parking my car at a lot in downtown Asheville.  After a short walk to the start, I made a quick porta potty visit and then stood around chatting with other runners.   Soon it was 7:55AM and the National Anthem was sung by Joe Lasher, Jr, a wonderful local vocalist. Then it was time to run!

All smiles until I hit the hills!

This race starts with a gradual downhill for the first couple miles.  It eases you into a comfort zone and in the back of my mind, I was thinking, wow, this may not be too bad.  Hitting 9 minute miles, it was easy going. Shortly after mile three it was time to see what the course really had in store for the runners.  There was a huge uphill climb towards UNC Asheville and this is when I thought I might have to insert some walk breaks into my race strategy.  By mile five, I secretly wished I had signed up for the 10k instead of the half.  In fact, my mind was trying to decide if my body was going to keep running.  The temperature was hot, it was humid, the sun was beating down and yes, I was being a total baby!  I actually tried to figure out if I could drop out of the race and find my way back to my car. I also did something I have never done in a race before!  I sent a text to Christine and it was one word: "Brutal."  It was sent at 8:53 AM when I was considering my DNF! That was a brief thought and then I got back to the business of running and trying to concentrate on one mile at a time. After each wonderful downhill stretch, it seemed like an even bigger hill portion was waiting for us.  By mile 10, my legs were really feeling the elevation changes and each step forward was difficult.  At mile 10.52 my Garmin watch acted up and I no longer could read either my pace or my distance.  Operating only as a stopwatch, I had to gauge my pace based on effort only.  Unfortunately, I missed the 11 mile marker, but after seeing the mile 12 marker my pace picked up a little.  I also missed the mile 13 marker and asked a runner nearby if we were close to the finish.  She replied, "Yes", and we turned left at the next intersection and ran about 150 feet uphill to the finish line.  Of course we had to finish with yet another hill!

While this was not even close to a PR, I am very happy that I completed the race in 2:08.25.



With Boston looming in April 2015, running hills needs to be included in my fall/winter training. Do you have any advice on how to tackle hills for this flatlander?





29 comments:

  1. Congratulations on celebrating your wedding anniversary!
    and NICE JOB hanging in there! I do not love hills at all (I don't even pretend to love them). One day I will have to make friends with them but for now they really intimidate me :p
    Karen @karenlovestorun

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    1. Thanks Karen, I need to become friends with them too. Have a great week leading up to your wedding!

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  2. Way to go, Pam! Running is just as much, if not more, mental than it is physical. You wanted to stop, but you wouldn't let yourself, and now you have another medal to remind you just show strong you are mentally.

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    1. Thanks Kathryn. I agree that the mental part is so important with running. Normally, I am so focused, but I definitely was not feeling that Saturday!

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  3. I am so glad you decided to push through and not give yourself a DNF. I'm sure you did too! Even with the struggle, you still finished in a great time!
    I hope you got to spend a glorious wedding anniversary in Ashville! -M

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    1. Merands, I would have been so mad at myself if I had quit. But admittedly it was very tempting indeed!

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  4. I'm also a flat lander... it's *really* flat out here in Charleston/West Ashley. One thing I've done is run parking garages (lol) and the Cooper River Bridge, but I think strength training can help too, especially lunges. I think you had a great time for the half marathon being in Asheville! It is very hill-y up there.

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    1. Thanks so much Amy. I agree that more strength training needs to be added to my calendar soon!

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  5. I hear you - I ran the half on the Biltmore Estate in March and that wasn't +too+ hilly - I can't imagine running through Asheville itself! But great job on finishing and.... I spy and "award winner" medal there, so even with all the difficulty you clearly still did a great job!

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    1. Thanks Amy, I do love getting the awards and being an "old lady runner" helps since there are not many in my group!

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  6. Great job on sticking with it. I am so not a fan of hills. I usually avoid them at all costs. This sounds a lot like my Divas experience, hills, hills, and more hills. It got the better of me mentally.
    Happy belated anniversary. :)

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    1. Thanks Suzanne. We had a lovely anniversary! I am going to learn to love hills. LOL

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    2. If you figure out how to love hills, please let me know. :)

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  7. 2:08 is a great time for such a challenging course! I think a lot of people struggled with hot, humid, hilly courses this weekend (wait until all the Heartbreak Hill recaps start popping up!). I know a big problem for me was that I'm really just not acclimated to the heat yet so that really affected me.

    Don't let them make you nervous for Boston though, you have plenty of time and you know what you need to work on! Are you planning on running intervals for Boston? Honestly, I think long hard hills like that are MUCH more manageable when you throw in some walk breaks. I know when I used walk breaks for the big hills at the beginning of MCM it really didn't seem all that bad and I read that the elevation change of that is twice the elevation change of Heartbreak Hill, it just doesn't seem as bad because it's at the beginning of the race!

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    1. Danielle, after the race, I met someone in the food line who had run Boston and she said the Asheville Half was so much harder that I would have no problems with the Boston Marathon if I could finish in 2:08. It was very encouraging since I had called Christine as soon as I finished and told her I might not be able to race in Boston next year because of the hills!

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  8. I've noticed that when I've done a lot of weighted squats and lunges to strengthen my legs and/or hill training, they're a bit easier for me. Is there a place you can go to do hill repeats maybe once a week or even once every other week? I'll go down and back up again and at the top of the hill each time do 10 squats. It's kind of simple, and my legs are sore the next day, but it helps on hills!

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    1. Sounds like great advice Jennifer, but I will need to find a hill to run. It is very flat where I live, but there is always the treadmill!

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    1. Thanks Kristen....so glad I did not give up!

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  10. Great job on pushing on and completing it with a good time! I've done two half marathons in Asheville at the one they did have in September, and it beats you up! I've so been wondering how this inaugural half was going to be! I almost wanted to give this one a go, but other plans prevented me from traveling to Asheville for it. I think at least you came down Lookout Rd, while the other one went up. The other one though goes down the hill at UNCA, instead of up; either way, both are bad. No shortage of hills here in the Piedmont where I am, still not best friends with them though. No ideas for hills in the coastal flat land other than a bridge.

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    1. We went up the hill at UNCA and that was killer. But that was not the only hill, it seemed like they were around every corner, just sneaking up on you! In any case thanks and congrats Melissa on doing not one but two halves in Asheville!

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  11. Congrats on your wedding anniversary and finishing the half marathon! You pushed through it, even though you weren't feeling it, and should be proud of your accomplishment. I've certainly had feelings of wanting to quit during races, but when I push through and finish, no matter the time, I'm happy I forced myself to keep going. Looks like you won an award as well - that's great!

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    1. Thanks Heather, yes it is really bad to have a DNF if you are just being a baby like I was.

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  12. Sounds tough, glad you made it through! Suggestions - eccentric hamstring strength exercises in addition to the regular quad/calf/glute work. Treadmill train for hills, and do downhills if possible (0% if it doesn't do decline). Greg McMillan's YOU book has some explanations of hill workouts and a sample 4 week hill module that I've been sort of doing (need to do more).

    Here are links that might help:
    http://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/boston-marathon-training-plan/
    http://runningandthecity.com/2014/03/25/boston-marathon-race-strategy/
    http://www.runtothefinish.com/2014/04/how-to-train-for-boston-heartbreak-hill.html
    http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/three-tips-for-running-downhill
    http://www.runnersworld.com/treadmills/how-to-run-downhill-on-a-treadmill
    http://www.levelrenner.com/2014/03/24/a-hilly-topic-the-boston-marathon-course/

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    1. This is awesome....thank you so much for all this information. Yes, the hills killed me, but I know I can do better with some good training under my belt.

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  13. Amazing job.
    A friend and I went hiking in Asheville 2 summers ago when I was marathon training.
    I tired to squeeze 9 miles in that mourning and it was so tough.
    Just like you I live where it is FLAT and those hills are serious.
    So proud of you for stinking it out and finishing.

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    1. Thanks Abby. I am so happy that I did not give up. Asheville is a beautiful place and a very hard place to run, that is for sure!

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  14. Happy anniversary and congrats in a great finishing time for the race! I have trouble finding hills to train on near my house here in Texas, too, so I understand how tough a hilly course can be to finish.

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  15. Way to push through Pam!! Great job on finishing!

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