Shall we do a half marathon today at altitude? Why not.
I realise this spontaneous attitude is actually a little cocky. In hindsight, it could also have been sheer stupidity. I had not been training for a half marathon (I was doing mileage geared around the 10k). However, I was fit and well and knew that my body could cope with 13.1 miles – it may just be rather slow, but hey ho.
‘Remember it’s at altitude. GO EASY’ I kept reminding myself.
I woke up at the crack of dawn and it was beautiful sunshine. I had carb-loaded the night before with a mountain of red pepper & tomato pasta. I gobbled up a hearty bowl of porridge in the morning (2 hours before race) and then 1 hour before the race it is my routine to have a banana and start to sip on a liquid with added electrolytes.
There was also a 5k race happening that day and at the start line of the half, the man with the microphone made me laugh so much when he said “IF Y’ALL SIGNED UP FOR THE 5K RACE, Y’ALL IN THE WRONG PLACE.”
TUMMY BUTTERFLIES ALERT. JITTERY FEET. Aaaaand the 13.1 miles at 9,000 ft begins!
I started off slow, holding myself back, taking deep gulps of fresh piney air and admiring the glistening sun on the lakes tucked between the rocky mountains. One man who was running alongside me said “pretty spectacular, huh?”
“WOW, you’re from England!?” He had instantly recognised my British accent.
“WOW. So do you, like, do many international races?”
(That sounded so cool).
I laughed and said no. I then proceeded to tell him that I had only ever done one half marathon before and I spontaneously signed up to do this one yesterday.
He literally couldn’t believe it. People train to do a half at altitude for yonks.
“Y’all the craziest fool I’ve ever met.”
As the lovely chatty American began to slow, I still felt fresh, so pushed on ahead.
Around mile 3.5 I was bored of holding back. Yes, this isn’t always the wisest thing and I’m not necessarily advising it – but I wanted to go – so I did.
Let the over-taking begin. I felt brilliant. Mile 4 to the finish, I didn’t get over taken once and it was an amazing feeling. I cannot explain why I felt so good. I think it was a combination of adrenaline from the beauty and excitement and the fact that I am on my own in California – I’m running a half marathon in the mountains – this is what dreams are made of…Let’s not forget I’ve also been training hard this last year. Not for a half marathon, no. But all those speed sessions / leisurely 10ks on the weekend must have helped enormously.
Mile 8-12 were my favourite. Speedier than ever, I was on some kind of running high.
The last mile hit me like a tonne of bricks and was hard. But I was so close!
When I saw the finish line, I wanted it so bad. The speakers were calling out names from “LA” “San Francisco” etc. When he got to my name, the “Thirsk in North Yorkshire” confused him so much. Brilliant.
Unfortunately, crossing that finish line and falling into Joe’s ecstatic hug wasn’t as happy as I had hoped. Like a sudden car crash, I, without warning, felt terrible.
I wanted to be celebrating with my medal and taking photos. Instead, I was on my knees, head over the toilet, trying to be sick. Not the glamorous glory I had imagined.
I then slumped, feeling sorry for myself in the medical tent. I was severely dehydrated. The buzz and adrenaline had completely masked it the whole way around. I didn’t even want to drink, but had to force it. About 3 hours later, after a tonne of electrolytes – I suddenly brightened up. THANK GOODNESS. Time to celebrate.
So, even if having the best experience of my life wasn’t enough. I found out some awesome news. Out of over a thousand runners, I came 2nd in my age category (13th woman over all).
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!
When I arrived home in England, they had posted me an award! I’m now dreaming of my next trip up in the mountains. I will return.
Run to get fitter, run to get faster, run to feel happier.
All the best,