by Liz daRosa (@RoadRacing_Liz)
September has been quite a month for me as a runner. I’ve accomplished 2 big races which stretched and stressed me, mind and body.
On Labor Day weekend, I ran a trail race (Thorpe Wood 10K) in the Cactoctin Mountains of Western Maryland. I had completed a trail race a few weeks prior but that was a relatively flat course (I blogged about my 1st trail run at CleanEatingMommy so feel free to head over there to check it out.).
The Thorpe Wood race was challenging on multiple levels:
- Mountains – Yes, I said mountains, what was I thinking signing up for it?
- I wasn’t prepared for such a difficult trail. A few of the trail runners told me they’d done the race for the past 8 years and it “got harder every year!”
- I don’t own trail shoes, that will change! And I wore my shoes from last season but they are extremely comfortable so that was a huge plus as I pushed and gripped the ground going up and heading down the various mountainous points on the trail.
- I nearly tripped on my shoe, a rock, a root and my shoe again throughout the race. On the road you don’t need to worry about physical barriers to your racing and your legs don’t get as tired (at least mine don’t).
- That morning when I woke up I had a terrible sore throat and felt worn down. Needless to say, it wasn’t one of my ‘peak race days’ but I did it anyway.
Then the following Saturday, I did the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Columbia, Maryland. Holy cow that was a L….O…..N….G race. I haven’t done a half in 5 years and my body didn’t seem to remember those 13.1 miles as I started.
About a month ago I joined the local chapter of Mom’s Run This Town and met up with 2 other mom’s at the start of the race. Having female camaraderie with running & racing is a new experience for me, typically my husband and kids are my cheering section and hi-fives beforehand, but I love the different way women connect with running. I love my local chapter in Columbia, MD and I wish I would have found the group ages ago.
Of course, the weather made for an interesting race when from mile 2 until I neared the Finish it rained – it was only a light rain but it still added a ‘challenge’ to the course that wouldn’t have been there had it been sunny. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a race (no matter what the length) and it’s been sunny & so hot you wished for rain.
I didn’t do anything on race day that I hadn’t done while training (and yes, I actually trained by going 10 miles a few times before the race). I felt strong through the 6 mile marker and the half-way point where we ran over the timing carpet to see where we landed at the mid-way point. I told myself, you just did this distance last week but that’s when it hit me – I had that same distance to still travel.
So, I focused on the scenery which wasn’t easy to do, since this was the first time I’d neglected to wear my hat and the rain was covering my sunnies so much it became a huge distraction. I ended up clipping my sunnies to my t-shirt and letting the rain cover my face so I could look around – that helped. Then I became obsessed with the mile markers – I kept telling myself just get to mile 10 and then you just need to do a 5K and you do those all the time!
I nearly danced the gig when I passed mile marker 10 – I believe I even said aloud, “I got this!” People around me probably thought I was crazy but I smiled. I knew from experience that I could do a 5K no matter what the weather, no matter how tired I felt, I had it. And I was right. It did help that the race was in the town I live in so I’m very familiar with the landmarks and I instinctively knew where the 11th, 12th and 13th mile markers would be.
As I neared the finish I saw the pink lined fences that drew the racers into the finishers gate. This racing season I have followed the advice of an ultra runner (I didn’t write down her name) of saving some energy for the last 1/2 mile of a race to end strong. This strategy has worked for me and made me feel powerful as I cross the finish line. I went to increase my speed and I saw my husband and kids, I could see the pride on my husband’s face when he saw me, he was taking pictures and cheering for me.
As I moved past him he ran with the double stroller to the finish so he could get me crossing the finish line. Past his line of sight, I increased my strides and a race volunteer who was 25 feet ahead of the finish line yelled “come on #380 DIG IN!” and my legs automatically went faster, it was awesome!
I heard the announcer say, “#380 Liz daRosa making a strong finish!” This was the first race where I wasn’t worried about my time, I just wanted to finish. I did have a time goal (under 3 hours) and it turns out I made it (2:58:54) which was icing on the cake! The half’s I’d done before had all been over 3 hours so to get a time under was such a validation to my training and push this year.
I have plenty of races on the books, to reach more goals and to dig deeper and accomplish new race firsts. I took off 2 days from running after the Iron Girl Half but have planned a training run with a member of the MRTT in the morning & I’m looking forward to seeing her and catching up on her racing accomplishments since our last training run a few weeks ago.
The last month has taught me a lot about myself as a runner and I know that I can continue to push myself and set new goals and that it’s a blast to share these experiences (trials and triumphs) with other mom’s who run too!
WoooHooo, I did it!
I hope to see you on the trails, the road or on the side-lines! Liz