This Sunday, I’m running my first distance race in San Diego. It’s the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon. Those of you who might know this race, and also know me, are probably laughing right now. Why? Well, I didn’t earn the mock-nickname “Hill Killer” for nothing.
You know. It’s sorta like nicknaming the 300lb Samoan dude “Tiny.” And you’re not really sure if you should call him that to his face because he’s been known to have a “mood problem.”
I love to run, that’s a given. But probably nobody in the trail running community bitches about hills as much as I
do have. Hell, I complained so much about the relentless hills at my 50K (that nobody else seemed to notice…what was that about?), that my friend Krista designed a “Hill-Killer” t-shirt for her online store because of me.
And dammit, why didn’t I think to order one for Sunday?
Anyway, the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon takes place near Lake Hodges, amidst the various hills and valleys of nearby Escondido, California. The first four or five miles are completely flat and prairie-like, and then the course climbs this pretty gnarly hill for about a mile, back down the other side, and then turns around and goes back up. I stole an elevation chart from the blog of someone who did this race last year:
It looks like Batman. I should show my husband.
Now, this race wasn’t totally my idea. I have some friends to thank for my participation in it. First is my friend Shacky, who
coerced encouraged me to sign up for Raptor Ridge back when I was still living my safe, flat-trailed New England life. Having run the race before, he knew how hilly it was going to be but still managed to keep a straight face while I rambled on excitedly about “my first San Diego race.” Shacky is like that funny uncle who puts toothpaste in your Oreos and super-glues quarters to the sidewalk. You always trust him when he suggests that you do something “really fun”, even though it’s usually a bad idea.
And then there’s my friend Kate, who has spent the last month dragging me and my hydration pack all over Escondido to run up and down hills until we were both bent over at the waist, breathing heavy like two old men with emphysema. It’s been pretty awesome, actually. I’ve been looking for a friend to really push me for years, and it seems now I’ve finally found one.
Lucky for me (or perhaps not lucky, depending on your perspective), I got to run most of this course already. In two parts. The first time, Kate and I parked at the Raptor Ridge 1/2 trail head one afternoon with full packs, ready to crush that hill. But we never found it because we didn’t realize it was over four miles away, and also we wanted beer. The second time we parked at a lot much closer to the hill and ran up it with Shacky and Vanessa, the two of them bouncing up the ridge like it was an easy straightaway.
Jerks. But I made it up both sides, and we even got to look out over the valley for a moment before flying back down like a bunch of wild, noisy antelope. Okay, not anything like antelope.
This was the first time I’ve ever run on a race course before running the actual race. I’m curious to find out if it makes any difference for me mentally, but I think it will. I have always told myself that I’d rather not know what I’m getting into because if it’s scary, I don’t want to be privy to it. But I think maybe I was wrong all that time, because all week I have been able to put this course into perspective, plan out my pace goals, and mentally prepare for the tough spots. I’ve run this course a hundred times in my head. For the first time in any race I’ve done, I’m approaching it like something to conquer, not just something I hope to finish.
And by conquer I don’t mean foolishly attempting to beat my half-mary PR by thirty minutes or anything crazy-stupid like that. In fact, I’m not even sure I can count on breaking my PR at all. Or even meeting it. My last half marathon was on a completely flat, easy course, and I still didn’t break 2:30. I’m not hoping for any miracles here, but I did just notice that there’s a 3-hour cutoff time. I’ve never run a race with a cutoff time less than an hour outside my personal best. Combined with the added difficulty, I’m a little nervous that I’ll be crossing the finish line on a golf cart with the course sweeper. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.
It’s times like these (trail races) where I’m always reminded of how slow a runner I really am. And I’m not saying that so you’ll try to reassure me in the comments section. I am just a really freaking slow runner. I know a lot of it is because of the extra weight I’ve been carrying around these days, and that just adds shame to the slow factor. I’m the slow chubby girl in the slow stragglers section at the end of every race I run, except for the really huge and popular road races that attract 10,000 C25K’ers who just started running for the first time six weeks ago.
But then again I know lots of heavier runners and most of them are faster than me, too. Damn.
So, I don’t know what the real problem is, but it’s certainly not for a lack of trying. I’ll be cruising along at a pace that I’m sure is pretty fast, and I’ll be patting myself on the back for pushing my limits…and then some lithe little number in LuluLemon whizzes past me, pushing a baby carriage.
So I guess my only choice is to take the good with the bad. I’m probably going to be pulling up the rear on Sunday. But I’m also probably going to finish, hopefully before the cutoff, and I’m going to have some friends at the finish line to greet me when I do. Also I’m going to have finished my third half marathon, my second trail race, and my first one among the mountains of San Diego. No matter what happens, it’s going to be an achievement worth smiling about. And there’s also going to be beer.
- Training for a Race by Not Running: A Study in Counter-Intuitiveness (barefoot-monologues.com)
- The NEW New Goals (barefoot-monologues.com)