Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon 2017

13.1 finisher!
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This morning I ran the Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon, my first Half since before I was pregnant with Ady.  While it wasn't my very first Half, and I didn't set any personal records, this accomplishment feels important for other reasons.  I started running again last spring, after more than 6 months off, so training for this race felt like starting at zero again.  It took me longer than I anticipated to build up my core strength, achieve my normal level of endurance, and add miles after having a baby.  I didn't have as much time to train as I have in years previously, but I made it work.  I squeezed in my long runs, usually with the stroller, and often early in the morning.  I dealt with exhaustion, soreness, and a fussy baby from time to time, but I persevered.

Running a Half after having a baby also represents balance in life, for which we all constantly strive.  While being a mother is my most important role, I am still a person and an athlete, and training for my race reminded me to take time for myself.  I am setting an example of health and fitness for my child.  When I ran my first Half Marathon over 10 years ago, my training was not balanced.  I would often teach a 60 minute spin class, then run 4 miles on the indoor track, determined to not miss a single workout on the schedule, even if I had a full night of studying ahead of me.  I didn't listen to my body, and I not only peaked early but I also injured my knee before race week.  Now, I feel much more balanced and relaxed about my training.  It's not perfect, and I still feel anxious about missing too many workouts in a row, but I think about what's important.  I have a new perspective as a mother.

It was a beautiful morning for a race!  We started at 7:30 a.m., just as the sun was starting to shine over the Sangre de Cristo mountains.  I was happy to be able to start the run with my running buddy and another mother friend of ours.  We kicked butt on the first 2 miles uphill after training this exact segment every Monday night.  Starting at mile 3, the race is mostly downhill, traveling north of Santa Fe to Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.  The race course passes through Tesuque Village and the Camel Rock monument, with beautiful views of the Sangre de Cristos to the east and the Jemez mountain range to the west.  I felt really strong, but was also aware that I was going much faster than my normal pace, so I made an effort to hold back during the first hour.

More than 1,000 ft drop in elevation during the race

My pace.  Pretty consistent until the end!  (Ignore mile 14... I forgot to turn off my Strava... whoops!)

I sipped some electrolyte mix and grabbed water at the stops.  I focused on my breath and my form, bounding gently on the downhills.  Around mile 8 I thought I may actually set a new personal record!  Then around mile 10.5 I seemed to hit a wall.  I made an effort to do a few pick-ups (short bursts of a faster pace) every few minutes to help the time go by faster.  The finish was almost in sight!  Then around mile 11.5 I REALLY hit a wall.  The final mile was my slowest of the race.  My knee was in agony, although I was thankful that it didn't start to bother me until the end.  I turned off my headphones at mile 12 and focused in.  I thought about all the people I dedicate this race to: my beautiful, smiling baby waiting for me at the finish line, my amazing husband who made this possible for me, my running buddy who was about to finish her first half, the other mothers out there on the course, my friends who are currently pregnant, and everyone who is fighting her own battle.  I felt gratitude toward my family for cheering me on from across the miles.  I paused to stretch out my back before the final turn, and finished in 2:08:05, just a few minutes shy of a PR.  I placed in the top half of my age group and the top third of all female finishers, and I'm happy with that result.

Sunrise over the Sangre de Cristos during mile 2

Cruising downhill on miles 3-4

Approaching Camel Rock up ahead

I have mentioned this in previous posts, but one of the things I love about racing is the inspiration I glean from other runners.  This was my running buddy's first Half, and she has overcome countless obstacles over the past three years to make this race happen.  I saw many people I knew from work who were running the race, and there is always a strong presence of Kenyan men and women who live and train in New Mexico and absolutely dominate the race.  I saw a woman in a traditional floral dress who started running in plastic sandals, but then removed them and ran barefoot for most of the race.  At a race, it seems that everyone has a story of what brought them to that starting line, and everyone has their own goal to accomplish.  Yet, despite differences in culture, language, background, and athletic ability, for those few hours were are all united by this shared experience.  The Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon supports the non-profit Global Running Culture organization, which supports the building of a school in Kenya, where running is a huge part of the culture.

Learning about nutrition is an ongoing process for me as a runner.  I usually feel sick to my stomach after a race (this one included), and it's something I'm working on.  Some new things I tried this year: 1) not doing much "carb loading", 2) drinking more water the day before, and 3) eating just a Powerbar for breakfast pre-race.  I'm still working out what to eat during the run, but it's usually Gu and CLIF Shot Bloks.  My new swag this year included bluetooth headphones (how did I ever live without these?!), a larger fuel belt, and a sporty visor to keep the sun out of my eyes!  Everything worked great.  I'm still wearing Hoka running shoes and I'm very happy with the cushion and bounce.

After today I definitely need a break from long-distance runs, and I don't have any plans for another Half in the near future, but I hope to do a trail 10K next month and probably some fun 5Ks around the holidays.  

The hubby ran the 5K event with Ady in the stroller, so the whole family ended up with some new medals for display!  He placed 2nd in his age group!

And some inspiration for the day....

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