My half marathon trail race last Saturday through Oakland Hills Redwood Park offered some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. A rich dirt path, where arcing roots surfaced and dove back below, was lined with lazy ferns and towering Redwoods that made each part of the trail feel intimate. This was my first half marathon and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to do it on a trail in Northern California.
The first nine miles felt amazing. When hills got steep, I stuck to my plan to power walk up and run on flats, downhills, and slight inclines. During that first nine, I couldn’t believe I was about to crush my first half exactly how I wanted.
But after nine, things started to fall apart.
My first mistake was that I forgot my camelback at home. I imagine all destination races can notoriously be a venue of things forgotten. On the race website, they boasted many aid stations along the way, which eased the inclination to kick myself. During training, I never ate much before a run because I have a …. sensitive stomach when it comes to running. Shyly, I had asked the race director, “What if you have to go to the bathroom during the route?” I was informed there were a couple campsite bathrooms along the way. “Or jump behind a tree,” he said. So, mistake number two was that I didn’t fuel myself hardly at all before the race.
There were not many aid stations along the way as boasted. This is directly related to mistake number three: not fueling enough during the race.There were, in fact, two aid stations; one at mile six and one at mile nine. I ate three-fourths of a banana in total and a couple cups of water. I contemplated drinking their electrolyte concoction, but I was imagining how my stomach would protest in the most humiliating of ways so I declined. Rounding the corner from the aid station, the next mile started as a ridiculous hill that caused my jaw to slack when seeing it. There were three huge hills in this race. The mile-seven hill I handled pretty well, but looking at the wall confronting me after mile nine I thought, “Welp, one foot in front of the other, Rivera.” The hill finally eased after a mile, but by then I was starting to have an Uh-Oh moment. I settled into a jog, but my energy was drained. I decided that by sheer will alone I was going to get through the last hill, which was a straight-up ascent starting at the eleven and a half mark. Joy has to be good for a mile or so, no?
But here’s the deal: As mentally tough as I like to consider myself, my mind couldn’t fully compensate for a real physiological bonk. Starting up that last hill, I couldn’t believe I couldn’t force my legs to move faster. I began feeling lightheaded with tunnel vision. “F*#k!” I yelled at my feet. A couple runners passed me, which pissed me off more. “What’s my problem?” I thought. I stopped and looked at the trees. I asked for help from Nature, the goddesses, from my inner effing self. I thought that would give me a boost, but it didn’t.
A photographer who was perched on a huge tree stump primed to document runners’ misery, taunted us as we struggled. I was not in the mood for that. I think he realized I was having a tough time and he hopped off the stump to walk with me and talk to me for about eight hundred meters. Nature had sent me help after all.
I crossed the finish line much later than I had hoped feeling like shit. Mina was there, thank god, and she handed me an orange soda. She knew to give me the soda because everyone who had crossed the finish line before me ranted about how brutal the course had been and how they needed sugar or salt immediately. When I downed the soda, I felt immediately better. I thought to myself, “Oh.” I ALMOST wanted to redo that last part so I didn’t feel like it had got the best of me.
I totally disrespected my fuel for my first big race. I had not underestimated the training, the cross training, the mobility, or recovery. But I had not spent any time dialing in fuel. Me of all people!
My husband used to ask our daughters, “Do you want to learn things the easy way or the hard way? Up to you.” I obviously picked the hard way last Saturday. But I’m excited to figure out my race nutrition, and I can’t wait to try it all again.
5k Row FT – Leader Board Time!
***PLEASE JOIN US FOR A FREE PERFORMANCE BREATH CLASS ON FRIDAY FROM 12:00-12:30PM***
Followed by a Bondsy-Q
$10 to go toward Westside Food Bank for Thanksgiving
$10 to go toward the BBQ, all to Bondsy.
20 MIN EMOM–You choose what you play with
ODD MIN: A movement (user’s choice)
EVEN MIN: A different movement (user’s choice)
Teams of 2 or 3
24 KBS (24/16)
B) AB for Cals with partner