Running with the Locals, Running with the Legends: My Onward Shay! Race Report

Today marked the running of the inaugural Onward Shay! Half Marathon and Marathon in Boise, Idaho to honor of Shay Hirsch. Shay was a Boise native and runner who lost her courageous battle with cancer in 2014. She would often encourage others with the phrase Onward! and she loved the Wizard of Oz, so the race adopted a fun Wizard of Oz theme and the name Onward Shay! For its inaugural weekend, the race hosted several running legends many of whom helped organize the race.

At the start line I saw my coach chatting with Nick Symmonds (hopefully they were planning a beer mile) and Joan Benoit Samuelson grabbing Frank Shorter to go take a photo with local celebrity writer Tony Doerr. The runners had to wait an extra 30 minutes at the start, but watching these running legends and chatting with friends kept me entertained. Parts of me started to get antsy (also wet and cold), but I reminded myself that in a racing I need to practice on focusing on what I can control. I cannot control things like the weather and the delayed starts, but I can control things like my attitude and my breathing, so I focused on those.

Finally the starting gun went off and we were running through the streets of Boise. About a mile into the race I found myself running right next to Frank Shorter. Often called the father of the modern running boom and the only American to medal twice in the Olympic Marathon, Frank Shorter is one of the most respected distance runners in the world. I could not believe that I was running right next to him down the streets of Boise, Idaho, the place I currently call home. Amazing! This will certainly go down as one of the best moments of my running career.

As I continued, I started to see familiar face after familiar face carrying me through the course with their smiles, cheers, funny signs, and positive energy. Even though it was a cold, wet, rainy day, Boise showed up for this event. My mom and husband brought our three small kids out to cheer. I saw countless friends and strangers who felt like friends street after street, house after house. Much of the course, particularly the parts in the North End, felt like a huge party. Because of the way parts of the course looped out and back, my running friends and I were even able to cheer each other on at multiple points. I typically run with music unless I am running with another person and trying to talk, but I did not want music during this race. I wanted to fully experience the spectators, other runners, and the course surroundings. I thoroughly enjoyed saying hello to all of the family and friends I saw along the way and feel so grateful to each and every one of them for coming out today.

Those of us who run, race or do some type of endurance exercise understand that we could not do what we do without a tremendous amount of support from friends and family. To have those friends and family not only support us throughout our training, but show up on a wet, rainy race day, means the world!

Around mile eight, the wet and cold started to set in. My quads felt heavy from the cold and my shoes were squishy from the weight of the extra water they were carrying. Everything was soaking wet and I could hardly see through the water in my eyes. My plan to speed up the past few miles did not happen due to the wet and cold conditions, but I held my pace and felt strong through the finish. Most importantly, I ran and finished with joy in my heart and with gratitude for a healthy body and fun race. I hope this race continues for years to come and grows in popularity, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves. It was so much fun to be a part of the inaugural event!


Pre-race with my running team, the Boise Betties

Photo Credit: Gretchen Hurlbutt (Thanks, G!)


2015 Race to Robie Creek Race Report: I Fought the Hill and the Hill Won!

Or maybe it should be called “I fought the heat and the heat won!” And what is the point of being half Egyptian if I can’t run in the heat, anyway?!?!

I started the day with high expectations.  I was hoping to beat my time from last year (which was 2:09 something) or maybe even do as well as 2:05.  I felt like I had trained well.  I had trained harder and more for this Robie than any other Robie: more mileage, more speedwork, more hill repeats, more time on the course, more weights, more core work, more cross training.  I think my fitness level is in a better place than last year, so I didn’t think I’d have an issue beating my time.  Plus, on my long runs, I actually *ran* to the summit.  It was a slow run, but I was “running.”  And that’s something I had never done before.  So I hoped to be able to do that in the race too.

I covered my watch hoping I’d be able to go off of effort and not be distracted or discouraged by pace as it slowed towards the summit, as I had in previous years.  I felt okay the first couple of miles.  On the first hill I told myself I would not pass anybody.  That would my way of keeping my pace in check.  However there were some people that stopped to walk and others that were just running at a slower pace than I felt I wanted to be running so I did pass some people.  When I got to the 3 mile marker I saw it and thought something along these lines: “Oh s@#$!.  Only 3 miles and I feel like I am running out of gas already. I must have run the first 5k too fast.  I effed up.  I am totally screwed.  I want to quit.  I am never going to make it to the top.  I am not even at the dirt yet and I am hot.  And I feel sick.  This sucks.”  Totally self defeating thoughts.  Not exactly what you want at mile three of a half marathon.  Or any race really.  I thought when I looked at my splits for the first 3 miles I was going to see that I had run them ridiculously fast or something.  When I saw the splits I don’t think I had run them too fast.  I think it was just the heat that got me.  The heat got me last year too.  I got too hot too fast.

After that point I started walking through each water station.  I’d grab two cups of water and drink one and pour the other one over my head.  Once I got to the dirt I felt a little better.  I like the dirt better than the pavement.  And by a little, I mean just a little.  I was still pretty miserable and feeling sick.  I saw Ashley pretty early on in the dirt passed her and told her good job.  It made me so happy to see another Bettie!  I was pretty sure she’d be passing me soon because I didn’t have much in the tank.  At the next water stop Sarah came by me and patted me on the back and told me good job.  Again, another Bettie encouraging me along the way!  We leapfrogged with each other over the next water stop or two and then I couldn’t keep up anymore.  I felt that each time I stopped and walked at a water stop it got harder and harder for me to start running again.  And I really wanted to quit.  More than I’ve ever wanted to quit any other race I’ve done.  I started thinking of ways I could get to James’ car and get to the people I’d promised rides home, but I couldn’t figure out a way.  There was no option but to run over the hill! GRR! I also felt really hot and sick (nauseated).  At around mile 4 or 5 I forced myself to have a gel even though I didn’t want it.  I kept thinking of my kids and that I didn’t want to have a stroke or pass out or something and that’s another reason why I kept walking through the water stations. I also kept noticing that I had goosebumps all over my arms.  I tried not to look at them because I didn’t want to think about the heat exhaustion.  I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other.  I hated that I was not enjoying the race.  One of the purposes of covering up my watch was to make the race more enjoyable!

That last steep mile to the summit I did a run/walk.  I just wanted to be done.  I kept thinking of who might be behind me.  “Maybe Claire is behind me?,” I thought.  “I know!” I can stop at the top, wait and cheer for her, and then we can run down together!” Then I saw Gretchen in the distance.  I know I didn’t SOUND* very excited when I saw her, but I was SUPER excited to see her.  “GRETCHEN!” I thought. “IS THAT GRETCHEN?!? How did she get up here? Maybe SHE can get me out of here!” That was the perfect spot for her to be cheering at too.  Just a half mile before the summit, right where we all needed encouragement the most.  THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. For everything that you do for us.  We all love and appreciate you so much!

Once I got over the summit, I started to feel MUCH better.  I felt pretty strong on the back, actually.  I saw that my time at the summit was 1:32 something.  That’s what it was last year.  I was disappointed, but not surprised.  At that point I knew I would be either right at or over my time from last year and I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself for a 2 second PR or something, especially since I felt so miserable and had bombed the front side.  So I pushed it coming down, but didn’t red line it or anything.  At mile 10 I still felt pretty strong somehow.  By mile 12 I was ready to be done again and so happy to see the finish.  When I heard the announcer say my name, I heard “Josh Jackman” right along with it and looked and he was right there with me at the finish!  I told him congrats and he said he’d been following me for awhile and thanked me for pacing him and carrying him along.  Glad I was helpful to someone in spite of my misery!

I felt better than last year at the finish (last year I felt a little sick for awhile) but still didn’t want to eat for awhile.  Had a recovery drink and some fruit and a power bar on the way home and then ate more later. Like I said before I thought initially it was going out too fast that killed me, but once I looked at my splits I think it was the heat.  And maybe too much caffeine, but probably mostly the heat.  I guess maybe I should be doing long runs in the middle of the day if I am going to do this race?

I feel frustrated because I feel like I am at a better place fitness wise than I was a year ago, but I wasn’t able to perform better.  At least not on April 18, 2015.  I also feel disappointed because I feel like maybe 2:05 is too lofty of a Robie goal for me and I’d like to break 2 hours one day.  It is a hard race.  And I am not getting any younger.  I am feeling a little defeated, old and humbled after that race.  But I also feel motivated to get back to work so that I can hopefully have a better race later this year. More than anything I don’t like all of the negative thoughts I was having during the race and the fact that I wanted to quit.  I want to stay strong when I am hurting and to be able to reach deep in my mental toolbox and pull through.  Even though it was a tough run for me, I am proud that I finished, I had a great day with my friends, and I am so thankful to have such an amazing coach and a wonderful group of women to run with.  You all keep me going day after day after day! Thank you!

*I ran up to her, dropped the f-bomb, told her that my run was a disaster and that if I weren’t giving people rides I’d have the medical cart take me down the hill.  Of course, she cheerfully encouraged me to keep going.  And I apologized for my outburst later.  And thanks to everyone who needed rides for keeping me on that hill!