This is my first half marathon and I give the Las Vegas Summerlin course two thumbs up! When I said I was training for a half and people would ask me which one, when I said Summerlin the response was always the same: “hilly” and they would smile sometimes chuckle at me.
I thought from all of the hiking I had been doing, and now with all of the trail running I was doing, that the hills wouldn’t be a problem. But, their remarks left an impression and I made sure to run the course once before the actual race. Turns out, they were right. Nearly 7 miles of sustained incline, which is over half of the race. The last mile of uphill feels unbearable, but at least at race time, I knew what to expect and was prepared for the mental battle.
Now, most of my long runs had been in Seattle, where I was spending a lot time due to work and my boyfriend. The last month of training had been tough. Luke, my boyfriend, had this idea to get his VO2 max tested. I had done this with Polar some years ago, and found it reasonably helpful. I already know what my cardiovascular weakness is and I had been training it until I started training distance. While I was trying to keep up my intervals but make them longer and longer, I simply didn’t have the time to commit to a distance (say 1200 or 2000m) and work to actually succeed at a set with a sustained heart rate or higher. It became an exercise in making the distance, period, albeit at a pace faster than I might otherwise have attempted. Maybe this contributed to my ‘weak heart’ syndrome?
We did our best to follow the program in the “Run Less, Run Faster” book, but I never did keep up with the intervals. 10 x 400’s, yeah, right. I couldn’t even sprint a 2000m, though I did manage several 800s over time. Anyway, I bring this up because when we took the VO2max test, they did an overall assessment of my body fat percentage, resting heart rate, VO2max, aerobic and anaerobic thresholds as well as my basal metabolic rate. In essence, I left feeling fat and cardiovascularly unfit despite all of my training. They even said my heart was weak, even though my daytime resting heart rate can go as low as mid-40’s. I’ve tracked my resting heart rate to as low as 38. So, with a heart rate that slow, but supposedly meaning I have a strong heart, how is it that all of these numbers say I have a weak heart?
(If you want to learn more about this test and what my numbers told me and how you can learn about your own fitness, contact me.)
Not only was the message hard to receive, but Luke by this point started having knee trouble that didn’t let up and led him to bail on the half. His first half marathon was the Seattle half last December. I had gotten really ill and was unable to run with him at that time. Now, as this half approached, he was less and less able to run with me. His Denali trip in May is a priority and bad knees with running making them ache worse was not a good sign. Therefore, all of my training in support of his desire to eventually do a marathon and an ironman, meant that I would be running the half marathon by myself.
Several weeks before the half, he and I set off to run the course. By mile 3, he called it and I ran the rest of the course without him. He went back to get the car and find me, which never happened. I took a wrong turn and exited the green space a bit early around mile 10, which confused me but meant he was never going to find me where I was. Night was setting in and I pushed myself as hard as I could to at least get back on course hoping he would pass me. He nearly didn’t, not before I was within striking distance of the parking lot did my jeep appear beside me. I was never happier to see him than when he pulled up at that moment. My legs were dead, it was dark, I was worried he was out on the road and I’d be sitting in the parking lot and how would we find each other? It all worked out in the end and bonus, it was my first long run not in the pouring cold rain! I was psyched.
Race day came and though I was not keen to race by myself, it was encouraging to see Luke at the halfway point taking pictures and cheering me on. I managed to do my best pace and since I knew the course, I was prepared for all of the hills and dug deep to push through to the end where he was waiting to greet me. I have to say, it was a grueling course, but I still had fun. We’ll see how his knees hold up to see if I keep training at these distances. Meanwhile, my elbow is doing better despite the ligament tear so I’m starting to climb more, which has my spirits up, too.
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