Kathy Barnhart’s Healdsburg Half

There’s 2500 race participants in Geyserville waiting for the start of the Healdsburg Half Marathon the last weekend of October.  The announcer is talking about the course, “there’s water at miles 2, 4,…and Accelerade at miles…and white wine at mile 10.  This is a beautiful course, so everyone needs to take advantage of the rolling hills, vineyards and lovely scenery.  Make sure you enjoy the race and have fun.”  There are several of us dressed up in Halloween costumes creating a festive mood.  Batman, Wonder Woman, 3 little pigs and a wolf, and several others are waiting for the start.  The announcer continues, “even the elite competitors in the front  should have fun and and take time to enjoy the course.”  Does that mean I should enjoy the wine at mile 10?I’ve been taking Julie’s running clinic, met some awesome running buddies, and want to see if I can improve my half marathon time.  I did the Seattle Rock and Roll Half in June with similar elevation gain and temperatures, so I should show some improvement.  At least I hope to have improved.  Maybe I should skip the wine.  But then again, how often do we get to drink wine during a race?  Well, let’s see how I feel at mile 10.

Everyone is ready to go.  Jimi Hendrix plays the national anthem.  Ready, set, and we’re off.  Around mile one, we’re running up a hill that’s about 1/2 a mile long.  We’ve been training on hills, so this should be a cinch.  O.K., keep the pace steady and comfortable.  I have 12 miles to go.  The ladybug who’s been next to me since the beginning seems to pick up her pace.  That’s OK, I can catch her in the downhill when gravity is my friend.  Down hills have not been a favorite of mine, because the impact seemed to slam my body.  Julie has taught me to embrace the downhill and has improved my form.  There’s a little bit of a bend in the road, and I can’t tell if I’ve reached the top and should pick up my pace for the downhill.  YEA, we’re at the top of our only big hill, and down I go.  And yes, I caught the lady bug!  I’m enjoying the downhill when a dog blows by everyone along the right shoulder of the road.  This isn’t someone in costume.  It’s a real dog who’s name is Willie.  I saw him wondering around the start, and apparently he has decided to join the race.  Is he looking for his owner?  Hope they find each other.  (More on Willie later).

On I go, mile after mile.  At mile 6 I look at my Garmin.  I haven’t done a 10K for awhile, but I think I’m ahead of my personal best.  I probably look at my watch every 1/100th of a mile before I finally reach 6.2 miles.  Cool, I’m about 1 1/2 minutes ahead of my best 10K.  Thanks Julie!!  O.K., don’t get too excited, I’ve got 7 miles to go.  Luckily Julie is in my head saying “Think about form.”  Pelvis, check.  Arms, check.  Glutes, check.

At mile 8, my calves are cramping a bit…focus on keeping my glutes activated.  I think I am, but it’s not helping.  What else can I do?  Julie always talks about pedaling an imaginary bike spindle.  I try this and am amazed the cramping seems to subside.  This is the time in my 1/2 when I typically have to deal with leg cramps and slow down a bit.  I’m able to keep up with a butterfly that’s just passed me.  Mile 9 comes up, and my calves are cramping again, and I”m no longer able to keep up with the butterfly.  Julie pops back into my head, “focus on form.”  It’s helping.  Margaret Skillicorn, who also took Julie’s clinic has a motto.  “I can do anything for 4 miles, I can do anything for 3 1/2 miles.”  Now I have both Julie and Margaret in my head.  The company helps!  Margaret is saying, “I can do anything for 3 miles.”  But my calves are cramping again.  Do I have some of the wine coming up and coast to the finish?  No, I want to see how much I can improve my time.  Julie pops in and says, “Focus on form, think about the bike spindle.”  It’s working again!  Shoot, there’s another hill.  It’s short.  Julie always says , “break the race course into segments and make that your race.”  I can push a little bit to make it to the top of the hill.  Focus on form.  Pelvis, check.  Glutes…arms…bike spindle, check.  I’m so focused on form, the pain is more tolerable.   I see the butterfly up the road again.  I can’t catch her, but at least I’m making progress.  I can do anything for 2 1/2 miles.  Shoot, there’s another hill.  Focus on form, get to the top.  I turn a corner and it’s less than a mile to the finish.  I start to pick up the pace.  I can do anything for a mile.  Well, maybe not.  I’ll break the last mile into race segments.  I pick up the pace for a block.  That wasn’t so bad, I pick up the pace for another block, and another block.  I can keep up the pace, and the finish is down a short hill and around the corner.  I can do anything for a couple blocks.  YEA, I am done!!

All of Julie’s coaching and training with my new run buddies was such a help.  I’ve been trying to improve my half marathon time for about 5 years and have only dropped 4 minutes.  Today I’ve been able to take almost 10 minutes off of my time since June.  Thank you Julie!  Thank you run buddies!

Willie the dog apparently won the race.  He was digging around some shrubs when I finished.  His owners were in Geyserville having no idea what mischief he had gotten into that morning.  He was later arrested by local law enforcement but bailed out by his owners.

Julie always talks about the recovery being so important.  Well, we’re off to a local restaurant for lunch and mimosas!