It was a beautiful day, I’ve just been feeling so far from 100% lately. We had to say goodbye to Molly last weekend. I got a little more sleep this week just because I’m not sick with worry about her anymore. Now I’m just so damn sad. The house feels empty and it hurts. I love that girl so much.
I’m going to just go ahead and call it. This is officially my favorite race.
I’ve done the 25K three times now and the marathon once.
I love the course. It’s challenging but completely runnable. The race starts and finishes on a gorgeous lake (you can jump in when you finish!). The mountain laurels are in bloom and the food is AMAZING! My plate was so colorful this year. I had a veggie burger (with that yummy cooked-on-the-grill char) topped with juicy tomato, red onion, three colors of peppers, guacamole and black bean salsa. Plus fresh fruit, veggies, chips and home baked treats on the side. It’s basically a full-blown cookout.
The shirts are always nice too, with the “Run MTNS” logo. This year they had tank tops for the women, which was awesome!
Even though I knew I wanted to run this race (I always want to run this race) we waited until the Friday before to register. Originally I didn’t know how I’d be feeling after Promise Land 50k and our trip to Finland. Then there was my knee and the fact that Molly is sick again.
My knee seemed to be doing better though. I had a physical therapy appointment on Tuesday and my PT thought I should be fine to run this weekend. My neighbor said she’d be happy to check on Molly for me.
So we set our alarms for 3am and were on the road by 3:30. We scored a prime parking spot right by the starting line thanks to Brian’s small car.
It was unseasonably cool before the race. I wished I’d thought to bring a coat.
Nobody wanted to be up near the front at the starting line. There were a few fast people at the very front and then a huge empty space, and then everyone else.
I started out feeling pretty good. The first mile on the road went by quickly. As usual, there was some congestion on the single-track climb. But I felt like I managed a pretty good balance of getting around people when the trail allowed and enjoying nice little walk breaks when it didn’t.
I was pretty proud of myself for keeping a decent pace going down the other side of the mountain. People definitely still went flying by me, but I felt like I was able to let loose at least a little. Progress.
The rolling miles after the first big climb and descent were hard because I was caught in a little group that was pushing my pace faster than I was comfortable with. But it’s probably good for me. I know I’m way too conservative these days. Anyhow, even though I was not exactly comfortable, I was still feeling waaaay better than I had at this point in the race last year. I sipped on my Nuun and ate a few pieces of black liqourice that I’d brought home from Helsinki.
The day was warming up quickly. I was trying to remember the cut-off time at the first aid station. I was thinking it was an hour and a half. It wouldn’t affect me because I was only running the 25K, but the year before I had arrived at the aid station right at the cut-off. I was hoping I would be ahead of it this year, but it was getting pretty close to an hour and thirty minutes and I still wasn’t at the aid station. And then finally I was. Presumably ahead of the cut-off (I just checked and the cut-off was 1:45, not 1:30.)
I grabbed a chocolate energy gel and walked out of the aid station with Brian. We started running again but after a few minutes he said he wanted to walk. I was feeling fine, so I just kept jogging at my very slow pace. I caught and passed maybe 10 people who were walking during that 2.5 mile stretch. I ended up walking some too, toward the end of the climb.
At the aid station at the top of the mountain I took a cup of Skratch, a caramel machiato gel (Not my favorite. Now I know) and an icy washcloth. It actually had big chunks of ice stuck to it, which felt really good.
My IT band felt fine, but my right ankle was feeling a little wonky and I felt a few twinges in my knee, so I didn’t push the pace at all on this steep, rocky descent. I’m pretty sure everyone I passed on the climb passed me back on this stretch. Including Brian. I couldn’t believe how fast some of them came barreling down the hill.
I wasn’t going fast, but I kept chugging along even after the trail flattened out and then climbed a little again. I slowly passed some of the runners who had flown past me on the descent. I felt like walking, but I knew I was close to finishing under three hours which had been my goal. In the last two miles I didn’t really think I’d be able to do it, but I was determined to keep trying.
It hurt, but I was feeling pretty happy as I pushed to the finish line in 2:57:53. Thirteen seconds away from placing third in my age group.
Then I got to jump in the lake, eat delicious food and enjoy the sunshine.
My neighbor sent me a text that Molly was doing well.
For just one morning it felt like everything was okay.
Helsinki City Running day is an impressive (and very popular!) event with something for everyone. There is a 1K mini-marathon for kids in the morning. Then a half marathon, full marathon, marathon relay, double (half and full) marathon and a 5K.
We did the half marathon which was the second event of the day (after the kid’s mini-marathon). The half was split up into 5 waves with the first wave starting at 11:30 am and the last one at 12:10. We were in the very last wave based on our projected finish time (i.e. slow).
Unlike at the race we did in Belgium, the lines for the port-o-johns were really long. We also quickly realized that it must not be taboo to wear the race shirt on race day in Finland. Maybe that’s only a U.S. thing? Anyway, I’d say at least half of the crowd was wearing the purple race shirt.
Lined up at the start
Even with so many waves, we were pretty bunched up for a while at the beginning. It didn’t bother me at all though. Brian and I were running together and he was counting on me to set the pace (he’s notorious for going out too fast). I had settled into my all-day-ultra pace (pretty much the only pace I know these days). A little exercise and a nice tour of the city was all I was looking for.
What was strange was how quiet it was. We were in the very last wave, where, especially so early in the race, just about everyone is usually chatting away. But we were the only ones talking. And we tried not to say too much because everyone could hear what we were saying (because nobody else was talking!), which was awkward. Plus we didn’t want to be the annoying loud Americans. The spectators were quiet too. A few people would say “hyvä” in a normal speaking tone as we ran by. Hyvä translates as “good” but we reasoned it must mean something like “good job” in this context. Even the music was quiet. Strangely, someone early on was playing the “Footloose” album for us as we ran by. I definitely approved!
We ran through a park by some marshland,
followed a paved bike/pedestrian path, skirted the water,
ran on some soft dirt (heavenly!) through beautiful green woods,
crossed several bridges,
ran through some not-so-pretty areas of the city with quite a bit of construction and finished up back at the Töölön Sports Hall.
There were several water stops along the way with Sportyfeel and water. I had some Sportyfeel at two of the stops. It tasted fine. Kind of like Gatorade. But both times I drank it, I got a side stitch. So I switched over to just water after that.
It was really hot out. I kept hoping someone along the course would have a sprinkler on so we could run through it. No such luck, but at one point there were a couple of people with spray bottles offering to spray down runners legs. Brian and I both said yes to that! It felt really good. With about four miles to go we ran back by the water. I told Brian that if the finish line was anywhere near the water I would definitely jump right in as soon as we finished. Unfortunately, it was several miles away.
The last three miles were pretty excruciating. I thought I was just dehydrated because it was so hot and I wasn’t carrying any water. Less than a mile from the finish line we turned a corner and I suddenly felt light-headed. I told Brian I needed to stop for a minute. He was carrying a couple of bottles of Carbo Pro. I always make fun of his Carbo Pro. It is supposedly flavorless but has calories and carbohydrates. So basically it’s water with calories. I prefer my calories to have flavor. I don’t understand the point of Carbo Pro. Just before the race he had asked me what it would take for me to drink some. I told him I would just have to be really, really thirsty. And now I was. I drank some stupid Carbo Pro. And it actually tasted like sugar-water as opposed to plain water but I’m not sure that’s really any better. Regardless, he felt pretty smug and I felt a little defeated, but also physically a little better.
He asked me what I’d had to eat and I told him nothing. I had a couple sips of Sportyfeel twice. Maybe 8 ounces total. But it was just a half marathon! I thought that I had read that they would have gels at the water stops, but I guess I was wrong. But I hadn’t thought that I would need anything, anyway. I really thought my problem had more to do with dehydration than lack of fuel.
But once we finished, I realized that we hadn’t started running until 12:10. I would have been fine if the race had started at 8 or 9. Probably even 10. But it had started after lunch time. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. It was close to 2:30 pm and I’d been running for more than two hours. Of course I needed fuel!
After we crossed the finish line and were handed our medals, we were led through another buffet line of goodies. I downed several cups of water and a vanilla recovery drink and started feeling much better.
Helsinki City Running Day was (mostly) pretty awesome!
Cranky irritable annoyed exhausted anxious sad
My cousin died
Molly is sick again
I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night
I checked my hydration pack after Promise Land and couldn’t find a leak. I filled it up the night before this run and refrigerated it overnight. When I pulled it out in the morning there was no sign of leakage.
Five minutes into the run my back and legs were soaked.
By mile 6 I was out of fluid. It was hot.
I hate rocky, technical downhill. Why did I choose this route?
Oh yeah. I wanted to see the Rhododendrons. And jump in the swimming hole.
There were a few Rhododendrons here and there. I tried to feel happy. I mostly just felt tired.
There were people at the swimming hole. I felt self-conscious. And I really just wanted to get home and check on Molly.
Two thousand feet of climbing in the last 2.5 miles. In the heat. Brian shared his water.
*When I got home I discovered a crack in the small plastic piece that connects the tube to the bladder in my hydration pack.
I’ve had it for maybe 9 months.
The Expo and packet pick-up were held inside the Töölön Sports Hall.
It was a little confusing for us because all of the signs were in Finnish. Just about everybody in Helsinki speaks English, but it felt rude going up to people and just speaking in English, assuming they would understand. We knew how to ask “Do you speak English?” (Puhutko Englantia?) but had found that people often didn’t understand us and we’d end up just asking in English if they spoke English to which they would quickly reply “Yes, I speak English” in perfect English.
Anyway, with slightly different versions of this scenario playing out a couple of times we navigated our way through. The free samples were incredible. If I had actually been planning on “racing” the next day I would have skipped them. You know, that whole don’t try anything new before the race thing. But this was just going to be a sight-seeing jog for us, so I was free to partake. And I took full advantage. I tasted a carbonated energy drink, a vanilla recovery drink, a fruit and veggie smoothie pouch (which was…interesting), and some flavored sparkling water . I grabbed a (not-small!) cup of nuts and poured it on top of a nearly full-sized scoop of high-protein ice cream (yum!). And there were even more samples that I didn’t try (including the Heineken). By the time we left, I felt like I probably didn’t need to eat dinner.
But of course I still did.
We picked up our bibs, then followed a line of people that took us by all the tables handing out freebies, and then funneled us into an area filled with merchandise (running clothes, accessories and fuel).
We then had to cross back through the main entrance into a separate area to pick up our race shirts. I noticed big signs over the tables and made my way over to the “S” table, thinking that we were supposed to line up according to our names. There was a very young girl behind the table. We went through the whole “Puhutko Englantia, Do you Speak English, Yes I do” thing, before I looked up and it finally registered that the letters were “S”, “M” and “L”. Oops! I moved over to the “M” line and was handed a shirt.