There should be a version of the television show "What Not to Wear" geared toward fitness and athletes. First of all, perhaps the woman I saw at a gym wearing a patterned leotard, bright pink tights and a headband as if she came straight out of the Olivia Newton-John video for "Physical" would be able to move forward a decade or two.
Second, it could greatly help me figure out how to dress for outdoor runs and bike rides.
I arrived at Mendon Ponds Park outside of Rochester for the Cats Half Marathon in a running skirt and long-sleeved shirt. I saw the weather was supposed to get into the 40s with sun. I figured I should dress "20 degrees warmer" and thought I would be fine.
Shortly after registration, however, I had second thoughts.
The wind wasn't just a breeze -- it was strong at times. And it wasn't just cool -- it was cold.
My friend Herm drove up for the race and was wearing pants, a more thermal top, hat and gloves. He figured he'd be out in the country for a while and it was cold. Layers you can always take off.
I pondered this. I hate to overheat, but I didn't want to freeze.
What to wear?
Luckily I had brought a pair of capris and had two long-sleeved shirts. So I changed my clothes. Herm graciously lent me a pair of gloves.
Off we go.
Mendon Ponds Park is large and beautiful. We started by running outside the park, then circled on outer country roads before coming back through the park on the other side, running the outer edge again and returning up through the road we started on.
It was advertised as a hilly course. So the hills were not a surprise. And I have been running some at Chestnut Ridge in Orchard Park. This, my coach told me, is nothing I haven't run before.
My goal was to try and hold marathon pace as much as I can, but not to get caught up in the pace. I would not hold that pace up some of the hills and that was OK. I was just to enjoy the run and know that the hills will make me stronger.
I started out easy, but then again most of the first part of the course was downhill and flat.
Then came the hills.
And the hills just kept on coming. And coming. And there was that 17-mile per hour wind which on the occasion it wasn't in my face was a strong cross-wind blowing me into the road.
This was not a fast day for me.
Which meant the doubts started around Mile 9.
I started to wonder about the distance of 26.2 miles. I started to wonder about my strength. About my fitness. About my endurance.
Then I stopped. I shook my arms out. I looked at the blue sky. I smiled.
As I came up on another runner and we exchanged pleasantries.
"I fell like I'm running a good race but everyone else seems faster," he said to me.
"Me, too," I said. "All that matter is how you feel you're doing."
So often when we talk to other people we are really talking to ourselves.
I cruised on ahead not all that fast but pretty steady.
The last big hill on the course featured someone who parked her car. She cheered on the runners while having her car opened and the radio blasting. Rusted Root helped get me up that hill.
At Mile 10 I started to feel sore, particularly in my ankles.
I turned the corner into the park and came to Mile 11. Herm was there, timing when he figured I would come by that marker. He cheered me on and asked if I wanted someone to run in with me.
Because if he wasn't there I might have walked a bit those final two miles.
It was a rolling up-hill to the finish line and my ankles were pretty darn sore at this point. I was slow. I was no where near marathon pace. During the run, I didn't care. I just wanted to keep running, keep moving. In hindsight, I was disappointed with those final two miles. I couldn't have picked it up just a bit?
At the top of the hill were some of my Train This! teammates cheering for me.
I crossed the line in 2:15.10.
And while at home I would replay those final two miles to see if I couldn't have done a bit better, I am rather pleased with that time.
But (a) it's faster than my first half marathon which had no hills and (b) I ran that hilly course on no taper. This wasn't a race but a training run for me.
My coach had no goal time for me. She was pretty pumped at my performance.
And frankly, so was I.
So today, I feel I've earned a few extra pieces of chocolate as I put some ice on my ankles.
I may have been slow on the hills, but I know it will make me stronger.
Well, it's just got to.