Running in Wenatchee is always a treat for me when we make the trek to central Washington to visit relatives. This year I had the opportunity to run the River Run Half Marathon for the first time and I was eager to check out this course along the Columbia River. While I have run along the river before, I was unfamiliar with portions of this race course and was both curious and a bit nervous about it.
Since we had driven to Wenatchee from the Portland area the day before, I was appreciative of the 9:00 A.M. start time, which allowed me some extra sleep in the morning. I arrived a little early at Pybus Market to pick up my race packet and to meet Steve, one of the race organizers, to get a some background information on Run Wenatchee (the race organizers) and the 4th annual River Run. Vendors were already set up and open for business at the outdoor marketplace selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to baked goods and more. The indoor area was beginning to come to life with both shops and restaurants. I was happy to see a bike rental shop open that was selling PowerGel, as I needed one more. I was able to buy that quickly and although I would have loved to check out all the other shops and vendors, that was for another time. This was race morning!
At start time, the temperatures were already in the 60s, so I knew it was going to be a warm run. The race started with little fanfare, and just under 100 of us began our 13.1 mile trek. From Pybus Market, we headed out to the Apple Capital Loop Trail. We crossed over the Columbia to the east side on a pedestrian bridge. We were soon in a wooded, tree lined area where I had never run. It was shady and cool with a nice peaceful feel. I enjoyed this shady section, knowing that a long, shade-free section of trail would be coming soon.
When I broke out of the shade, I was met with amazing views of the Columbia River and the foothills along both sides. There was a cool breeze blowing off the river that kept the temperature perfect for running. While enjoying the views, I saw Steve out on the trail taking pictures. I greeted him and he greeted me with a high-five. What is it about a high-five on the run that seems to boost your spirits no matter what? It must be a runner thing.
As I continued along the river, I watched a boat pulling what appeared to be a novice knee-boarder along. Soon I saw my husband and his parents along the course waiting to cheer me on, offer support, and take photos of my progress. It’s always great to have supporters along the run to keep you going strong. This area of the course was filled with rolling hills, so I knew to pace myself. Since the River Run is an out and back course I would be seeing these rollers again.
Somewhere around mile 5 we crossed over the Odabashian Bridge, which seems like it is miles above the river. The ascent in this direction was fairly gradual, but I knew the other side was going to be a doozy to climb. Going down was lots of fun and I made my way towards Confluence Park, which was our turn-around point. I was starting to feel quite warm and was thankful for the regular water stations with cheerful, competent volunteers. The water was always ready at every station and I made sure to take some at each location to ensure I was well-hydrated on this warm day.
I made my way back up the steep incline to the Odabashian Bridge and tried to recover as I crossed, enjoying the slight decline and the views of the Columbia below. Then it was back to those rolling hills. I’m pretty sure the uphill was steeper on the way back, but there’s a good chance it just felt that way. The temperatures were rising and that cooling breeze seemed to have disappeared.
Despite the fact that my body was running along just fine, my mind started playing tricks on me. Negative thoughts started intruding. Thoughts about how hot I was, how it was getting hard, how I might not make it, etc. I knew I needed to snap out of it, because it was way too early to be thinking like this. I reminded myself that I was over halfway and then remembered a mantra I had heard recently while watching The Biggest Loser. One of the trainers had told one of the contestants, “Get out of your head. Get out of your way.” At the time I thought it was a pretty good quote and fortunately I remembered it when I needed it most. I begin saying it over and over to myself (In my head, not out loud, of course!) Eventually, I started listening and managed to pull myself out of my negative funk. I tried to focus on the scenery and just enjoy the run.
Soon I saw my husband and his parents again waiting for me to pass by. Even though I had just grabbed a cup of water at a water station, the water bottle my husband had waiting for me sounded great. I took a few sips and then poured the cool water over my head to help with the heat. The heat was really sapping my energy and making those uphill climbs much harder. I tried not to think about it and instead focused on that upcoming shady area.
Gradually making my way closer to the finish line, I kept focusing on what I knew was coming up next. That is one thing that I really appreciate about an out and back course. I know what’s coming and that helps me set little goals and make it from one location to the next. Sure, it’s just a mental game I play, but sometimes a runner needs to “trick” herself into making progress.
When I made it up the incline to the last water station, I grabbed a cup of water and allowed myself to walk up the pedestrian bridge while I drank it. When I got to the top, I began running again and started focusing on that upcoming finish line. Somewhere around mile 12 I started to feel really sick to my stomach. I was sure I was going to have to pull off the trail at any minute and puke. I wanted to walk and let my stomach settle, but I didn’t want to waste any more time walking, so I slogged along trying to will my stomach into submission. Suddenly, my stomach was no longer my main concern as I started hyperventilating mid-run! I’ve never had that happen while I ran and it kind of freaked me out.
I made my way to some shade and stopped for few seconds and tried to slow my breathing. The panicked feeling made me start crying at the same time. Being a bit of a control freak, this was not something I was prepared to deal with. I began breathing into my hands to slow my oxygen intake and tried to pull myself together. Some nearby volunteers asked if I was O.K. With tears pouring down my face, I nodded yes. I was afraid if I told them how I was really feeling I would risk getting pulled off the course less than a mile from the finish line. I began walking until I felt like I could run again and then I ran; determined to finish this race. My body may have been deceiving me, but I knew my legs and my lungs were strong. There was no reason I couldn’t finish.
As I got within sight of the footbridge to the finish, I had a moment of dread. This bridge has been known to suck the life out of me on the way up. Prepared for the inevitable jelly legs that it usually elicits from me, I began running up the bridge only to find that it didn’t feel so bad. This was the strongest I had ever felt as I finished a half marathon via this bridge! I don’t know if it was the sight of the finish line or the fact that I had been running much steeper hills already or the sound of the band playing at the finish area, but I felt pretty dang good. Once I made my way to the top, I cruised down to the finish feeling strong and so happy to be finishing in one piece. Steve was close to the finish line with a high five ready and I hit his hand and crossed the finish line.
Once across the finish I must have looked pretty rugged, as one of the race organizers asked if I was O.K. and then quickly directed me to the electrolytes. In no time at all, I had consumed 3 cups of electrolyte drink, a cup of water, and then was on to a bottle of Gatorade. Apparently, my body was in serious need of those electrolytes. In retrospect, with the warm temperatures, I should have been drinking some of the Gatorade they had at the aid stations instead of just water. I think I would have avoided feeling sick and hyperventilating if I had just replenished some of what I had been sweating out along the run.
Once I re-hydrated, I wandered down the street to check out the Taste of the Harvest Festival going on in the finish area. The streets had been closed to traffic and a variety of vendors and entertainment lined the street. The Wenatchee Youth Circus was performing amazing jumps and flips, a group was doing yoga, there were craft and artisan vendors, a harvest market, and more. It was truly a festival with something for everyone. What a festive end to a race!
Despite this being my slowest half marathon ever, I will definitely be back to run it again. The River Run was a beautiful, traffic-free route with amazing views. The course was challenging in places, but we runners always like a good challenge, don’t we? My body may have betrayed me this time, but we all have rough runs once in awhile. Next time will be better. River Run, I need a rematch!