The Running Retreat Recap You Haven’t Heard: Melissa’s Story

Role Mother and marathoner Melissa has been documenting the ups and downs of wave 1 of the Heart Rate Challenge, which culminated with the AMR Run + Refresh Retreat at the end of September. After 20 weeks of training, she got to show off her HR skills at the Happy Girls Half. Here's her race report:

Before I go into any details about my race, let me just say to everyone: Start saving your #foundchange for next year’s AMR Retreat. It was a terrific experience! Not gonna lie, I was more than a little nervous about going. Even the night before I left for Spokane, I lay in bed thinking, “I’m about to fly HOW far to do WHAT with people I’ve never even met!?!” I was a total panick-y wreck, but all was calmed when I walked into the Red Lion Hotel and found my BAMR people.

My people...

First, I must give a giant Florida girl nod to the weather in the Pacific Northwest. After a truly sweltering summer and 20 weeks of HR shuffling through 100% humidity, I was ecstatic to find dry air and temps below 70. As matter of fact, way below, as in, on the morning of the race I was freezing. I wore Saucony long pants, a running tank, a long sleeve pullover, and gloves. (Yes, gloves, because I hadn’t seen a temperature below 75 for over seven months--don’t judge.)  Meanwhile, while standing in a corral, I met a native Washingtonian wearing only a sports bra and shorts. (And I think she may have even been sweating.)  We both had a good chuckle talking about our respective climates and joking about our choice of wardrobe.

My plan for the race was that I didn’t actually have a plan, beyond the non-EAT plan. Honestly, the three hour time change had hit me pretty hard. I had been staying up way too late, and then waking up at around 4 a.m. everyday since I’d arrived, and by race morning I was pretty beat. I told myself because of the travel and the excitement of being at the retreat,  this would not be my defining half marathon race after HR training. My typical half marathon time is anywhere from 2:15-2:40, but for this one, I gave myself zero time expectations. I was just going to go out there and enjoy the scenery of all the “Christmas trees,” while deeply inhaling fresh dry air that didn’t taste like wet sweat and sunscreen.  I would do my best to stay at or around 140, with some surges if I felt good, and no guilt if I found myself walking on unsteady terrain (which I did, but we’ll get to that later.)

I started the race right behind Dimity and a few others who were keen on keeping things at or around 140-160 ish for the duration, but my heart was beating so fast because, wait a sec, I AM RUNNING BEHIND DIMITY? How is this real? She only lives in my ear buds!

That's me in red. And gloves. Yes, gloves. And the famous Dimity!

The first few miles made me realize two things. 1. This is a really gorgeous part of our country and 2. Holy crap this is a real trail run, as in, TRAIL run. I found myself soon running single track on what felt like the side of a small mountain, leaping side to side over large rocks, roots, brush, and what had become  the joke of the weekend, SCREE. For those in the dark, scree is loose gravel and stones that cover a slope. Sandy beaches? I can run on that. Scree? Uh, NOPE. I slowed it down quite a bit, and luckily had decided to wear trail shoes that morning. I was not prepared for just how much of this race was NOT on pavement, and how much was truly trail running, on ALL types of terrain. I so desperately  wanted to look around at the scenery, but had to really stay focused on the path in front of me, and try my hardest to not land sideways on an ankle. I would not be the second BAMR to fracture her ankle in Spokane.

I remained close behind D and a few other HR ladies, stopping here and there for pictures and selfies. They got a bit ahead of me and out of my sight, but I was feeling great so I didn’t mind. I felt the best around mile seven, that part of the trail was shaded and had soft ground,  and I felt like I was really getting my mojo on at that point.

And then I panicked. You see, one of the other BAMRs passed me fast on the left, and I happily cheered her on. A few minutes went by and she flew back by me going the other way, exclaiming, “I’m lost. I’ve ran 11 miles so far, and that’s not right.”  Suddenly, my mojo was gone, and my mind started imagining all sorts of irrationals scenarios. I caught up to Debbi, a BAMR I had gotten to know at the retreat, and from behind I hollered to her, “Are we lost?” She replied, “Nope. We’re good.” Not convinced, I asked, “Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m sure,” she replied. I then mumbled to her (and myself)  “Just in case we are, please tell me you have a knife and matches in your fuel belt because I watch a lot of Dateline and they always start out a lot like this.” The next few miles felt awkward and uneasy, as I was still trying to tell myself I wasn’t lost, and wishing for smooth pavement.

The last three miles were very tough, as there were some very steep hills, and we were running head on into the warm sun. I had to laugh because there were several people next to me sweating profusely and complaining about how hot it was. Hot? It was probably 70! I passed them like, “Heat? This isn’t heat! It’s a cold front! Watch this ladies!”

The heart rate crew!

As I came across the finish line to the sound of SBS calling out my name and “She is here all the way from FLORIDA!” I couldn't help but feel like a total badass. I ran straight into the welcoming hugs from the other retreat members who had finished before me, and many of us non-trail runners had that look like, “What did we just run on?”  It was the longest time I had ever been out on a half marathon course, but in no way did I feel defeated, undertrained, or overly exhausted. Even the next day I experienced minimal soreness, and after the long trip home sitting straight up on a plane for 6+ hours,  I still felt pretty damn good. All those silly toes and wacky stretches did the trick.

I plan to do some type of repeat and/or modified version of the 20-week HR training starting very soon, because the cooler temperatures soon here in Florida  will make the more frequent runs less miserable. And next up on my race calendar is the Disney Full in early January, a race I have done every year for almost a decade. And the best part? There is no scree on Main Street, U.S.A. Yipppeeee!!! #magickingdomorbust

4 responses to “The Running Retreat Recap You Haven’t Heard: Melissa’s Story

  1. Loved that you loved our gorgeous city! I have run that course three times, aND never saw people running back on the trail before. I was so confused!

  2. Great job, Melissa! Way to hang tough and bring it home. Plus you gave this South Carolina native a good chuckle and fond memories about my first days in the PacNorthwest. Some day we need to chat about what these folks consider “humidity.”

  3. Love this and love that you had such an awesome time, bringing that ‘Nole spirit to the PCNW! And maybe next year it will be the AMR Screetreat 😉

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