1812 Challenge (2:09.40/7:09 pace)

me running winning 18.12 challenge

18.12 Challenge

My husband and I decided to fly to the 1812 Challenge. We’ve never done anything like that before, and truthfully I didn’t know how it would affect my race wise. We rarely get a long span of days together, so the weekend was more about having fun. It wasn’t about the flight or the race but having an enjoyable weekend together.

The flight to Watertown went without issue. We arrived the day before and picked up our packets for the 1812 Challenge around 3 pm. There is a half marathon, 18.12 Challenge, and 5k.

I wanted to use the 18.12 Challenge is my last long run before the Big Cottonwood Marathon. I haven’t felt that confident with running the previous 16 months, and I didn’t know what to expect.

Why was it called the 1812 Challenge Race? The 1812 challenge is a nod to the War of 1812 and the significant military presence in Fort Drum.  Runners can choose to run either 18.12 miles, 13.1, or a 5k. There is something for everyone.

The morning of, I arrived at the race around 7, walked around a bit and before I knew it we were off. I didn’t feel the need to warm up because 18 miles is a long way to go. I planned to run by feel but make sure I didn’t take it out too fast. The ultimate goal was to feel strong at the end, which I thought would be around 7:30 pace.

The half marathon and 18.12 challenge go off together. I found myself in a pack of 7 women and also a few men. Out of the first pack, I was 7 out of 7.

The first four miles all head out together. During the first mile, two of my gels fell out of my pocket.

My first lesson of the day: don’t stuff my gels in my pockets. I’ve done it before in other shorts, but these are the shorts for that.

The second lesson of the day: is with the new updates on the Coros watch. I didn’t start it properly and ended up running about a mile without a watch. I pressed the manual button and got on track after the first mile.

Better to get that out of the way now, than the marathon.

We hit the second mile in 7:18. I thought it was probably too fast for my current fitness but I just kind of plugged along. I wasn’t sure who was running the half marathon and who was running the 18.12 challenge. The six women in front of me could have done either. My goal wasn’t to win, and I didn’t even know it was in the cards. (Last year the race was won by a woman running 6:24 pace).

I hit mile 3 in 7:33, which felt doable. I grabbed Gatorade at the water stop. I take Gatorade/electrolytes at every stop that I don’t have a gel (for any race 10 miles and above).

Around mile 5, the half marathons and 18.12 challengers split. To my surprise, only one other woman went towards the 18.12 challenge race.  Like anyone, I know the importance of not judging any racer, but I was shocked. The other woman was slightly in front of me, and we just proceeded on. I hit mile 5 in 7:40, which was slower than I was hoping. I thought, is the end? Am I fading? I took one gel (the only one that didn’t fall out) and just continued.

Around mile 6, I found myself in a mini pack of myself, the other women, and a male. It was windy, and there were a few small elevation gains, but it was beautiful.

The next three miles of the 18.12 challenge were just me, focused on getting to mile 9 where they said there were be Gu packets. After 2 of mine falling out of my pocket, I knew it was a stop I shouldn’t miss. Could I finish 18.12 race miles without any more fuel? Probably. Would it be pleasant? No. I hit mile 6-9 all in 7:22.

We ran on several quiet main roads just looking at (and smelling LOL) the farmland. At mile 9, there was a stop, and I thought it was where we would find gels. When I asked, they said that was a different stop. Immediately, I began to worry there might not be a a stop with gels. Would I be out of luck?

The next mile of the 18.12 challenge race felt like it took forever. We had a slight headwind, and all I could think about was: would there be gels? I felt regret for not going back and picking mine up.

Around mile 10-11, we met back up with half marathoners. I quickly realized we would be on the same roads for most of the rest of the race. I didn’t mind, but it would be congested at water stations.  At the next water stop, they had gels. Wahoo! I have never been more excited for an aid station. I grabbed two and a cup of water.

I looked down like I had drawn lottery cards: which flavors did I get? Strawberry banana and cameral? The caramel had caffeine, so I decided that would be my next gel. Unfortunately, my hands were slightly sticky, and I couldn’t get it open. So I just decided to take the strawberry banana and worry about the other gel later.

It was also around mile 10, I realized I didn’t really “feel that bad,” and the race was going by fast. I was surprised because I was already halfway done. I was still running with the mini-pack of three people.

The next few miles of the 18.12 challenge race went by faster. I didn’t feel like I picked it up, but around mile 13, I realized it was just myself and the other male. The female wasn’t with us anymore. I thought to myself: there might be someone far ahead or I might be winning.  I have no idea, but it would be so cool to win. I’ve won several races but not many in the last year and it’s always a fun experience.

I know one thing about my running, is I don’t have a kick. If I was going to win, I had to be pretty far ahead in the last mile. There have been many times someone has outkicked me. If you are next to me in the last mile, you will probably outkick me.

Around mile 14, I found myself running alone. I was weaving around half marathoners, but the roads were open and there was plenty of space. At mile 15, we had a few small inclines, and I just focused on climbing. I still had energy in the tank, which is exactly how I wanted to feel.

I took what was left of the last gel and just focused on the end. I told myself: a 5k to go. You have done this many times. I saw one of my college teammates around 17 which was awesome.

I made the mistake of glancing back behind me and seeing a woman in all black gaining on me. The woman I was previously running with was also wearing all black. I thought for sure it was the same woman. I thought to myself: Hollie you’ve been doing well if you are winning you don’t want to let someone outkick you in the final mile.

That’s when I found another gear. I was already hurting, but man did I hurt more the last mile. I was just focused on the end. When I passed my husband, he said later; he had never seen me look that determined in a race. My last mile was 6:50, and I crossed in 2:09.40.

me running winning 18.12 challenge

We crossed with the half marathoners, and I had no idea if I had won or not. The volunteers weren’t even sure. About 15 minutes later, I looked at results, and it had me as the first woman. Then later, I realized the woman I “thought I saw” was someone else. Nothing like that, to light a fire under your butt. HA!

The 18.12 Challenge Race was my best race of this training cycle. My goal was to finish strong and not make it a positive split, for positive people race. I did that and finished stronger than I thought possible.  I’m happy we decided to come up and run.

me running winning 18.12 challenge

Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport.  This week is all about fueling. 

Questions for you:

Do you have a good kick?

Have you ever done an obscure race distance? 


1 Comment

  1. I was there for it. What a fantastic finish!

    Also… GREAT POST!

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