The memories from Saturday’s half marathon will hold a place in my running heart forever. I didn’t stick with my training. I skipped and shorted many weekday runs. I skipped several long runs and maxed out at 9 miles too many weeks ago. As I described in my post last week, I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish, and I’ve never raced without feeling at least reasonably prepared. I really worried that given my lack of training and my constant inability to manage my pace and slow down during races, I wouldn’t be able to complete the distance.
Let’s cut to the chase. Girlfriend spent Saturday night with the family drinking this fine bottle of Burgundy and savoring this medal…a reminder of the most fun I have ever had during a race.
I went into the expo on Friday feeling a little dejected about my preparation. The expo was huge, and seeing all those runners and booths with gear, fuel, etc. got me all fired up, which made me mad at myself for not being ready to kick ass. Does that make sense? I knew I had cheated myself out of the chance to have a great run, and the expo just reminded me of that. Not only was I not set up for a shot at a PR, but I wouldn’t be able to sub 2:00, which was a personal line in the sand I drew a few years back.
Still, the t-shirt was cool, and I tried to think of the expo as a good reminder of why I love this sport. The loneliness of the long distance runner is a very real thing (unless you run and/or train in a group, which I do not because I am a peculiar flower), and it’s always exciting to see the other freaks crawl out of the woodwork and emerge for bib pickup.
I left and decided to drive the course. I freaked a little at first because there were several long gradual inclines and one MF of a hill around the 2.5 mark. Then I became hopeful, because the course was largely flat and downhill from about Mile 4 to 8.5. After another steady gradual hill from the 8.5 to 10 mile mark, the course was flat or downhill the rest of the way.
What a great course. Damn, I was mad!
I hydrated and made my playlist (always a huge thing for me…I even plan my songs around hills and my anticipated pace so that I will hear the right songs at the right times). I ate pasta for lunch, but then changed up my pre-race routine and ate a hamburger and fries for dinner. I was feeling weak (not enough protein in my lunch?) and needed to load up on salt for my low blood pressure. I poured half a shaker on those fries. Yum.
This should go down in history as a big fat F. The weather was really cold (36 degrees) and I couldn’t decide what to wear (I chose well, thank goodness, and decided to wear my compression sleeves at the last second hoping they would help my blood pressure…and I think they did!) That was the only thing I did right.
I couldn’t go to the bathroom before I left the house. Bummer! Then I arrived at the course and ran into a coworker of HH’s. As we were chatting, I looked down at his shoe and screamed, “I forgot to chip! I forgot to chip!” He just stared at me, evidently not realizing that I was using “chip” as a verb and then probably thinking that I was the biggest toolbox in the world.
So I had to run around in the dark to find the information tent and get a new chip and bib. This all happened with less than five minutes before the race, and I was hunched over in the dark lacing on a new chip as I heard the national anthem being played over at the starting line. I didn’t stretch, I didn’t warm up unless you count running across the grass frantically, and I thought my heart was going to explode, even though I knew I had no shot at a must-be-counted-type race and that I had my stopwatch anyway. It still mattered. Of course it mattered.
I ended up squeezing in at a side entrance to the corral just as the gun sounded. I was a wreck. Everything had gone wrong.
Then I heard the chosen song flood out of the speakers–A-Punk by Vampire Weekend. And I knew I would be okay. Seriously. I told myself that my running base would see me through, and that I would finish. That song was a sign. It’s all about me, right? God was talking to ME!
The marathon and half marathon started together. The crowd was huge. There were 7100 runners in the half marathon alone. Though this would normally bother me, the cluster in those first few miles was just fine, as it helped me get loose and ease into things.
That’s the first time I’ver ever done that in a race.
I weaved a little, but not much. I watched the marathoners cluster around their pacers and felt a huge pang of sympathy and also jealousy knowing the journey they were embarking on and remembering how I felt in the first few miles of my marathon.
I watched the sun come up as we crossed a bridge heading south out of the downtown and took a second to think about strategy. Though my usual strategy is as simple-minded as “Take off like a bat out of hell until you think you’re going to die!”, I knew I needed a plan with a little more finesse. I decided to ignore the pacers, follow my own energy levels and keep my pace fairly consistent. I ran the first crowded mile at around a 10:00 pace, and I didn’t freak out about it like I normally would. It was all very zen-like, which is unusual for tightly-wound me. I did get a little pissed, though, when I realized that my app was shuffling my songs and not playing them in my specific anal order. I heard a couple of my high energy songs in those first two miles, and I had to force myself to hold back.
We hit the first big hill just as VW’s Cousins started though…perfect timing, as that song makes me spazz out.
This is the hill as seen from my car on Friday…it is not to be trifled with.
Me and my cousins, and you and your cousins
It’s a line that’s always running
Me and my cousins, and you and your cousins
I can feel it coming
I tried not to get overconfident. Though I was feeling good, I knew that I wasn’t really prepared, and I didn’t want to dial it up because I was anticipating hitting the wall around Mile 8-10. I decided to kick things up just a tiny notch and told myself that banking some seconds wasn’t a totally bad idea as long as I didn’t get too crazy.
I can sum up the next 4-5 miles pretty quickly. I just felt better and better. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed running so much during a race.
I had to force myself to hold back, because I was anticipating a crash. I had my app programmed to give me pace feedback every four minutes, and if I heard it get below 8:30, I slowed down. I wanted to finish, not flame out, and I seriously feared the wall due to my lack of prep. I was afraid I would fall off a cliff. It took discipline…something I usually lack.
I sipped on G2 and ate 5 Honey Stingers about 45 minutes in, which worked perfectly. My blood pressure stayed up, I didn’t have any heart palpitations or dizzy/nauseous spells, and I felt so damn good!
I realized at about the 8 mile mark that I could finish under 2:00. If I could get to the 10 mile mark before the 1:30 mark, I could coast through the last three flat and downhill miles at even a 10:00 pace if I was crashing and still finish under 2 hours. Holy Crap! I just had to get through one more climb of about 150 feet!
Oh my god…it was seriously so easy.
I turned it loose for the last three miles. I got a little barfy around Mile 12 when I went under an 8:00 pace for a bit, so I dialed it back a touch, but not much. I have never felt so good finishing a race.
F yeah! Not my best time, but my best race ever. Who would have thought?
Gee, Your Splits Smell Terrific
Love seeing this…and this…
Let me crunch the numbers.
65/439 for my division (Strong Young Women Ages 40-44) = Top 15%
638/3600 for my gender (that would be female) = Top 18%
Those are numbers I can live with.
Kudos to the race organizers…everything was incredible. As we approached downtown in the last mile or so, they had a guy yelling at us that we were in the first two thousand runners and that 10,000 combined race runners were behind us. Man, that felt good!
Boo to the lady that I got hung up with around the Mile 11-12 mark who was belching like I don’t know what without apology and drifting something awful, making it hard to pass her and get out of her Gu-induced burp cloud. Lady, I think you’d had enough Gu for one day…and run a straight line for God’s sake!
And kudos to the sign holders…lots of signs about running better than our government, and one sign saying, “Honey, hurry home! The laundry’s piling up and the kids are fighting!” I saw this sign right around the time I heard four texts come in on my phone rapid fire. After the race, I checked them—they were all from my older son about a homework assignment. Seriously? I’m a little busy doing my thing right now, sweetie! We can talk when I get home!
Thanks for reading my race recap and for all the support! I think the lessons learned here are that:
- I got lucky.
- A strong running base is still our friend, even when training goes poorly.
- Vampire Weekend songs have magical powers.