Yesterday morning was rough.
Waking up at 5am is never ideal, but it’s made exponentially harder when you have nobody to share the horrible experience with. Normally when I run a race I have somebody to meet up with/drive with/share the pre-race crazies with. Not this half marathon! This was my first half flying solo and convincing myself to get out of bed and into my car was a challenge.
I had lots of thoughts along the lines of “Why do I do this to myself?” “What am I trying to prove?” “This is stupid” “I’m tired…and ALSO GRUMPY” “GRARWRRGGHH” “Can I even do this right now? I’m pretty sure my legs don’t work!”
I’m just a magical ray of sunlight and joy!
In spite of these surly thoughts I managed to auto-pilot into the car and drive to Salem.
All the pre-race stuff is fuzzy. I just sort of stumbled around thinking “Oh no, I really don’t think I’m ready this morning!”. I don’t know why, but I had some serious doubts about accomplishing my goals. I think it was just my tired brain trying to talk me out of it. Or maybe not running for two days was making me nervous. Who knows!
My real goal was to just go out at a 7:40 or 7:30 min/mile and hang on for dear life. Ideally if I started at 7:40 I could get faster over the course of the race. If I started at 7:30 I would just try to maintain it and hope for the best. Not really the best game plan, but I thought it would be a nice challenge to just keep that 7:30 steady throughout the race.
Yeah, none of that happened.
As soon as I toed the starting line I got excited. Suddenly I remembered that, OH YEAH, I love racing. That’s why I signed up for this sucker! So when the gun went off I was really, really happy. Everything felt good. Too good? Maybe, but the weather was perfect. Cool and drizzly. And my legs felt fantastic! Better than they have for days! So I embraced the moment and just ran.
Maybe I ran too fast because the first mile came in at 7:17. Oops.
I evaluated the situation. On one hand, everything felt fine. On the other hand this was faster than I had intended on running. Hmm. I decided to just keep it up and see how it felt for another mile. Mile 2 came in at 7:20. Still felt good. Sure it was only two miles, but maybe my new goal pace could be 7:20. Why the hell not?
Mile 3 (spoiler) was to be my slowest mile of the race at 7:22 and that’s because of the giant hill I got hit with. As a side note, I’m really happy that the hills didn’t slow be down too much! I never train on hills (there aren’t really any near me!) so I have very little experience with them. Thankfully these were mostly gentle rolling hills.
During Mile 4 I was happily zoning out when a woman in green passed me. I’m not sure why, but I decided to make her my rabbit. I saw how meticulously she was picking off runners in front of us and I thought that if I could stick with her I would have a strong race.
So I did. Her pace was perfect for me! I knew that if I went any faster it would be too much and if I went any slower I wouldn’t be pushing myself. So for five miles I stuck right behind her and we reeled many other runners in! It was a blast! Sticking with someone who seemed to know what they were doing was great for me because I didn’t have to worry about constantly checking my pace. I knew that if I kept her in my sight that I wasn’t slowing down. It was a liberating feeling!
Those miles flew by. Every time I saw a mile marker I couldn’t help but smile.
At Mile 10 I did some quick math and realized that even if I slowed to an eight or nine minute mile I would still come in under 1:40, but I also knew there was a chance to come in under 1:35 if I kept up the pace! My legs were definitely starting to feel all those miles, but my mind was optimistic. I knew I could do this.
At this point the woman in green picked up the pace and got a decent lead in front of me, but I could still see her. Another thing about this runner, she didn’t stop at an aid station… EVER. So my fueling went to shit because I never wanted to stop to get a GU. I did, however, gracelessly shove cups of water into my face. No time for dainty sips!!
I should also mention that from Mile 6 onward my shoelace was untied, but I was in such a groove that I did not want to stop. Oops. ANYWAY.
When I got to Mile 11 I was really starting to hurt, but I didn’t care. It was only two more miles and it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. And the thought of coming in under 1:35 had me giddy.
Soon after I crossed the 13 mile marker I saw the clock in the distance read 1:34:xx. I booked it and crossed the finish line at 1:34:52. Destroying my previous half PR by 11 minutes!!!
I still can’t believe it. I never thought for a second that I could get a time like that! And I had such a blast doing it! While I was running I re-realized that it’s alright that I do this alone sometimes because, in the end, it’s for me. It’s always great to have running buddies and friends to share these experiences with, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way and that’s okay!
Oh yeah! And I came in 3rd place for my age group!
Overall a pretty awesome way to spend a Saturday!
After the race I went to the Festival of Indie Games with Joe and I got to play a couple of really neat looking games. One of my favorites was called “Rite”. It was a fantastic, difficult puzzle game about “multiple dimensions and death”. You can check out the developer’s blog here.
Then I napped and stuffed my face with a huge diner meal. Running, video games, and food? The perfect day, really!
That race got me pumped for the last month of training before my marathon! I’ve got high hopes for marathon number one. Let’s see what happens.