Monday, November 21, 2011

Philadelphia Half Marathon: race report

I did my final shake-out run on Friday afternoon.  I thought about pacing and the race plan and who was going to wear which watch and it was over far too soon.  I spent Friday night convincing myself that I had multiple stress fractures in my leg.  I did the tried-and-true test (hopping up and down), which irritated my IT band.  My foam roller is flat so I grabbed the next best thing to roll that sucker out.  
Grumpy, tapered, carb-loaded and under-exercised, the poet and I got to the expo mid-morning on Saturday.  It was a bit of a disappointment - I was hoping to empty my wallet at Brooks and Saucony and Nike and possibly Newton Running, and they either weren't there or had a tiny closet of a booth with no shoes in my size.  So we took some pictures and ran.
I had a great time hanging out with our friends on Saturday, talking about running and triathlon and all the things that go along with being part of these ridiculous sports.  But pretty soon it was time to get tucked into bed, freak out once more about the race plan, and snooze the night away.
We managed to make it to the start with minimal stress, other than leaving our cars in a questionable parking lot and nearly choking to death on bottled water.  I checked my bag full of spectating clothes and then spent 25 minutes doing jumping jacks in the porta-potty line, trying to get things moving.  To everyone that heard someone yell, "YESSSS!" from inside, sorry, that was me, but really, are you that surprised?  A round of hugs and good lucks and we split up.  We were ready.
I bent down to adjust my shoes one more time once we squeezed into the corral.  I was listening to my Al Pacino speech and just trying to blow away all the frenzy of the morning.  When I stood back up, I felt calm.  We were going to do this, or we were going to blow a hole in the earth trying.

We went out fast, which was the plan.  A sub-1:50 means only one mile can really start with a 9, and it was the first one.  It felt hard, but I knew it would, and I was trying to keep calm.  I had configured my Garmin to be showing me only "calories" on the main screen, so I had no information about what we were doing, other than it felt - well, just fast.  I was manually lapping the miles throughout, and I did a so-so job of it - some markers I hit right on, some I hit quite late, but all that really mattered was the time on the clock at the end of the day.

I felt a push just a little after the first mile marker.  I was hanging off her left shoulder, which is the best way for me to pace off of someone - just go into ponytail focus mode and zone out.  Miles 2 and 3 came fairly quickly, and it still felt fast, but manageable.  I had no HR info, no pacing to freak me out, and I had no idea how far behind the clock we started, so even though I caught a few course clocks, it really didn't mean anything to me.  Which was exactly what I needed.

Miles 4 and 5 are down a huge street in Philadelphia, and it was a big boost.  We saw plenty of friends cheering, and I was SO happy to see George in this stretch - I love my CAR family!  Somewhere in mile 5 it started to feel not so great anymore.  I knew that Jon was going to jump in somewhere after the 10K mark, and I was counting down the blocks until we could pick him up.  I also knew that mile 7 was a big uphill, and I planned to put my music in when we hit that marker, hoping that it would carry me up and over.

Mile 7 was hard, and I was tired, and I was worried about it feeling so hard and tired with 6 miles to go. My beautiful form collapsed into a humpback slump as we worked our way up the hill.  I took my first Roctane at the water station right before the hill started and plugged in my music, and neither of those things helped at all.  When we finally hit mile 8, I was dragging hard and I knew we were slowing down.  I basically just tried to focus on the feet ponytail ass in front of me and ignore everything else.  

There was another long and steep hill right after the mile 9 marker, and it whipped my ass.  When we hit the water stop at the end of this mile, I pulled out my emergency backup Roctane, opened it, and then started walking to take it.  Somehow I dropped it, so I just poured some water over my head, but I couldn't get started running again.

I finally got going again, and a good chunk of the next mile was some sweet downhill.  I managed to find a second (fifth?) wind somewhere and sped back up, but it was short-lived.  I started playing the "finish this song and then you can walk" game with myself, and probably took 3-4 "5 second" walk breaks in the last mile.  We finally turned to run up the hill and under the overpass which I knew meant the finish line was close, and Jon turned me me and said, "Time to empty the tank!  Let's go!" and I yelled back at him, "MY TANK IS EMPTY."

I found some energy somewhere (dark magic) and came booking out from under the overpass, only to discover that the finish line was NOT in the same place as it was for the September half which is just incredibly rude.  Instead it's about another quarter-mile further back around.  I can't even remember running this distance, I just remember looking up and seeing the finishing mats and hurling myself across them.  I immediately stopped and spat slash slightly vomited on the ground.

So that was my day.  In reflection, I am not unhappy about how it went down AT ALL.  We went out fast and hard, and it ended up being too fast and too hard and my splits definitely show that.  And I don't regret it.  We went out at that pace to see if I could hold that pace, and I couldn't.  But what if I could have?  There was no way I could have known unless I tried.  Could I have started out slower and run a more conservative race and probably shaved a few minutes off of my final time?  Absolutely, but that wasn't the goal.  The goal was to try something crazy and see what I could do.  In my entire life, I have never once gone out too fast in a race and blown up, and I've spent plenty of races slightly pissed because I didn't feel like my tank was empty at the end of the race.  Not this time.  I went out hard, and I blew up, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

This is also the healthiest I've ever been at the starting line of a half marathon, and that means a lot.  It was my fifth, but it's the first one where I really was able to race the distance.  I learned so much about running and racing yesterday.  I'm so fascinated by the middle distances, and now that I've raced one, I'm dying to do another, possibly in three weeks, but maybe with proper strategy and execution based on my current fitness.  More importantly, I'm thrilled that running is finally finding a way to love me back, after years and years of injuries.  I turned myself inside-out on the course yesterday, and if it means that I only PR'd by 8 minutes instead of 18, then I'm fine with that.  This is my journey, and this race only reflects the decisions I made on a single day in my life.  It does not define me.
No excuses.  No regrets.

47 comments:

  1. Congrats! And good for you for going out hard and seeing what you're made of. And an 8 minute PR? Outstanding!

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  2. " I checked my bag full of spectating clothes and then spent 25 minutes doing jumping jacks in the porta-potty line, trying to get things moving. "


    Ahahahaha!

    Great report! Races that you are happy with are good things!

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  3. You kick ass. I need someone to pace me down to a PR. 2:04 is haunting me.

    Congrats, my friend. Also, way to vomit at the finish!

    (PS - because you didn't spend gobs of money at the expo, you should probably purchase a ticket to Boston the second weekend of December. Thanks.)

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  4. And that's how it's done. Way to push yourself through that, and come out on the other side smiling. I can't wait to see what you'll do now that you have the lessons and confidence from this one under your belt!

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  5. woo hoo! loved seeing you kick ass this weekend. :)

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  6. That was the MOST fun I have had in a race. Thanks for letting me jump in and pull you along. Any time you need a pacer, let me know!

    And again, for the 3,504,732rd time, CONGRATS on the PR! You really gave it your all out there!

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  7. So glad you went for it and put everything on the line. I have no doubt that the next one will be significantly faster! What a good day!

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  8. This is fucking AWESOME! HOORAY KATIE!!
    So glad you went out hard and gave it your all. Definitely something that needs to be done ever so often, just to see whatcha got. Not much in running is more satisfying than that.

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  9. Congratulations on the PR. This is a really awesome post. It's important to reflect on how far you have come with injuries, especially compared to the National half! I've never run a race where I felt I left it all out there (except marathons) and I admire that you pushed yourself to vomit-point.
    Also...you could join me in the frederick half in a few weeks :)

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  10. I love this. After all you've been through, you so deserved a good race. And love the balls to the wall attitude!

    So funny about Fri. night and convincing yourself you have sfx. I do that nonsense all the time!

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  11. I think its AWESOME that you had a goal and you WENT FOR IT. Too many of us (me included) are too conservative to put it out there and go for it. And, it WAS a PR, afterall - that counts for something big! Congrats!

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  12. YES to all of this. Most exciting (and happiest) blow-up in history, I think? I'm super pumped to see what you do next time around!

    Also, a little part of me thinks it'd be fun to pace you, but then a much bigger part of me wants to avoid getting my head chewed off mid-race. If there's a chance that all my limbs will be completely intact at the end, I'm in ;)

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  13. congrats (yes, congrats) isn't it fun to learn, try new things and puke when you finish??

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  14. Way to get the vomit in there!! Congrats on the PR. Sounds like it was a real learning experience for you in so many ways. Nice job.

    I won?

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  15. Way to go! I am way too much of a chicken to actually "race" at a race. Congrats on the PR!

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  16. Congrats on the PR! I had the same experience yesterday--those hills nearly killed me. That race was a lot tougher (course-wise) than I expected. Way to leave it all out there.

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  17. Congrats on the PR! You and I had similar races yesterday. I felt awesome through 7.5 miles, and then my mental game fell apart. The last few miles were a slog. But I came out of it with a new PR!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  18. Sorry I couldn't take a good jumping photo of you. I suck. Let's run a race together soon, mmk? And possibly turn it into a destination vacation?

    So proud of you girl. You absolutely killed it out there. You're such an incredible athlete it amazes me. Can't wait to move to DC and run with you and your awesome friends and have you inevitably turn me into a triathlete =)

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  19. Congrats on the PR!!! I puked last weekend when I PRed too... it must be the new cool thing to do :)

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  20. congrats on the shiny new PR! And for having the guts to really go for it.

    PS. We are neighbors. We should hang. Or run. Or ride. Or swim? ha.

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  21. Nice PR (and nice ass shot, even if it isn't yours)

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  22. CONGRATS!!! This weekend was SO MUCH FUN! It takes a lot to put it all out there with the very real possibility of it backfiring spectacularly. Even when the going got rough you stuck with it and left EVERYTHING out there. LOVE!

    PS. I am happy to help you blow up a race any time. Let me know :)

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  23. F yes, 8-minute PR. And I want to know every single thing you learned about racing, because I'm about to to truly race-race my first half in a couple of weeks and every inch of this report both inspires and terrifies me. (And that jumping shot down there -- or at least I'm pretty sure it's a jumping shot? -- is magical.)

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  24. Way to lay it all on the line! Love it!!

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  25. I think it's a huge step to be able to "race" a half marathon as opposed to just covering the distance and you did just that! And despite your hypochondria on Friday night, you were healthy! Yipee!!!

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  26. Do you mean moi Beth? Cause I'm pretty sure I said 2:00. Hooray!

    And of course - CONGRATS!!!! You ran out hard and sometimes you need to do that. Even with that fast start you finished and got a great time. Proud of you lady !

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  27. YOU DOMINATED!!!! Congrats on the new PR - now go out and celebrate!!

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  28. Awesome times...way to kick it's butt!! I can't wait for mine, to get it over with mostly, I'm scared! :)

    runningtobeskinny.com

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  29. Great job! And half marathons are the best!

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  30. Wahoo! Congrats on your PR, and a really great race. I can't lie, though. I'm a little sad I didn't win, as I was looking forward to the Yuengling.

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  31. Nice job!!! Sorry I missed you! The hill after mile 9 kicked my ass too!!!!!

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  32. Love the Poet's shirt and love, love, LOVE the smile on your face in the photo with Beth. (she looks cute too!) Sooooo happy and you can tell! You ran hard, raced smart and it paid off with a shiny more PR. Way to go, girl! So stinkin proud of you and happy for you!

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  33. Awesome job on the PR Katie, great report!

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  34. Go big or go home, right?! Congrats on your fantastic PR - I hope you are enjoying some beer and cupcakes in celebration! So happy for you!

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  35. Congratulations on your PR!!! Blow out the gasket races leave you revved up!

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  36. A PR by eight minutes is really excellent! I might try running quickly in a race one of these days...

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  37. Congrats on the PR!

    An 8 minute PR is WAY better than an 18 minute PR? Why? Because now you can get another PR and 2 PRs are better than 1!

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  38. Congrats on the PR! I ran the Half too! Good job tackling that hill!!

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  39. No excuses no regrets indeed! I'm thinking about doing the same thing. If I can break 3:30 in charleston in january I might try and BQ at myrtle beach in February. That would mean keeping a 7:15 pace throughout, which would blow me to shreds around mile 10 just like you fell apart.

    You still got an 8 minute PR and almost broke 2 hours? So your first time trying to break 2 hours you shot for 1:50? that's really ambitious. My first time trying to break 2 hours I came in at 1:48 (myrtle beach this year), but that was a total surprise. I think you ran a great race and pushed yourself harder than you thought was possible. That's living baby. Great job.

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  40. Yay PR! Nice run, Katie! Also, I have the same "swim like a fishie" alarm on my phone (except it is for 5.30am). Thank goodness I'm not the only one who talks to myself through my alarm :)

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  41. Hooray! An 8-minute PR!!

    I am soooooo going to be the one that yells "YESSSSS!" from the port-potty at my next triathlon. Love it!!!

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  42. you are absolutely awesome... and honestly I almost want to run the DC half just to try and meet you :)

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  43. Great recap. 8 minutes off your half time is tremendous. Nice job coming away with no regrets - those are the best experiences.

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  44. I love every word of this - blowing up, empty tank, PR n' all. "There was no way I could have known unless I tried." <-- THAT is the language I understand, and can totally get behind. The wise words you said to me still hold true - "on paper, it may not be the smartest race {strategy / pace / execution}, but it's yours and you did it and that's magic."

    Amen, sista. Congrats on the finish & the new tough runner that just surfaced in you!

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  45. Nothing more satisfying than a painful race that you live through. Congrats in your race!

    Www.skirtingtherun.com

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