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
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,No excuses. No regrets.
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.