I'm not sure when I decided to fly home and do this race, but three of my closest friends and two of my athletes were running it, so it turned into a "must do" on the race schedule of my life. And it stands alone as the single race I am signed up for before my next ironman (for now).
The best parts of the weekend weren't the race. The best parts were catching up with the friends and family I wanted to see for the 24ish hours I was in DC and the 24ish hours I was in Philadelphia. The race itself was more of an afterthought. A couple days before the race, my friend Liz asked, as good friends do, if I wanted to run with her. A few warm-up miles and then the rest of the race at (her) goal marathon pace. I snorted in amusement of the crazy thought that I could possible run that fast and shipped the plan over to Sonja, expecting to get shut right down. She surprised me, as she likes to do, by rubber-stamping the plan with a there's only one way to find out comment that made me say, out loud in public, ACK, and then, oh for fuck's sake when I read her email reply. I've been dealing with a bit of a "situation" since IMLP that I am refusing to acknowledge in print because I'm all better now, but it means I haven't done much running or biking in the weeks since ironman.Still, I had coming down to sea level on my side, plus I was packing about 6000mg of caffeine in the form of FE PreRace & Gu Roctane, plus knowing that it actually wasn't that crazy of a plan if I was in a bit better shape. And if we were very lucky, we could duplicate one of the more hilarious race photos I've produced, where Liz is bouncing happily along and I am snorting and grunting my way to the finish line. So why not, indeed?
The race morning stuff went as it should go (this means I pooped). I was wearing a new top on race day that I hadn't run in yet (do as I say not as I do) and when I pulled it on and adjusted it around, Liz said, Look, you're the playboy bunny of the half marathon so I did what any woman should do in this situation which is to take a picture and text it to her husband. I'm sure KompetitiveEdge is thrilled with me right now.
In the defense of the top, it was quite comfortable and I didn't lose a nipple even one time while running.
We warmed up on our way over to the race, and after a fruitless search to find my athletes and an available place to pee, hopped in our corrals and did the hurry up let's go dance that you do when you aren't in corral one (never). This race still stands as one of my favorite races. I ran it back in 2011 and I spent the whole day feeling joyful
It was the first real race I had done since struggling with a back/ass injury for the better part of the year, and I crossed every mat and then the finish line feeling strong and happy. And when we crossed the start line Sunday morning, I felt it again. Who cares what my training has been like, who cares what my watch says, who cares what everyone is going to run today? I'm here, and I'm alongside one of my closest friends, and I'm running. (This photo is the first in a long series entitled oh shit, there's Amy, get your long sleeve untied).
I'm running and we're laughing and in the way of everyone and we're in my city. I just felt happy.
I spent the first three miles milking every minute of the pace we were SUPPOSED to be warming up at by constantly putting the brakes on Liz. The race was crowded, and people were ducking and squeezing and, in one case, two-handedly shoving someone out of the way. I've missed you, Philadelphia, and all of your honking yelling shoving cussing residents.
Just after the 5K mat, we finally saw a portapotty without a line, and ducked in to take care of our bladders. For 1:24 (according to Garmin, obviously) I peed like a drunk frat boy, and it was worth every second of the stop. I also managed to shove down my first gel and some PreRace and then we hauled ass to catch up on the time that we had lost (do as I say but not...).
We reached the "back" part of the first out-and-back, and I started watching bib numbers for my girls that I knew would be coming through. Liz saw one and I saw another, and they both looked happy, and calm, and steady, and I waved and sent them strong thoughts to carry along as they set off on their days. And then it was time to start getting work done.
At mile six Liz started to pull away, and I tried to gear down and ride her wheel but I didn't have any more gears down there, in the drafty empty basement where all the runs I was supposed to do in August were. So I kept her in my sights for another two miles and then lost her in the tangled mess of the Gu aid station. And from there on out, it was just me, battling with my brain about how much harder I could run. I wasn't hanging onto the heart rate that I wanted to but I was pushing, and thinking positive, and splits starting with a 9 kept showing up on my watch and, as I told Sonja after the race, I started to get mad at my watch because every time a split would pop up I would say to myself HEY I AM THINKING POSITIVE WHY DOES THAT START WITH A 9? And she laughed at me, as she should, because thinking positive doesn't always replace a month of holes in the training schedule, but on Sunday morning, I was pretty convinced that it should.
I plugged into my emergency music somewhere before the bridge and then took a Roctane (2x caffeine) around mile nine and THEN slammed another dose of PreRace around mile eleven (basically ensuring that I wouldn't sleep for days). And then I just tried to latch the blinders down and hang in there. When I lapped my watch at mile twelve, I did some math at the total time and realized that I was pretty close to the two-hour mark. The poet gets really cranky with times ending in two or three seconds so I dug into whatever gas I had left to make it under that line, and every time I wanted to slow down I thought of him, and looked at my watch, and that got my ass rolling down and then uphill into the finish. About as close as I'd ever like to cut it.
For someone who claims to not really love half marathons, I sure do run an awful lot of them. This one was number thirteen, and to me, it was a perfect day. I hugged friends at the starting line, I chased Liz for so many miles, I dug hard into my legs, and I crossed the line content. That's what racing is about, for me, this is why I love to stand on the line. It's not about always lining up in perfect shape ready to "crush stuff." It's about chasing joy. And it wasn't all mine that day, either, both of my athletes PRd, but more importantly, both ran amazing, perfect races and both of THEM finished happy as well. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Okay, well, maybe just one more thing.