So this weekend was pretty cool. I randomly decided to run a Sunday half marathon on Saturday afternoon. Go, go Gadget planning! But before you decide I am completely cray-cray and need a nice white jacket so I can hug myself all day, listen to this line of reasoning. I think you’ll decide (as I did) that it was meant to be.
“You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”
So I’m at work. Working. And texting my friend Jen who was on the eve of attempting her first marathon, the ORRRC Xenia Marathon, the next day. Jen said she planned to come cheer on local runners and members of our team (S.T.A.R. Racing, shameless plug) at the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon next month, where I am running on a relay team. I was toying with the idea of getting up early on Sunday to cheer her on. But the logistics! Where to park? Who to hang with? Where to spectate? Should I make a sign? Bring a cowbell? (Jen is the Queen of Cowbell…)
Jen asked if I could pace her for a few miles since it was an open course. That sounded fun and solved the problem of when I would get my own long run done that day. I ran 11 miles two weeks ago and was needing around 13 this week. Hrm, what’s 13 miles, runners? That’s right, a half marathon! And what happens on Sunday, April 7th, at the Xenia Marathon?? Mmmm hmmm! The Xenia HALF marathon! It wasn’t sold out. I could get up early and register. Then, Fate knocked via social networking. A mutual running friend, Terese, posted on Facebook that she was offering her race bib on due to injury. Sad face for Terese :( We’ve all been there. Then, happy face for me! How often do you get a medal at the end of a 13 mile training run? Um, never. But as we know, I am stupid for bling.
Twist my arm! Ohhhhh-kaaaaaay I guess I’ll run a half-marathon tomorrow! *Big dramatic sigh.* Sign me up! Let’s do this! I mean, really, it would be a damn shame to let that bib go to waste and never realize it’s full potential. So Terese and I met at the McDonalds in Xenia (the one on Main, not the one on Rt. 68, which I found out after I read my text messages for comprehension…) and in the parking lot like a drug deal we swapped goods. Ok that’s a lie. I wanted to repay the race fee but Terese would NOT accept my money!
Dear Karma, when Terese’s stress fracture heals and she gets back to running again, you have a heckuva job to do. Let her train and race injury-free and get her back to the starting line soon. Please and thank you. Love, The Girl
So now I’m running a half marathon. For free. In fourteen hours. SWEET. So I had two choices at that point… skip my usual race-eve freak out or cram a taper-week’s worth of excitement and nerves into the remaining waking hours of Saturday night. I started out on the upper hand… took a hot bath… picked out my clothes without too much hemming, hawing, swapping, or tearing my hair out. Perhaps the most important decision on race day is what to wear! Duh. And don’t forget your sunglasses.
I did some yoga. I foam rolled. I drank a lot of water. I went to bed early. I was ready for this. No pressure? Tell that to my subconscious. I slept about two hours. Forget you, sleep! Lying awake with my heart pounding, worrying about injuries flaring up, wondering if I’m ready to race this distance again after three years, is a much more relaxing way to start the morning. However, I did not have to wake up to my alarm. Bonus! Totally makes up for how much time I spent wide awake…
I was too nervous to eat more than a piece of toast, which is normal and I’m a big fan of gels anyway, no biggie. Schlurping from a packet while running is a talent of mine. I’m truly addicted to anything that tastes like cake icing and yet is still billed, “nutrition.” Drove to Xenia, got rock star parking by the Y.M.C.A. just steps from the start/finish, got my registration changed to be in my name for the results, stood in line for the bathroom outside, found some friends and THEN I felt so much better. It’s either the peeing or my buddies. Or both. You guys rock.
The race itself was surprisingly uneventful. I always look at the course map and it never means much to me. I just go where the volunteers point me. As a quick aside, thank you volunteers! For holding back buses at intersections with nothing more than a commanding presence and a little orange flag! For the strongly-mixed red Gatorade which, although delicious to me, stained your fingers (Lisa…) so you look like you killed someone! For riding on a bicycle looking for stragglers but not fast enough to make me feel even slow! For the shouts of, “You look great!” and the signs that say “Beer just ahead!” Lie to me, I don’t care, I love you all! Seriously, when you race, thank a volunteer. You’ll feel better.
Jen asked me for a 12:30/pace doing a 5:1 run:walk ratio. I’m sure she blames me for us not even being close to 12:30/pace during the miles I paced her. You’re welcome! It was a beautiful day although windy on the way out (and really, really windy on the way back). We loped along at a conversational pace, me worrying about my IT band flaring up and Jen worrying about the things that marathoners worry about, like dying. The walk breaks annoyed me, I’m not going to lie. But they were good for me, physically. The entire field was in front of us. That was good for me too, mentally. Because here’s what happened: I got awesomely warm and loose and hungry. Not to eat. To run. Faster. Soon we started seeing friends who were running the half on their way back and we cheered them on at embarrassingly loud levels of sound. So motivating, right?
There was a split at Mile 7 where I left Jen and headed down a weird dog-leg of the bike path where the turnaround for the half marathon was. I hadn’t looked at my watch AT ALL. I had no idea how far I had gone thus far. I know, completely unheard of. Having a friend to talk to really passes the time! I was surprised to see 7.5 on my watch. Ok, legs, time to turn it up. I started playing my favorite game. You may have heard of it. It’s called “negative splits” and can be loosely described as picking off other runners in the final miles of a race. Let’s face it, I’m still pretty slow. I had started with a goal of “just finishing.” I didn’t really care about my time but I wanted to finish strong and with a smile on my face. I <3 passing people. So what if my style is somewhat predatory? It works for me. Rawr! :F
My splits, because I almost never brag about them:
- Mile 7: 10:52
- Mile 8: 10:20
- Mile 9: 10:06
- Mile 10: 10:20 (Gu and water)
- Mile 11: 9:58
- Mile 12: 9:53
- Mile 12: 9:09
- Mile 13: 8:25
I finished! And I discovered that chicken noodle soup is pretty much the best post-race food ever. I went to my car and iced all my trouble spots and did a lot of “Yay! I just finished a half marathon!” texting and Facebooking. I waited for friends to finish. I cheered for other people finishing. I stretched in the sun. I ate my weight in cookies and more soup. I enjoyed the the feel of the medal around my neck. Best training run ever!
If you studied my race photo above in detail, you’ll notice the clock says 2:25. Yeah, that’s pretty slow. In fact, it’s almost 30 minutes slower than my previous and only half time of 1:58. So, not a PR but any means. But I felt awesome at the finish, and oddly though, I felt fast. I guess speed feels different after two foot surgeries and a year away from running. And relative feelings of speed are eclipsed by the fact that I wasn’t hurting or completely spent at the end. I think this might be the smartest I have run. Obviously I didn’t “leave it all out there.” But I didn’t want to either. I stayed within the pace range I have been training at. I paced myself well enough to have gas in the tank at the end. I hydrated well enough that I had to pit-stop twice during the race. I wanted to run within myself, stay on pace and stay healthy. Mission accomplished. We’ll work on that race-night sleep thing…
Girl vs. half marathon on a day’s notice…