Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The BAA Half Marathon...the first time I've felt fear

Rarely do I have the sinking pit in my stomach on race day. Ok, well to be clear, rarely is that pit there because of fear. Normally its just race jitters and my overblown expectation to land on the podium once the dust from the race has cleared. That however was not the case when I got up on Sunday morning.
Because my "aggressive training and racing schedule" forced a trip to the doc with a no running for 3 weeks prognosis (I've run a whopping 12 miles in that time…What? Did you really think I was going to do NO running in that time?!), most of that time either spent on my back or in the pool, I was extremely concerned about running the 13.1 miles. Not just running but…finishing. Would my back/pelvis even hold up on the run? Would running it hurt me even more? Maybe if I hadn’t signed up for the Inaugural BAA Medley at the beginning of the season (running the BAA 5k, 10k and 13.1 which got you special race numbers and a medley medal after completing all 3 races) I probably would’ve seriously considered going back to bed, but J and a number of friends were running and I don’t do well with letting people down so I just told myself that no matter the time…I just needed to finish. 

Ran into Kelly (the cute, bubbly, homeless-woman-dressing, multisport athlete known as @sallaboutme on twitter) and Matt ( a local running bud) at the start, chatted a bit and headed into the start corrals. Now I figured the best thing I could do was to get as far back as possible so I’d be forced to slow down and just run because of the mass of humanity in front of me and I’d remove all stress of running fast. The gun goes off and the slow crawl to the start begins. About a half mile in I realize that I have to pee like race horse (oh the times I miss the in-water start of a triathlon or the comfort of the saddle for easy relief but peeing on yourself while running, which may be the most difficult thing to do, is frowned upon in polite society when you’re older than 2 or younger than 65). We’re starting in the Franklin Zoo and I figure I’m screwed since you probably can’t pee in the bushes here…until I see a group of guys doing and figure it’s ok. Operation “mark my territory” over and back into the field I went. 

The start was nice and smooth, mile 1 and 2 went 8:18 and 8:04 respectively. The run felt easy and downhill, which a number of people said out loud…only to have another runner point out that the first few miles were indeed downhill…and that we’d have to run back up them to the finish…oh joy. As the course flattened out my legs started to feel good and mile 3 went by in 7:28 followed by a 7:13 mile 4. It was then that I saw Matt coming back toward me, the “I’m gonna just chill this race guy” had already hit the turn and was 1.5 to 2 miles ahead of me. What…the…hell?! Well, I now have motivation to get through this race and the thought of just finishing vanished. I HAD to catch Matt. The next few miles I just focused on form and trying to speed up: mile 5-7:16, mile 6-7:08 (where I took a Citrus Clif Shot gel for a quick sugar/caffeine boost), mile 7-7:05, mile 8-7:13. I’ll be honest and tell you that those miles were kind of a blur. I spent most of the time looking down at my watch to see pace and kept telling myself “don’t slow down…don’t let anyone pass you…and where’s Matt”. I turned mile 9 on a 7:00 flat and figured with the next turn being at mile 10 I’d surely see Matt again and be able to see how much I’d closed the gap…but no luck. Not only did I not see him but the run was catching up to me. The legs were starting to feel like I hadn’t run mileage in a while and I was getting hot. Due to the expected cold weather I was running in a light weight long sleeve Under Armour shirt, t-shirt, lululemon shorts and Zensah compression sleeves. That ensemble worked when the clouds were out with a light breeze but when the sun popped out…it was warm. At one point I considered ripping off the sleeves of the shirt just to cool off. Instead, I grabbed water from the aid station, took a quick swig and poured the rest of it down my back. Miles 10-7:12, 11-7:24 and 12-7:33 couldn’t come fast enough. At one point I thought I didn’t need to push, this isn’t going to be a PR so why don’t I just lay off a bit and relax…and then I realized that I didn’t want this run to last any longer than need be. I just wanted it to be over!
I honestly thought I was picking up the pace (granted the last few miles were uphill and running through the narrow paths of the Franklin Zoo) but the time says different. I hit mile 13 on an 8:03 pace and I was about to pop. The last .1 miles has you running into a stadium to run/finish on a track (aka Olympic style) and when I hit the comfort of the track I just pumped as hard as I could to be done…crossing the finish in 1:44:20 with a 7:57 average pace. A land speed record it was not but it wasn’t too shabby with no training. I’d love it if I really felt that way…instead…I see that I was able to turn around 7 min miles in the middle of the race and wish I could’ve held it. You know…those unrealistic expectations I have…and the what ifs: what if I started farther up in the corrals and didn’t have to deal with maneuvering around people the first few miles, what if I didn’t have to stop and pee, what if I would’ve dressed lighter. Ugh, the hindsight just kicks my butt after every race. I spent the race trying to catch Matt...and finally did... at the finish (he ended up with a 1:42, strong work!). But, but, but I can feel good that even with my back injury and the break in training, my level of fitness was still good enough to pull off a sub 8min pace half mary. I do feel better and although I spent the rest of Sunday on my back or sleeping, the run felt pretty good. Now to ramp up for the Army 10 Miler in two weeks.


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