So, remember when I said that I wanted to write my 200th post about how awesome my T2 runners were? Well, I’ve got a lot going on right now, including my A race last weekend, and I figured I can’t just keep my blog in limbo forever while I wait to find the time to write those folks the post they deserve. Are they inspiring? Hell yes. Let’s just leave it at that for now.
And talk about me.
Saturday I headed down South to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, where hoop skirts still abound (just kidding. I WISH hoop skirts still abounded). Amy and I skipped work on Friday (which is why I’m still here at 7:30 p.m.) and made the drive through typical I-95S hell with prodigal CAR Kay. We got there just in time to hit the expo, where I needed to buy a new pair of sneakers for the race. Yes, you heard me right. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. New shoes are my JAM, and I will wear them in a race up to and including 13.1 miles until I die! If Brooks doesn’t want me to do it, then they should start making sneakers that last longer than 200 miles.
Anyway, my local running store had already upgraded to the 2012 models, which are fug. And I’m not crazy enough to run a race in new updated shoes. So even though Amy offered to pick some up for me at her LRS, I said no thanks, I’ll just get some fo’ cheap at the expo. (This is foreshadowing, people.)
On the way to expo, we started talking about how we were feeling. Amy was nervous, but I said I felt really zen. I didn’t feel anything–I was just going to go out and run. Well, when we get to the expo to find ONLY Sauconys and discounted Adrenalines in every size except women’s 10, I could feel that zen slipping away into sheer terror. Yes, I had brought old sneakers, but I didn’t even bring my most recent pair. I just grabbed some old ones, because I figured there was no way in hell they wouldn’t have my sneakers at the expo.
Luckily, Amy, as a member of the 21st century, was able to look up the nearest running specialty store on her smartphone, while I just held my phone in my hand and pretended to study its ultra-cool keyboard, which is useless for doing anything besides communicating directly with a human being. We made a quick run to the store, which closed in–oh look at that–1o minutes. But they had the 2011 version of my shoes, and I grabbed them and headed back out to the CAR team dinner.
That was really the scariest part of the weekend for me, so forgive me for spending so much time on it. I did run a race the next day though, and my feelings about it can best be summed up as ambivalent though mostly positive. And I figured out why I was feeling so zen before the race–I had nothing to lose. Unlike my last big 13.1, I wasn’t planning to lay it out on the line. I’ve been uber-stressed lately, and while I very much viewed this as a return to my racing form, as the race I needed to prove to me that I made the right decision about my hip and my training over the last year, I still spent most of my time training for this race by standing still while other people ran around me. And the times I did run, well, I averaged about 15-minutes per mile with my runners. It was far from ideal, but it’s the training that I was able to do and still live the life that I wanted to live. A year ago I gave myself over to the marathon, and it burned me badly. If I’m going to come back, it’s going to be on my terms.
And so I went into the race with a max long run of 10 miles. I figured I could hold an 8-minute pace thanks to targeted strength training and interval work. And that’s exactly what I did. I’ll cut to the good part–I finished in 1:44:29, a time that is only 10 seconds slower than my PR and a world away from that race. Going into the Philly RnR last year, I was a basket case. I felt like I had sacrificed my life, and I didn’t feel like I was any faster for it. I felt all kinds of pressure to perform, and while I gutted it out at the half distance, I crumpled a month later in the full. My goal was to make that pace feel easy, because I knew I was a baby when it came to the marathon distance. If I don’t have the raw speed, well, I’m not going to find it out on that course.
So Saturday I started out at 7:54 and decided to pull it back a bit. My next miles were 7:57 and 8:01, just where I wanted to be. I continued on in that fashion, with outliers at 5 and 8, like everyone else it appears, and talked myself into running 13.1 miles that day. I began to slip at mile 10, mostly because I thought I was still in mile 9. I spent a lot of the time willing away small aches and convincing myself that if I stayed comfortable, I could finish the race, that my time didn’t matter. It wasn’t until I got to mile 11 that I really believed it, and then I began to speed back up. I hit mile 12 and then began gunning for the fast last mile that Kay had promised. I saw Coach George right before I turned to the downhill finish, and he yelled at me to pick it up. So I did. In that last 3/4 of a mile, I used up everything that I had been holding onto and busted out a 7:08 final mile to finish my second-fastest half marathon ever with a huge smile on my face.
I would describe my feelings after the race as “pleasantly surprised.” Am I sorry I didn’t try harder? A little. But mostly I’m just happy to be in a place that allows me to run well without pain and too much suffering. Plus I have another half marathon in a few weeks, and I plan to really prove myself there anyway.