Monday, March 18, 2013

tobacco road half marathon recap (part 1 of 1)

hi.  pull up a seat.  sorry i didn't tidy up before i sent out my impromptu invitation... feel free to sit anywhere, and please don't mind the clutter.  or the lack of snacks.  i think i can manage to brew a pot of coffee for us. i'm just glad you were available on short notice.

i ran a half marathon yesterday.  it's hard to believe that i've now completed TWO! four months ago, i could barely contain my excitement over crossing that first finish line.  those three little hours generated enough for three different blog posts! i wasn't even sure that i would write a blog post about this second one. i thought maybe a few 140 character tweets would be enough to sum it all up. i might have underestimated.

i've completed it.  i registered for this race in the afterglow of my first half marathon, back in November.  back then, i just knew i would stay conditioned, develop my core strength, and shave minutes off of my time. it's safe to say, i did none of those things.  race afterglow gave way to holidays, which gave way to sickness, which gave way to - let's be real - a good bit of apathy. at first, my plan was to just keep running.  then, it was to jump back on board with the couch to 13.1 program i did last fall.  then, it was simply to run when i was inspired, and rely on a lot of muscle memory.

i ran 3-20 miles per week, with no consistency.  my diet was ridicuolous. i went to the gym half-heartedly. i strained a muscle in the back of my knee, which became "the thing to blame" whenever running or working out didn't happen. i got heavier and slower and with a few weeks until race date, i began to look at this half as something i just needed to get through so that i could begin getting back in shape.

i could get a medal in ridiculous thinking.

the tobacco road half marathon was a GREAT event, and gave me the opporunity to run with a new-ish local friend, a few new #runchat friends and even a long-ago member of my summer camp family.  it fell on lucky St. Patrick's Day, and we  ordered sparkly green things for the fun of it. perhaps it was the moment i ordered sparkly arm sleeves that this race became, in my mind, something i didn't need to take so seriously.  i don't know. (for the record, i got A LOT of compliments on my sparkly outfit, so no regrets.)

the race course is a combination of road and rail trail - the trail is a lovely, wide stretch of a disused railroad trail, converted into a multi-use path,which is then used for walking, cycling and  horse riding. the trail itself is relatively flat (trains don't really like hills). the streets at the beginning, and again at the end of the race were... not. please keep in mind, these might have been moderate elevations for someone accustomed to running in the Piedmont, but for this coastal girl, they were hills.  and plenty of them.

the 7 am start, which included shuttle bus riding that began at 5:00 for me, was fine. there was coffee and water and bag check and lighting and plenty of porta potties, so the 2 hours we had to wait at the start was minimally uncomfortable.  there were 5,000 participants, between the full and the half, and we all started together. there were pace groups, but no waves, so i wasn't entirely sure where i wanted to start among that throng.  i do know that we ended up smack dab in the middle with ten minutes to go, and not enough time for one last porta pottie break.

i don't know about you, but for me, even the tiniest inkling that i have to go to the bathroom becomes an ALL CONSUMING MIND F*CK when i can't get to one.  so much so, that the race began, and all i could think about was that the course relief stations wouldn't appear until almost mile 3.  as luck would have it, the start of this race ran us through a recreational park, and the standard park restrooms were open.  i actually jumped off the race course within the first quarter mile to make a break for the bathroom (and i promise you, i was not the only one.)

of course this meant that i would spend the first several miles of the race playing "catch up" - and on the hills, to boot.  i am not a fast racer, so playing "catch up" can feel like a terribly daunting task.  i just set my sights on reeling in one runner at a time, and soon was far enough from dead last that settled in to a good groove. i usually find my groove somewhere between mile 2 and 3, and coincidentally, this is just about where the race moved from pavement to trail.  *phew*

i hit my 5K and 10K splits exactly where i wanted to be.  something happened at the turnaround, though.  it was a close turnaround on the trail - literally "run around this sign and go back." i don't know why, but the next two miles for me were dreadfully slow.  i lost some steam.  my legs felt dead.  i hydrated and fueled and tried not to glance at the minutes ticking away. i also tried not to think about those hills that were waiting for me in the last 2 1/2 miles.

i was a little over a minute behind at my 15K split.  it didn't get any better. but something about falling behind gave me "permission" to just enjoy the rest of the race.  i made my peace with the fact that it wouldn't be anywhere near a PR for me.  i shouted "Happy St. Patrick's Day" to all the spectators and gave high fives with abandon. i even managed to reel in a few more runners who had been steps ahead of me the whole way. some of them still got away from me. the hills came, and they were not fun. i was acutely aware of nagging pain in the back of my right knee. i was thankful for a few raindrops.

and then, the final push.  my fabulous friends (who'd been waiting for almost an hour since they finished) were waving signs and cheering me on. the finish was literally right around the corner.  well, right around the corner and UPHILL! my name was announced, i had a foil blanket and a medal and more pizza than i could eat.

half marathon #2 was completed, no longer looming on the horizon.  gone were the feelings of guilt that i hadn't trained properly.  i finished a full fifteen minutes slower than my first half marathon.  i like to say that i ran the race exactly as i trained for it. i could have been faster, for sure.  i could have put in more hours training. but i ran - and finished strong - and i'm proud of that. thank you, half marathon #2. i'm so glad to have known you.

and now it is monday.  the day after my second half marathon. what now? i'm registered for half #3 in november, but for now, my races will be 10K or less, and i will be in the gym more. i will sort out this issue with my popliteus muscle. i will recommit to "salad mondays" and green smoothies and i will properly keep track of my calorie intake. 

and, hey, if you see me wearing my green sparkly skirt in the gym, please give me a high five!