Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Super Jock 'n Jill Half Trail Note - the long version

This half marathon came at just the right time for me. I had originally planned to run it as a check-in on my training from a pace standpoint. What I didn't expect was the attitude check that it provided.

I had been feeling a little under the weather lately (not sick, but not well to mis-quote Harvey Danger) and have been running under my planned mileage the last week or so. I also wasn't eating well (i.e. too much), and had gained a pound or two around the middle. I actually got dressed to run last Friday, jogged to the bottom of my hill and with 5 minutes of running turned around and walked back home. By Saturday I was starting to think that this whole marathon idea was crazy, I'd never qualify for Boston, and I was doomed to be fat and sedentary. Gotta love the downward slide of negative self-talk. I did get off the couch and went for a run on Saturday afternoon, and felt a little better after a nicely paced 12 miles. I then flooded the laundry room, killing any remaining endorphins, but that's another story.

So, I drove to Woodinville for my race Monday morning not sure of what to expect. Due to the Saturday run (which was supposed to be Friday; Saturday was supposed to be a rest day) and Sunday spent dancing and standing at Bumbershoot, my legs were pretty tired. Parking was a bit of a hassle, but I forked out a little cash for a spot (supposedly the money was going to charity) and headed to the start. It's been a really long time, 5 years? since I've gone to a race alone, and a year and a half since I've done a road race other than the Race for the Cure. I'd forgotten how slim and fit-looking runners at races are. I always feel like such a poser - and not a very good one at that. I got there with plenty of time, however, so was able to stand on the very long porta-potty line, check in and get my race packet, pick up a bunch of cliff shots, drop all my extra stuff back at the car, and stand on the even longer porta potty line and get to the starting line with 5 minutes to spare. I had run this race 3 years ago and was on the porta potty line when the race started - not a good way to start a race. I also didn't pick up any of the goo they were handing out before that race, figuring that if they were handing it out before the race even started, it would be given out along the course - not true. So, I was learning from my past experiences.

I lined up next to the 8 minute per mile pace, hoping that everyone else was looking at the pace markers. We were warned about a loud starting gun, but we couldn't hear it from where we were starting, just noticed that all of a sudden folks started running. I never saw a real start line, either, so started my watch anywhere from 10 - 30 seconds after the real start. This is the first time I've had a firm goal in a half, so was pretty nervous and anxious about my pace so of course started too fast. I ran the first 2 miles in 15 minutes (should have been 16), and I worried that I was going to burn myself out too fast. I looked around for someone who seemed to be running the right pace and saw a tall guy in a red shirt who looked to be moving along at a comfortable pace. I ran along side him and asked his goal (1:45 or better; good!) and we started chatting. We talked for the next 7 miles or so, with another woman joining in (for the same reason: she thought the guy in the red shirt looked like he had the pace thing figured out) for a couple of miles, until our friend sped up at the mile 9 point. At this point, we had finished the uphill portion of the race and were heading back to the trail for the last few flat miles, so I made it past the tough part of the run with some good support.

I'm not a person who strikes up conversations with strangers, but it's so different in running than in normal life. All you need to do is run a similar pace as someone (so that you can both talk and run), and you have so much in common. You talk about past marathons, future marathons, training programs, etc.; all topics that can fill up miles and miles of running. It's amazing how much faster the miles fly by when you're hearing about this or that course or explaining your strategy for eating gels.

Finishing under my goal was such a great feeling. I found a "race predicter" chart at runner's world online that uses runners PR's to help determine what your expected race time could be. Having finished a sub-23 minute 5 K in June and a sub-1:45 half last weekend, this chart indicates that a 3:40 marathon is in reach. It will be close, and doesn't take into account slow starts, cramps, bathroom breaks, etc., but it's possible. I think I was grinning for all of Monday.


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