Today was a huge day for me.
I’ve been riding the high from TeamHPB camp for the last ten days or so, but the Rock n Roll USA (Washington, D.C.) half marathon has been lurking in the back of my mind.
The race was scheduled for less than two weeks after camp. I knew I would still be recovering from camp leading into the race and, suffice it to say, I haven’t had a lot of great race results lately. I can rarely make the magic happen when race day comes – Ragnar, NYC Marathon – for reasons that have never totally been clear to me. With this race approaching, I sent Alyssa an email saying I really didn’t want to have to walk because I hate walking races. That was my level of expectation about this race.
When I registered for it – I think it was last summer – I put down a very aggressive finish time goal of 2:05. My half marathon PR is a 2:11:31. I’ve been fairly consistent in my half times (2:13, 2:15, and the PR time) for races that haven’t had bad weather (one super cold and one super hot and I think both of those times were in the 2:20s). In any case, I expected to be in the 2 teens somewhere again today if all went well.
Before the race Alyssa told me (1) I would be running “naked” (no Garmin) and (2) she wanted me to be “comfortably uncomfortable” for most of the race, with the final push being “uncomfortably uncomfortable.” She also reminded me about the day we rode Mt. Lemmon and then ran at camp. She said she believed in me having a good race.
So, that leads us up to today. I was trying to be really positive – focusing on Lemmon and the fact that I have run 13.1 miles a zillion times in races and training. It shouldn’t be a big deal.
I also focused on my nutrition. One of the big lessons I learned at camp was that you have to eat a lot- even when you don’t want to. Holly told me this during our swim. Maik told me this during our trail run. He said that once you are bonking, it’s too late. So, even though I really like just drinking plain water when I run, I planned to drink Infinit during the race (even with gels, which Hillary told me to do during camp). I thought about Alyssa telling me on Lemmon day that I needed to have a bigger breakfast. And I had a great day that day. So, today, I had a big bowl of oatmeal with banana and almonds and soy milk before I left the house. Right before the race, I had one of those PowerBar fruit blends pouches too.
It took my corral a while to get to the start line and I never actually saw what time we started. So, I was really running with no concept of my time. Instead, I thought about being “comfortably uncomfortable.” I was constantly checking in with myself throughout the race and asking whether I was uncomfortable. I was. Two of the miles did have clocks and I knew that I had run the distance in-between in less than 10 minutes, which was a great sign. My PR was about 10 minute miles so I thought I was ahead of that.
I was definitely working hard and pushing myself, but that made me scared. I really didn’t want to blow up and end up doing my standard “I suck” walk to the finish.
There was one big hill around mile 6 that really slowed me down and it took me some time to recover from that one. But, around mile 7, I felt better again.
I was staying very close to the 4:00 pace team (the marathon and half marathon run together for most of the half marathon course), but I just thought they were probably off pace.
Around mile 11, I really started running out of steam and all of the tricks I had used earlier in the race – “Mt. Lemmon was way harder than this!” – didn’t quite seem to get my legs moving any faster. I took in some gel that I hadn’t really planned on and slowly (very slowly) kept moving. I knew I was not going to stop or walk, even if I was “running” at what felt like 11 min/mile pace. I started wondering whether I was losing all of the hard work I had done earlier in the race. I started to get down on myself, but then I woke up and told myself if I wanted to PR, I needed to keep pushing.
I actually did start to feel better for the last half mile of the race and finished strong. When I finished, I saw that the clock said 2:20 something, but since I didn’t know when I started and didn’t have a Garmin, I didn’t know my finish time.
I immediately took out my phone and texted Alyssa. I didn’t want to say for sure that I did well, because I didn’t know my time. So I said something like “I think I did well but I’m not sure.” I wasn’t sure whether slowing down around miles 6 and 11 screwed up my PR, so I added something like “I slowed down in two places.” The lawyer in me can’t help but add caveats to anything I say when it isn’t a sure thing!!
I went to the website for the race and checked my time. And, I couldn’t believe it was true. I called Jon and asked him to check on his phone. He got the same time. I emailed Alyssa and sent her a screen shot from my phone. I said something like “This can’t be right, can it?”
Well, I’ve checked the website approximately 4 billion times since then. And it still says the same thing:
An 11 minute PR!!! I’m not sure whether it was the inspiration from camp, not wearing my Garmin, better fueling, all of the hard work I’ve been doing with Alyssa, some combination of those things, or something else altogether, but whatever it was, it worked.