Monday, January 26, 2009
Carlsbad Half Marathon Race Report
This Sunday, I kicked off the season with the first race of 2009. I hadn't really trained for it (gulp). Since when do I not take a half marathon seriously? My lack of anxiety about the whole thing made me...well, anxious. The 2008 season had really taken its toll on me. After my marathon in October, I was pooped. I only recently started training in earnest again. Then, the weekend of my critical 12-mile training run, I got a nasty cold and was bed-ridden for a week. I hadn't gotten all the long runs under my belt that I desired as I lined up on the start line. However, I had managed a couple of 8s and 10-milers. I knew I could eke out the distance. I decided to use the half marathon as a really kick-ass training run. The plan was to run conservatively and have fun.
Of course, the Mexican food, donut, chocolate crossaint, Red Vines, and chocolate the night before, combined with my sensitive stomach, gave me an extra challenge. Upon waking on race morning, I popped an antacid, 2 Gas-X, and 1/2 an Immodium. My stomach was not in the best of shape as I waited in line for the Port-a-Potty. I watched masses of male competitors jog up the wooded hill by the start to take a piss. Either they didn't know we could all see them, or they simply didn't care. Either way, it made me angry. I can't do that! Disgusting!
I met up with my running buddies and we lined up in the chute. The gun went off, we crossed the start line, and I started my GPS (Brent teases me that I can't run without the thing now). The plan was to run the whole thing extra conservatively. We started off comfortably at 10 min/miles. I wasn't even breaking a sweat. But I was extra stiff from a tough Spinervals DVD we had done on Friday ("the Sprinting Machine"--maybe not such a good idea 48 hours before a race). It felt good to go easy and loosen up. The rest of our running group pulled away. Brent dutifully stayed by my side. I let our group go. Wow, they were running fast! Oh, well.
The miles flew by as I chatted to Brent and encouraged runners alongside of me. My stomach didn't feel so good. It was chugging and churning. There wasn't much I could do about it. I didn't want to stop and go to the bathroom. I just wanted to finish the race and get it over with. By now, I've run with an upset stomach enough to be able to ignore it, and I chose to do so in this race as much as I could.
About mile 3, I saw the pace group for 2:10. 2:10? We were running 9:45 min/miles now. Weren't we going to be faster than 2:10? I realized the pace group had started in a wave before us but suddenly my competitive switch got flipped. I picked up the pace slightly. We soon passed them. About mile 5, my focus drifted. Brent noticed the 2:10 group creeping up on us. Oops! I picked up the pace again. The volunteers were handing out Gu, water, sports drink, and sticks of vaseline at the aid stations. I almost grabbed the stick and ate it. It looked temptingly like sherbert. Mmmmm. Sherbert ice cream. I had the weirdest craving for sherbert ice cream.
We reached the turn-around. A nice, steep downhill stretched out ahead of us. I mumbled something to Brent about making up some time. I guess he didn't hear me. I took off on the downhill. My pace went from 10 min/miles to 8 min/miles in a flash. And it felt sooooo good. I didn't want to stop. All those track practices we've been doing paid off. I felt my tempo increase, my breathing picked up, and I just went with it. I forgot to look back for Brent. I honestly thought he was right by my side. I had made this big stink about how we were going to run conservatively the whole way together, and then I took off, leaving him, without warning about 1/2 mile behind. Oops.
I saw our running group about 1/2 mile in the distance. I worked my ass off the next mile to catch them. They were mildly surprised to see me. I was all amped up now and began pushing their pace. Brent caught up to me. I started talking smack.
"I thought we were going to run together."
"I was giving you a challenge."
"You just took off. You didn't even wait!"
"I knew you could catch up."
"No, you didn't. What happened to running together?"
"Well, I have to run with people faster than me if I want to push myself."
Ouch! At this, he began to push the pace. I had to bust my ass to stay with him. I guess you gotta walk the walk if you're going to talk the talk. Now, I was wheezing, gasping for air, as I struggled to keep up with him. The 8 min/miles were killing me. We passed mile 9. I dropped back and ran with Lauren from our group for a bit, catching my breath. My legs were burning and my heart was pounding but I felt soooo good. Oddly enough, all the aches and pains had disappeared from my hips and knees. A total adrenaline/endorphin rush. I was totally high. My stomach didn't hurt at all. I knew if I stopped or slowed, my stomach would cramp up again. It was a weird motivation to keep going, to get this thing over with as fast as possible so I could make it to the Port-a-John without an embarrassing accident.
We passed mile 10, and I began pushing the pace again. Only a 5k to go. I can always run a 5k. I glanced at my watch. Could I break 2 hours? It was going to be close. I caught up to Brent again.
"I can't keep up with you."
"Yeah, right. You're the one who took off." He smiled at me, always the good sport. "C'mon," he said. "We have to catch that girl up there."
"Why?" I wheezed. "I don't know her. What do I care?"
"It's about the challenge," another woman listening in commented behind us.
I winked at her. "As long as I beat him, I don't care," I said pointing at Brent. She laughed. At this, Brent took off again. What is wrong with me?! Why can't I keep my mouth shut?
I noticed the miles were getting longer and longer. It was taking every ounce of concentration and focus to maintain my pace. I would slow up, speed up, slow up, speed up, passing the same runners again and again like the annoying car on the freeway that keeps passing you and then decreasing speed repeatedly. I couldn't help it. I was running on empty.
At mile 11, I checked my watch. I was going to be sooo close to breaking 2 hours. But I knew I couldn't run 2 more miles at a sub-8 pace. I would do my best. At every little incline, I worked as hard as I could to reach the top. Every downhill, I surged full speed ahead, destroying my quads as I scampered down. The last mile was full of rollers. Spectators began crowding the sidelines. Only 1/2 mile to go. 1-and-a-half laps around the track. It seemed like an eternity. We reached the chute, finally. For the first time, ever, I didn't have a final kick. I went as fast as I could across the finish.
I just missed the 2-hour mark but I was very happy with the results. With very little training, I was able to finish strong. I had a fantastic time. Plus, I negative split the race (maybe I could have gone a little faster at the beginning, eh?), and I beat my previous time from 2007! It felt great to put it all on the line and go 100% the 2nd half, something I almost never do. There's something very cathartic about running as hard as you can for as long as you can until your legs ache and your lungs burn. You truly are living in the moment at that instance, step by step. There is only each footfall. There is nothing else. That is why I love to go hard.
2007 Carlsbad Half Marathon Race Report