Sunday, August 16, 2009

America's Finest City Half Marathon

Taper Week 1 is in the bag. I feel pretty good. One thing I've decided though is that spring cleaning and deep house cleaning is NOT a recovery workout. Friday was a complete rest day and I spent it cleaning the house, inside and out; spring cleaning and all; I even dusted the garage! Call it the taper twitch. I thought it would be a good way to work out the mental angst. Except that when I woke up on Saturday for my long ride (50 wonderful, fast miles with friends), I didn't feel well rested at all. All I can say is that the 50-mile ride was waaaaay easier than cleaning the house! Must be the principle of specificity).

My training plan called for a 10-mile run on Sunday, the same day as (America's Finest City Half Marathon). Taper workouts are supposed to include some speed workouts and high intensity bursts. Plus aid stations, running buddies, and people cheering for you the whole way? It was a no brainer.

Except that I came down with a cold Saturday. Are you kidding me? Ugh. Must be the taper cold. After tossing and turning all night in bed, unable to breathe, I woke up at 2:45, only 15 minutes before my alarm was scheduled to go off (the one thing I hate about this race; you have to get there SO early to take the bus over to the start; it's a point-to-point run). Well, I minize well run this thing. Better lying on my ass in bed, not being able to sleep. My body felt fine; my legs felt fresh; I just couldn't breathe. Minor details.

I got out of bed and stumbled around, trying to put my contacts in. I used this new, cheap contact solution, not realizing the ingredients were different. I rinsed out my left eye with the solution to "clean" the eye before inserting the contact. My eye instantly started burning. I thought it was going to melt out of my head. It was like I had poured acid in it. I instantly started rinsing it with copious amounts of cold water. My eye was bright red; it looked like I was stoned. I read the label on the bottle more carefully. Hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide?!?!?!?! I had just poured hydrogen peroxide in my eye. Great way to start the day. At least I was wide awake.

We got a great parking spot and were shuttled to the start in record time. Great. Now I had 90 minutes to shiver in the dark, cold morning on the curb. I was rocking back and forth in the fetal position, teeth chattering, doing the whole body shiver, in a futile attempt to keep warm. Garbage bag! I had forgotten a garbage bag. By the time we lined up for the start, I was very stiff and unhappy. At that point, my goal was to use the run to kill the cold. That's it. I didn't care how fast I went.

The gun went off, and I seeded myself with several buddies from my running group. Their goal was to break 2 hours. I was pleasantly surprised with how good my legs felt. My sinuses opened up, my legs unstiffened, and I loosened up. I felt good. Great, in fact, since I could breathe freely for the first time in over 24 hours. Ah, the wonders of running. I was greatful I could pace with my running buddies; they had started fasted than I normally do. It always takes me forever to warm up, and I enjoyed the opportunity for a kick start into my goal pace.

The first several miles flew by as we chatted easily. The course was downhill for the first 5 miles, and we took advantage, zipping down the descents at a sub-8 pace. My new goal was to stay with my running buddies and break 2 hours with them. Cold? What cold? I felt great.

We hit the long, flat section that winds around the airport, around Harbor Island, and back through the rental car parking lot before heading downtown. It's long, it's flat, and it's very boooooring. However, most years, it's also stifingly hot. This year, we had spectacular weather. Cloud cover the whole way, low humidity, and 70s. So luxurious. Brent had taken off earlier, and I desperately wanted to catch him. My running buds wanted a more conservative pace. I felt spectacular so I took off. I was holding 8:30s for a long time. I was breathing soft and rhythmic, and my legs felt fresh.

I saw Brent up ahead, not that far. I shot him the snake-eye look. I tried to control myself. Tried to be okay with letting him go. My new goal was to catch him. My pace started sneaking back to 8:00s. Around mile 8, my pace slowed unwittingly. My muscles felt fine. I wasn't breathing hard. This was my neuromuscular system speaking. It's just not used to firing that hard for that long. My brain was having a hard time telling my legs to turn over. It took a great amount of mental focus but I found I could will my legs back to 8:30s-8:45s without much of a problem. Then, I would think about catching Brent, and my pace would drop to 8:10. Let him go, I told myself sternly, forcing my pace to slow again. My pace was all over the place. Very unlike me.

I caught one of my fast running buddies as we turned towards downtown at mile 10. His knees were giving him a great deal of pain, allowing us to run together. It was wonderful to have a running buddy again. We had fun chatting and my pace became more steady. I realized the end of the race was drawing near. Already? When had a half marathon become so short? We reached the big, mile-long hill at mile 11. A homeless guy cheered us on from the sidewalk, "It'll get better in a minute!" Hmmm. I realized he was right. Pain is only temporary. My friend and I paced with each other up the hill. Since he's a better runner, I tried to mimic his movements, and match his pace, keeping my footsteps light and quick, leaning into the hill slightly. My breathing became heavy and rapid; I was working hard now.
"We got this!" he yelled.
"We're awesome!" I retorted. We continued our positivity drills up the hill. It made it more fun and the hill seemed less evil.

We made the turn across the bridge into Balboa Park. The finish line was near. I started salivating. My pace dropped to 7:50s. Then, I saw Brent. He was only a hundred yards ahead. And I still had a kick. I picked up the pace. Breathing like a freight train, I caught him.
"I could hear you coming from a mile away," he laughed.
"C'mon, let's go! Almost there!" I rallied. I took off, surging with the other runners for the final kick. Brent didn't respond, although he was very close behind. I sprinted over the finish line, feeling victorious. I had achieved all my "goals" for the race! I averaged 8:40, finishing in 1:54. Plus, I got to see all my running friends and have a great time doing it. And, my cold is going away! Nothing works better. I feel very, very satisfied.


bunnygirl said...

The thing with the contact lens made me wince. I think that would've ruined my whole day!

Grey Beard said...

Sitting in a dry sauna for 20-30 minutes a day simulates the elevated body temps of running, which has been found to preemptively kill off viruses. Worth a try when tapering.

Leah said...

Wow, great job! Very impressive. Glad you're feeling better.

Diana said...

Great race. Beyond impressive and what a way to get rid of a cold!!
Enjoy the taper! If you get bored, I have a garage in need of sweeping!

Krista said...

I use the same kind of contact solution and this happened to me once. It hurts like hell!

Sounds like an awesome race - you make a half sound so easy! Glad your cold is getting better!

Jack said...

Great race, congratulations. "Already! When had a half marathon become so short?" Don't you just love when it all comes together.

Kate said...

Nice work! Perfect taper race!