Half marathons are tricky buggers. On the good side, they so much more do-able than actual marathons. They let you settle in and find a pace and allow you to finish strong without any of the residual soreness and utter fatigue that accompagny 26.2 miles. Mostly, i think 1/2’s rock. They build confidence. You can find them locally, get them done in the morning and still have time for a great post-race breakfast. And what’s better and more fulfilling than digging into a gigantic/fantastic breakfast feast after a race?
On the other hand, half marathons are savage beasts as they require a lot of physical and mental effort. Today I ran the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon. As the name suggests, it’s flat, fast and perfect for pushing yourself to a PR.
Here’s how my race went down.
4:30 AM: Only five hours of sleep, but who cares, it’s RACE DAY!
4:35: Begin Pre-race rituals in this order: drink water, clip toenails, shower, shave, drink coffee, eat rice porridge, and listen to a pre-race music mix featuring Tupac Shakur and Ice Cube. I know I can kick butt when I’ve got gangster rappers backing me up.
6:30:Pick up race packet at the race start area. The t-shirt is nice, but as usual, totally gigantic. When did small mean “big enough to upholster a loveseat”
6:35: Time to lube up, get rid of the sweatpants, ingest a Chocolate Outrage GU, hit the portapotty and get nervous/excited.
7:05: Line up. Ignore the tummy butterflies.
BANG! We’re off!
My unnofficial goal was to beat my old half marathon PR which was 1:37:58. In my mind I was hoping to beat 1:36.00. I knew that I’d have to start aggresively if I wanted to make it.
Mile 1: The course is beautiful. If I weren’t so caught up in the race I might have had time to enjoy the scenerey. Rolling hills, farmland, green pastures. It’s a great place and day to be running.
Mile 2:My first splits are right at 7 min/mile. I start to get anxious that I’ve started too quickly and I won’t be able to sustain the pace. Images of hitting a wall or finishing slow fill my mind. I try to gently guide my mind to postive images and positive thoughts. “Run Happy. Run Strong. Run Happy. Run Strong. Remember, this is fun…”
Miles 3-8: Most of race is a battle of negative and positive thoughts. When I start to feel anxious or stress about pace, like magic, my pace slows and my mile splits get slower. When I concentrate on the feeling of my legs working with my core and I think about how great it is to be out here competing my pace gets faster, I feel lighter and my shoulders relax. I can feel my breath getting more even and I slip into that zone… for a few seconds before my inner-worrywart starts to chatter again.
Mile 8: I’ve been jockeying back and forth with guy for most of the race. At mile 8 I decide I’m going to stare at his back and think good thoughts until I pass him.
Mile 9: I pull even with the guy. I say to myself, “Let’s run this mile like it’s the last mile in the race.”
Mile 10: I reset my mental odometer. “I’m going to run THIS mile like it’s my last mile.” I pass the guy I’ve been starting at for most of the race.
Mile 11: Now I’m going to run THIS mile like it’s my last mile.
Mile 11.5: I really wish this was my last mile and the last 1.6 miles seems like an eternity. But I just keep thinking that I’m going to run this last 1/2 mile like it’s my last 800 meters. I’m not going to think any further than that.
Mile 12: My vision blurs. I dig deep. I’ve bottomed out and a queasy/sick feeling settles in the lower part of my gut. I push that aside and try to concentrate on my stride and form. Just a few more minutes to the finish line I think.
Mile 13.1: The last mile always feels the longest, no matter what the distance. I don’t remember a thing about the last 100 meters, but I remember clearly stopping my watch at the finish line and starring at it in disbelief. Could that be right? No way. I look again. And again. And slowly I process the fact that I’ve beaten my old PR by almost 4 minutes. I feel like a rock star. Like I’ve broken the world record and won a gold medal. I am elated. I am overcome! I am so freaking happy!
Finishing TIme: 1:34
Average Pace: 7:10/mile
The only thing that tastes better than a post-race breakfast is the savory goodness of surpassing your own expectations.