Last weekend I drooled enviously as a zillion courageous people took part in the Portland Marathon. I so wanted to participate, but a stressed abdominal muscle who took her sweet-ass time in healing kept me from racing. So I ran a 1/2 marathon today instead. Here’s the race day report.
5:50 AM: It’s a Sunday morning and I’m awake well before my alarm clock. I lay in bed for a few minutes and gather happy running thoughts. It’s a good day to be racing!
6:15: Shower. Shave. Blow dry my hair. Everyone has pre-race rituals, and mine is that I don’t feel ready to race until I’ve had a shower. I wouldn’t go to work without one, why would I race that way?
6:45: Pre-Race Breakfast: coffee, water, brown rice and sardines. OK, ok, ok! I know what you’re thinking. But don’t knock til you’ve tried it, people. It’s a good mix of quick burning carbs, protein, a little bit of fat and some salt. I feel energized. I don’t eat too much (you’d have to be a special person to be able to gorge yourself on sardines before 7AM) and I feel ready rumble.
7:15: Gather my race duds. If you live in the Pacific Northwest you quickly learn that you have to be prepared for all types of weather. Here’s my race stuff:
7:30: Time to roll out. I crank up the country western tunes and I’m on my way.
8:15: Arrive at the race venue. Pick up race packet. Shiver. Pin bib number. Shiver. Decide on number of layers. Shiver. It is most definitely fall here in Oregon and I’m none too pleased. Arm warmers are a must.
8:35: I don’t know anyone else running the 1/2 marathon so I make chit-chat with a few women. It’s a small group. No more than 70 runners total. I take time to mentally review my goals for the race:
1. Run happy and run present.
2. Run strong, don’t be afraid to push – but don’t push too hard.
3. Have fun.
I didn’t even have a goal time. My 1/2 marathon PR was set in July at 1:34 on a very flat and fast course. With my recent injury I’ve decided to use this 1/2 marathon to gauge my fitness and endurance level.
8:45: After some intros from the race coordinator, we’re ready to start. Wooo wooo!! The air gun goes off and our small crowd of runners takes off.
Mile 1: Is FAST! Wtf? I glance down to see that I’m chugging up a hill at under 7 minutes.
Mile 2: Is hilly. The course takes the runners through a suburb and throws us onto a series of trails that quickly transforms from a quaint gravel track into a ridiculously steep gravel mountain. I wonder when it’ll stop. My second mile is somewhere around 7 minutes as well.
Mile 3: Still going up. The two men who passed me in the first mile are now walking. I shorten my stride. I pump my arms and I chug past them and one other runner. Just keep chugging. Just keep chugging. I even pull out my special hill mantra, “Perky, Perky, Perky!”
Mile 3-4: A race volunteer lets me know i’m almost to the top. Hallelujah! I coast down and back through the suburbs. I glance down at my watch and see that my Garmin 405 is totally blank. I press buttons. Nothing happens. I mutter curse words at it. Nothing. I beg it to turn on. Still nothing. I conclude that I’ll be running the remaining 10 miles without a watch.
Mile 4-5: I’m all alone. I don’ even have the Garmin for company. I can’t see the front runners ahead of me. I can’t see the guys behind me. I pass an aid station, grab a cup, gulp it while I walk a few steps and then take off. I feel fantastic considering the death march up the gravel mountain. A small jazz band huddled in the cold on the corner looks like they’d rather drink coffee than provide race entertainment. I comment as I run past, “Hey you’re just chatting away while I’m out here doing all the hard work.” The upright bass player responds, “And that’s just the way we like it.”
Mile 6: The race signage guides us onto a paved bike trail. I eat a PowerGel quickly – a mistake that will come back to haunt me. What was I thinking!? PowerGels and I have never gotten along… Anyway, a few minutes later I hear two guys pounding behind me. While I still feel good, I’m not prepared to match the pace. We nod. They pass. I thunder along behind them as best I can.
Mile 7: Oh. My. God. I forgot how tough 1/2 marathons can be! From the mile signs on the other side of the bike trail I can see that this is going to be an out-and-back. Where, oh where, is the turn around?
Mile 8: Still going out and no turn around in sight. I feel slightly pathetic, but try to chase bad thoughts with happy ones. I’m running. I’m pain free. I feel like this is a great pace. Go, go, go!!
Mile 9: Still Go, go, go!! The front runners, including the first place woman make the turn around and I’m not far behind. Just four more mile. But something thick and queasy is beginning to form in the pit of my stomach. I keep trucking along and pass the slew of runners heading to the turn around. We shout out “Way to go” and “Great pace!” and “Keep it up!”
Mile 10: The queasy feeling has transformed into an acidic weight deep in my intestines, but I’m catching up to one of the guys. I concentrate on his back and think that it’s only 12 laps around the track… maybe even less!
Mile 11: Oh, stomach! Not now! Please!!!
Mile 11-12: I pretend my stomach simply does not exist. I refuse to even think about what is going on in my intestines. They don’t exist either. I pass a spectator who says to me, “Well, now you’re pretty fast, aren’t you.” What a great compliment! I am all smiles!
Mile 12ish: I pass more spectators and I overhear a woman say, “Holy Crap, she’s going fast.” All my stomach hears is “Crap.” I lecture my intestines that the last mile is hardly the time for a pit stop, no matter what the urgency.
Mile 13 and the Finish Line: I push hard. Why does the last 200 meters seem to last an eternity? I sprint/run to the finish line. Horray! I am spent, exhausted, queasy, crampy and delighted!
I ran strong. I ran so happy. I ran so well despite my obnoxious stomach, a broken watch and a gigantic hill. I stagger through the chutes. A few minutes later I get personal with a Porta-John and life seems OK again.
Half Marathon Time: 1:38
Average 7:30 min/mile
Place: Second Place Female, first in age group.
Final Thoughts: PowerGels and I do not get along.