Saturday, April 06, 2013
Those of you who know me know that I like logistics. I like to have information, plan for contingencies, anticipate and be prepared for most everything that might happen - I guess its my way of controlling my life. I try not to obsess but that tendency is always there too.
I don't handle sudden changes very well. I don't like unanticipated glitches and I don't like surprises when it comes to my running. I can adjust and adapt, but I need time to wrap my head around things to do so.
Today I ran a half marathon that was like no other I had ever run before, and on the surface, everything about it could have been a disaster - but it wasn't.
For starters, I registered for it 10 months ago and had completely forgotten about it. I got an email with my bib number on Wednesday for this Saturday race and proceeded to freak out. The race was an hour away in an urban area I'm unfamiliar with, and the expo was in another place that I also was unfamiliar with. Parking for both places can be very expensive - $15-$25 - and traffic getting to/from these areas can take from 1-3 hours from my house.
Add to that the 6 a.m. start time which would necessitate a 2:30 a.m. wake-up and the potential for a delay of up to an hour just to get from the freeway to the parking lots a mile away and you can understand why my stress levels would normally be pretty high under these circumstances.
The interesting thing is, other than the shock of realizing I had this race in just a few days I was relatively calm. I networked on facebook and found a friend willing to pick up bibs for myself and my husband. Since hubby was scheduled to fly to Europe the afternoon of the race and was working on a huge project all week I offered to pack for him (something I rarely do!) to make his life easier. I figured out that even if we walked the whole race at a snails pace we could get home in time for him to shower and eat before leaving for the airport, provided we didn't hang around post-race and we parked close to the finish line for a speedy exit. I planned as best as I could, researching parking lots, distance to the start and from the finish line (which were a mile apart), best routes to get there and weather conditions. And then I let go.
I went to bed last night at 10:30 and set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. I knew I wouldn't really sleep so I told myself to just relax, there'd be plenty of time for sleep tomorrow. All I needed was rest. When the alarm went off I got up and started dressing. Made my coffee, loaded my fuel belt, grabbed my Garmin and my Ironman watch to time intervals and off we went. Traffic was light and we made great time to Hollywood. Unlike the LA Marathon, we had no trouble at all getting off the freeway and getting to the parking lot I had scoped out as my first choice. Arriving there nearly 2 hours pre-race start we had our pic of spots and chose one close to the foot entrance to the lot - which turned out to be about 10 yards away from the exit of the finish line chutes! Porta potties were locked at this hour but we managed to find one open one and then just relaxed in our car for 40 minutes. When it was time to head over to the start line to meet my friend and get our bibs we ran into a bunch of friends from a running group I sometimes run with. I had wanted to meet these friends for a picture but knew that the group's photo-op was scheduled for the same time as we were supposed to get our bibs so I was so happy to have a chance to say hello and take a few pictures with them on the empty finish line stage.
Unfortunately, when we all left the stage someone accidentally stepped on my fuel belt and broke my Ironman watch. I was sad but not devastated as I have been practicing running "by feel" - running intervals based on my energy level rather than a set amount of time. I turned my Garmin on as we all made our way to the start; at least I tried to. My Garmin chose this morning to fail, refusing to turn on and not taking a soft reset. How ironic that I had been posting in the car that maybe I should run today without my Garmin? Since this was a "surprise" race I had few performance expectations for it, but I desperately hoped it would be better than my last few races.
For the past 6 months I've felt like I've been getting worse, not better at my runs. I just couldn't seem to break 3 hours for a HM, and pre-surgery I was working towards breaking 2:30. I knew I'd need time to get back to my pre-surgical times but since early October I've been getting slower and slower instead of faster. I've been sick, I've been injured, I've been tired - and I've been disappointed in my performance over and over again. I have a big HM in 3 weeks that I've been training for and I secretly hoped that today would at least bring me a confidence boost.
I took a few minutes in the start corrals to shoot some pictures. We were on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland and all around me were things people fly to CA to see - The El Capitan theater, Graumann's Chinese theater, the Highland Center (featured in shows like The Hills), Jimmy Kimmel's studio, the Kodak theater (think Oscars!), and of course, the stars imbedded in the sidewalk. A group of ladies dressed as Marilyn Monroe posed for pics with their Joe DiMaggio. The weather was perfect - a little cool pre-dawn but definitely not cold. Unfortunately, I discovered that a gel packet had burst when my fuel belt was stepped on and my side was sticky with espresso gu that had soaked through my two shirts. ::sigh:: I hoped that wasn't another omen...
The gun went off and we started out running. My hubby had an interval timer on his Garmin and we decided to run a few intervals to warm up and let the crowds thin out before walking. I was feeling pretty good and in those first 2-3 miles hubby had a hard time keeping up with me. I didn't want to leave him but I have to admit that when he would call out a walk interval I had a few twinges of annoyance. I wanted to run! I felt good and I just wanted to go with it! I knew that the walks could only help stave off fatigue on the way back so I walked with him when he called it out. From mile 4.5 - 6 we had the only significant hills on the course and I told him I was going to just go and run/walk depending on how I felt. We would see each other at 6 because it was an out-and back segment. I walked the steepest parts but didn't worry about it and was only slightly ahead of dh at the turn. He caught me on the downhill side because I had to limit my running on the downhills to protect my knees and we continued together for the next 2 miles. By mile 8 I was starting to feel a little fatigue and wondered had I gone out too fast? Another two gu's leaked all over my hands when I tried to open them - was this the beginning of my undoing?
Dh found his groove and started to ignore his interval timer, running along at a steady pace. I watched as he got farther and farther ahead of me. Would he beat me? How is it possible that he would out-run me when he had barely been hanging on to my pace up until now? Yes, my ego was bruised.
Without the interval timer I found myself walking more than I probably would have otherwise. Miles 9-11 (guessing at that as there weren't any mile markers for this stretch of the course) I walked far more than I ran but after I saw the marker for mile 11 I decided to refocus and try to get back into some kind of groove. I had passed Dh somewhere before 11 and never saw him again. I still walked more than I ran but I found a good groove and just went with it. I had no idea on how much I was running, how long i was walking, how far I had to go or what my pace was so all I could do was listen to my music and body. What a novel experience that was for me! Before I knew it I saw the crowd up ahead disappear from Hollywood Blvd, which meant the turn onto Vine and into the finish was just ahead. Still not pushing it, I reached the last stretch before the turn and decided to see what I had left. Turns out, I had a lot! I sprinted the final 0.25 mile and was surprised by the race clock - 3:08! That meant that my time had to be sub-3:00 - FINALLY!
Without a Garmin I couldn't be sure but turns out I came in at just under 2:54, my best post-surgery time and only 15 minutes more than my PR. Even more importantly, I didn't feel spent by this effort! I visited with friends who had already finished while waiting for hubby to come across the finish line. I really wanted to take his pic since this was as much of a surprise race for him as it was for me. He came in about 5 minutes behind me, a new PR for him too.
Turns out that conditions today were perfect not only for us but for most people - many of my running friends set PRs on this course and marveled at what a great race they had. I have to wonder - was it great because I just let go and went with it, or was it great because for once all the stars aligned?
Either way, I couldn't be happier and am ready for Nike Women's DC!