Remember how a week ago, I was all like “eh, I dunno about running and blogging anymore” and stuff? Remember that?
Well, a little thing called a 1:52 half marathon totally destroyed those thoughts. When I crossed that finish line on Sunday, I almost cried. I was so proud of myself. THAT feeling is why I run races.
I know not everybody “gets” running. It’s not for everyone. But everyone gets working hard for something and then accomplishing it, right? That’s what Sunday was all about, Charlie Brown.
I ran the You Go Girl 10K last year. Actually, I ran-walked it. I was coming back from an injury (stress fracture in left shin), and I ran a little/walked a little with Chelsea (Will Run for Food), who also was rehabbing, and Zoë (Run, Zoë, Run), who was 8 months pregnant. We had a blast despite the rain.
I signed up for this year’s half when Jill (Running to Sanity) called me from (Captain) Diana’s car demanding my credit card number because they were on their way to register Team Will Run for Ice Cream and I WOULD be running it. So, I really didn’t have a say in the matter. But I’m glad she made me sign up.
I’ve been feeling a little ho-hum about running. Has this every happened to you? But on Saturday, out with friends Stacie (Impossible is Nothing), Tressa (Adorable Wife), Kim (Just Trying is for Little Girls) and, later, Carla (Foil-wrapped Runner), I started to feel a little more excited.
We hit the expo. (T Junior was a nightmare again. Note to self: No more expos with children.) I almost bought the aqua RunningSkirt with white polka dots, but talked myself out of it. I also talked myself out of buying GU since I thought I had a bunch left over from Hood to Coast at home.
|L-R: Baby R (in stroller), Tress, Stacie, Kim, me and T Junior, who took a
moment out of screaming, “DON’T TAKE A PICTURE OF ME!” to get in the picture.
Then we had a little time to kill. So…
We had a little fun.
We had a little sugar.
|Stacie heading into Hello, Cupcake.
|We gave Kim crap because she got a wimpy, tiny cupcake.
|Not sure how you eat a cupcake with a knife…
We did a little cross-training.
We did a little carb-loading.
|Stacie and Carla.
|Me and Kim
|L-R: Riley, Tressa, Stacie, Carla, T Junior (hiding behind me), me and Kim.
T Junior was mostly good (after the expo), but demonstrated that he cannot handle his sugar by doing crazy karate-dance moves in the Spaghetti Factory entryway. Wish I’d thought to take video. Darn!
Dinner was good fun, of course. I loved getting to know Tressa, Stacie, Kim and Carla more. T Junior did, too, I think. At one point, he got out of his chair, walked over to Carla, tapped her arm and said, “I want to talk to you.” Then went on and on about Angry Birds.
After ice cream (I passed
on it, by the way, only because I try to stay away from dairy the day before a race — although I DID have a cupcake with cream cheese frosting), it was time to head home and get some rest. I expected nerves to kick in, but they never really did. I fell asleep fairly easily (despite discovering before bed that I did not, in fact, have GU and was without gels). I did, however, wake up half of an hour before I was scheduled to. I’m very glad I did, though, because I had just the right amount of time. I would’ve been rushed if I’d gotten up later.
In the bathroom, I could hear the rain splattering on the window. After getting dressed, I grabbed my pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a banana out of the refrigerator. I’ve had great success eating a sandwich before races, so why change? I ate it in the car on the way to Tacoma (about a half-hour drive from my house), after a quick stop at my local grocery store that I know carries PowerGels (thank god!).
I parked about two blocks west of the start line, and discovered Kim and Stacie and Tressa (and cute baby Riley) were about one block west of the start line. Across the street: Mel (Tall Mom on the Run). We were all together already. We made our way to the Team Will Run for Ice Cram meeting place about one block south. Tully’s, a coffee shop, wasn’t full yet, but everyone in there was pretty much a runner. There was a short line for their real bathrooms, and Kim and I hopped in it.
I still wasn’t really nervous. Excited? Yes. Ready to get running? Yes. Nervous? Eh.
Kim and I chatted, and then I heard my name. Melissa recognized me from this blog, and I felt a little embarrassed, but superhappy to get to know another runner. (So nice to meet you, Melissa!) Then, as I came out of the bathroom, Kim and Stacie and their cronies snapped my photo.
It was loud and happy in Tully’s as everyone got ready and took pictures. It smelled like coffee in there, of course, and coffee makes me feel at home.
|Melissa and her hubby (photographer extraordinaire) meeting Mel.
|Tressa showing off her camera skillz.
Tressa, baby in tow, was ready to spectate and even made signs! And Alma came to cheer and take pictures, too. I heart spectators. Melissa’s husband also came to cheer and take pictures.
Kadie (There She Runs) and her lovely daughter, Al, were running a little late, but they made it and we all took pictures on the stairs in Tully’s — sorority-style (minus the velvet and pearls).
|Back row, L-R: Kadie, Julie, Jamie, Jill
Middle row, L-R: Al, Stacie, me
Front row, L-R: Mel, Kim
After that, we all got our running crap in order. As usual, I was the last one ready and hurrying to get out the door with my group. Tressa was kind enough to lug my check bag (with a dry coat for afterward) in the stroller. I’d strapped on my fuel belt and carried my gross-looking banana (it was in the fridge, okay!) as we walked in the light rain to the start line area only to get in line for one more potty-stop. I started to get a little nervous.
Me, Kim and Mel threaded through the crowd to find a spot near the 2:00 pacer. Jamie joined us and we got to see Carla and Tiffany, too. Kim decided a few days prior to the race to try for a sub-2, and Mel was going to run with her. I’d already explained to them that I needed to run solo.
|Back row, L-R: Julie, me and Kim
Middle, L-R: Diana, Jamie and Mel
Front: Jill (on the right) and friend
Mel, who created my sub-2 training plan for me and who has been letting me call her “coach,” asked me my plan. “Oh, I think I’ll stay around 9 for the first part and then speed up during the second half,” I said. I told her and Kim that I didn’t think I was going to stay near the 2:00 pacer. “I am going to run my own race,” I said like I knew what I was talking about.
I was calm just before the start, but excited at the same time. Maybe there were a few nerves mixed in there now. And, actually, in the days leading up to the race, I’d been pretty darn nervous. Not the extreme nervousness I felt before my full, but nervous. I didn’t want to let everyone down.
So many of you were rooting for me. What if I failed? I know you guys wouldn’t care, but I hate not meeting expectations. Once at the start line, though, I knew I was doing this for myself. I needed to prove to myself that I could set out and achieve that sub-2 I wanted. I also felt confident. Like I’ve done this whole race thing before. And, I’d worked hard for this race over the past few months, so I knew if I could just to stick to my plan, I might actually
Pretty soon we were counting down and then, just like that, we were off. All of the 10K and half racers start together, so there were a lot of feet to try not to trip over, but the road is nice and wide, so it didn’t take long for the crowd to thin out a little.
|Can you see me?
Even though, I’d run it a year before and I’d studied the elevation, I’d forgotten/not realized that the start is a gradual downhill for the first mile or so. I tried to hold back a little. I didn’t want to be lulled into the ease of downhill plus adrenaline-fueled running and then die a mile later. I kept seeing 7’s on my watch, and just kept trying to slow down. But then 2:00 pacer passed me.
What? Why is she in front of me? Is my watch wrong? Is it thrown off by all the other watches?
The average pace for a 1:59 half marathon is about a 9:05 pace. I was running, on average, an 8:24 that first mile. A little secret: I trained for a 1:55 half. I wanted to have a cushion. Just in case. So to be behind the 2:00 pacer…I was freaking a little bit.
I passed her. Then she passed me. I passed her. She passed me. I wondered if Mel and Kim were right behind me. I could see Jamie, a faster runner, a ways ahead. I wasn’t gaining on her and she wasn’t pulling away. I found comfort in being able to see her green hat, white shirt and aqua skirt.
Mile 1: 8:24
Mile 2: 8:09
|Do you see me? And the 2:00 pacer?
But I was still battling with the 2:00 pacer. After a few miles of back and forth, though, with my overall average pace staying in the 8:30s, I tried really, really hard to forget the pacer and do as I said I was going to: run my own race! I tried to ignore her and the poor sheep faithfully following her. If you ask me, they were running too fast too soon! But maybe that’s how it’s done?
|Checking my watch around Mile 2 and wondering why the 2:00 pacer is so damn fast!
After the gradual downhill, we turned and went back up, and it’s pretty gradual through Mile 3. I saw my friends, which was awesome, but I did have a few negative thoughts through here, I guess: I’m going too fast. This hurts. I want to stop.
But I reminded myself that this is how I always feel at the beginning of a long run. I know myself, and I don’t really get going till Mile 4 or 5.
But there’s a really big hill right before you hit Mile 4 and Wright Park. It’s about a 100-foot ascent over less than a quarter-mile. Luckily, I saw Alma (The Average Woman’s Running Blog).
|At the base of the hill.
It gave me a boost as I started up the hill. Mel had warned me not to kill myself on this hill. There’d be plenty of downhill later to make up the time. I also remembered this hill from last year and how Chelsea and I chased 8-months pregnant Zoe up it. Now, I was working hard for an 11:00 pace at about half-way up, so I slowed to a walk for about 10 seconds to catch my breath, then tackled the rest.
Wright Park is about a one-mile dirt and gravel loop. Or, mud in this case. Once on the dirt (mud) path of the park, I noticed a man running. Not with his wife or anything. Just running in a women’s race. Okay. I passed him. He passed me. I passed him. Argh. One of us just needed to pick a speed. LOL! He passed me. There was a small, but steep hill coming out of the park and I passed him again on that. At the top, I took my first gel (around minute 44). I didn’t need it, but knew I’d regret not taking it. I took a swig of my grape Nuun to wash it down.
We turned out of the park and went down the big hill. I spotted Alma again! And Melissa’s hubby!
|Before I spotted Melissa’s hubby. Me, being focused.
Then, we all turned and went down, down, down. It was still raining lightly and the asphalt was wet. I let gravity work, but I kept it in check and paid attention to my foot placement. I did not want to fall! It was more than a mile of downhill, and my time reflects that.
Mile 3: 8:56
Mile 4: 9:03
Mile 5: 7:42
The downhill ended on Dock Street along the Tacoma waterfront. It was a straight shot to where the 10K and the half split.
I have fond memories of finishing last year’s 10K:
Since I’ve also run the 5K before, and it starts and ends about where the finish line is, I knew I would have to go up over an overpass while the 10K-ers got to split off for the finish chute.
I knew this.
Yet I still didn’t know why everyone was running so fast for the first half of a half marathon. A woman I suspect was a little older than me was really pushing it, and I did not want her to beat me. I was right next to her when we got to the split…and she turned and went right into the 10K chute.
A lot of people must’ve been running the 10K because I was suddenly alone except for a couple women a little bit up in front of me. By the way, I had not seen the 2:00 pacer in a while. I knew she was behind me, but I wasn’t sure how close.
I still felt like maybe my watch was wrong or maybe I was off in my calculations. Maybe I was behind schedule!
I’d had a taste of the second half of the course — the flat out-and-back portion of the race — during the Santa Runs Tacoma 5K in 2010. There’s basically one more overpass and a hill, and then it’s just flat and straight for about three miles out (and three point two miles back). It’s along the water, though, which is nice. So I had that going for me.
Mile 6: 8:26
Mile 7: 8:36
I just kept trucking along, dodging rain puddles, occasionally glancing at my watch to make sure I was still running on pace. I NEVER SAW A 9. Not since the big hill at Mile 4. I was pretty freakin’ amazed, that’s for sure. I’ve done speed workouts totally up to 6 miles and had a nice 8:xx average, but NEVER have I looked at my watch and saw an average pace of 8:30-8:40 around Mile 9, 10…
Mile 8: 8:47
Mile 9: 8:50
There was a young woman in front of me for a while in a cute black-and-white tie-dyed tank, black capris and a white-and-purple running hat that totally looked like Zoe. I preteneded she was my running buddy and I tried to catch her, but she was too fast. (I followed about 20 yards behind her for a couple miles until she took off around Mile 11 and I never saw the back of her again.)
I was basically by myself from Miles 7-10.5. I could see people up ahead, but there was nobody around me. I kept waiting, waiting, waiting to see the leaders coming back, but it seemed like FOREVER until I spotted them. It was probably around Mile 9. There are very few spectators along the part of the course because the roads are mostly closed for the race.
But on the back portion, I got to see all my friends, and the 2:00 pacer (who was farther than I thought behind me – I did a little happy dance in my head). I took a gel around Mile 10.
Mile 10: 8:38
Mile 11: 8:46
It was around Mile 11 that things started to get real. I was really going to do this sub-2 thing. But I was a little tired. I wanted to keep up the effort, though. I saw a “No Cruising” sign, laughed, and tried to pick up the pace.
Mile 12: 8:53
Only about a mile left! I just kept thinking if I could run on one hour of sleep at Hood to Coast, then I could do THIS. Only about 8-9 minutes of running left!
Up, up an overpass. I knew the homestretch was on the other side! Downhill, I saw Jill at the turn to the chute. I was getting excited and trying not to runaway on the downhill.
And then I was running through screaming people and crossing the mat!
Mile 13: 8:49
.1: 7:14 pace
|Thank you to Melissa’s hubs for this pic.
It really reflects how happy I was.
I stopped running, wobbled over to the man cutting the chips off our shoes, then shuffled to the cute gold medals, the space blanket lady, and someone handed me a water. Jill and Jamie found me. Jamie got an amazing sub-1:50 PR! Sweaty hugs, then we found spots to cheer in the rest of our team! It seems like everyone had an amazing race!
|Me and Jamie.
|Alma, Jamie, Julie, me and Jill.
|Coach Mel, Kim and me.
The best thing about this race, other than the friends and fun, and the amazing PR of 1:52:19!!!!!, was that it rekindled my love of running. Thank goodness!