Monday, March 17, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll USA 1/2 marathon - 2014


I almost titled this post "the 1/2 marathon where nothing went according to plan and it still turned out okay." That title seemed a little too verbose, but that is exactly what happened yesterday.

First things first, everything turned out totally fine. I ran a pretty decent time of 1:54:27 (my 4th fastest half marathon and only 1 minute, 16 seconds off my PR), and more importantly I finished upright, with a smile on my face, wanting to do it again. Anytime that happens, it means I have hit my 3 most important running goals (learned from Jeff Galloway) and everything else is just gravy. But, the day could have turned out very differently, and a big part of everything turning out okay was my attitude.

Anyone who has ever accepted an invitation to ride with me to a race knows that I like to get there early. Okay... not just early, but 2 hours early. Sometimes even "first people there" early. It's a weird part of my "race day plan" that I have always stuck to. If I can, I like to drive to races. I have learned that if you get to a race early enough you can park pretty close to the start, yet off the course, for a quick exit when the race is over. And if I have to take metro, I like to be waiting outside the station, so that I can take the first train in. I guess it's because I thought at some point that if they have to open metro that early, it must mean we have to get there that early.

With that in mind, Manda and I were driving in to take metro, that opened at 5am, in the morning and I relaxed a little by saying I would pick her up at 5am. So when I got up and dressed for the race, I looked at the clock and noticed it was already 5:03, I was worried Manda was worried about where I was, so I texted her that I had to walk Penny, then I would be on my way.

At 5:12 I was in my car, on my way to pick up Manda and I realized I was out of gas, like 10 miles left, so I texted again that I was on my way, but stopping to fill up first. I filled my tank and texted again that I was on my way.

At this point though, I hadn't heard back.

I drove over to her place anyway and called her. It went straight to voicemail. Then I texted her husband. No reply. I called him. Nothing. I texted again. Still nothing. I started to think two things at that point. First, that I felt dumb for joking over text that she couldn't bail because she had my number the night before, and second that I hoped they had made the quarter mile walk home and weren't attacked on the trail (because sometimes my wild imagination gets away from me when things are out of the ordinary). I pushed the crazy out of my head and started thinking "Manda just over slept. It's not a big deal. It happens. I might not get to run the race today, and that's okay because I can still run and there will always be another race. It's no big deal."

I checked the metro trip planner and realized the last train we could take to make it in time for the race start was the 6:48 train, so that meant that we could leave as late at 6:20. So I texted saying I would wait until 6:20. I texted again at 5:40, letting her know I was still there and I got a reply. Manda's alarm hadn't gone off, she still wanted to run, and she was rushing to get ready.

On Amanda's end, she had been having some knee pain after getting new shoes, so I gave her a brand new pair of Kinvara (since I always have a new pair to put into rotation when an old pair gets too worn down) to try, but she wasn't sure if she felt okay racing in new, untried shoes. But because she woke up late, she had no choice but to put on what she had laid out the night before. She had to just "go with it" with none of the usual second guessing. She had also been thinking about dropping down to the 5k, which started further away, so when she got in the car she was like "I guess I'm doing the half too!"

There were other runners getting on the metro with us, so we really weren't that late, but in my mind, I wondered how many of them were making "first time runner" mistakes. We got to the starting area pretty quickly, but unlike last year, I didn't see porta potties along the starting corrals. So we walked toward baggage check. There were insane lines by the porta potties near bag check, but I had to wait in line, I didn't even think I would make it to the start time, let alone be able to run to the first potties on the course. We waited in line, moved closer to the porta potties, and 7:30 - the race start time - came and went. We finished up, with lines still behind us and headed to the bag check and they had closed all the regular trucks. So we had to go all the way to the end to the "unmarked" truck, but we were able to check our bags.

Walking back to the start, they were only starting corral 9, only 2 behind where I was supposed to start. So Amanda and I took a quick picture, wished each other luck, and parted ways.


I was able to walk all the way up, outside of the start corrals, to join corral 10, towards the back. This too is not the way I plan to start races. Knowing that I am a "front half" racer, I like to start towards the front so that I can use some of my opening speed to jump start my race. It was still okay. I felt a little congested when wave 10 started, but it wasn't horrible and I was able to weave through the crowd due to the very wide first mile of the race (way to go on planning, Rock 'n' Roll!). I heard someone say "just settle in and get comfortable" and I remember thinking "no way, the first part needs to hurt, settle in later!" So I sped up and did my first mile in 7:43.

I had this idea in my head, without the training to back it up, that I could break 1:48 yesterday. I looked up a pace chart for it on Friday and even planned how I would run the first 5k under 8 min miles, then run the next 5k at 8:05, then settle in to a comfortable 8:20 pace. But like I said before, sometimes my imagination gets away from me and there was no way I was actually trained to do that. I actually had a better chance setting a new 5k PR yesterday, than dropping more than 3 minutes in the half.

I did actually take the first 5k out according to plan, in a 25:07, but my second 5k was 28:09, due to the fact that I didn't follow my own rule/plan of adding 20 to the temperature and dressing for that. I actually debated suffering with the long sleeves I had pinned my number to, but took the opportunity for a longer walk and took off my long sleeved top, unpinned my number, then re-pinned it to the tank top I had on underneath.

I felt okay during the run by the 10k mark, but my lack of training was really starting to take its toll. My legs were tight and crampy, but I realized I had two choices. I could either just finish, or I could push though and try to finish strong. I thought "the miles aren't getting any further away, how fast do you want them to go by?" That was enough to push me through, aiming, after one depressing 10 minute mile, to make all the rest sub 9 minutes.

With that thought in my mind, the remaining miles flew by. I still felt sore and crampy, but I was able to push through and rely on the mental toughness that comes with 3 marathon finishes and 11 other half marathon finishes. There were no unknowns on the course. I had run the course the previous year, I had run the distance 11 other times, all I had to do was trust that I could push though and finish strong!

That's exactly what happened. A couple of people tried to encourage me to abandon my 30 second walk breaks each minute, but I knew that I had to stick to my sprint/recover strategy, since the cramps in my calves came on full force if I tried to run any more than a minute. Once the 13 mile marker was in sight though, I abandoned my intervals and went on a full out 400m sprint to the finish. I knew that my legs might cramp, but I was hoping that the change in my mechanics might be just enough to hold them off. My gamble was right and I crossed the finish line fast and strong, passing one of the women who had encouraged me to run through a walk a mile earlier.

Yet another thing didn't quite go according to plan, I went to stop my nike+running app and it never picked up the GPS signal, so it didn't record ANY of the run. It read 0.0 at the finish area. I was bummed for a second, thinking "wow, it's like I didn't even run" and then I realized that was dumb and it was just one more thing that wasn't part of the plan, but I was okay with. So, I snapped a photo of my watch, got some water, posed for some marathonfoto finisher pictures, and then got a text from Manda that she was at mile 8, feeling good!

So knowing that I had some time, I retrieved my bag from gear check so that I could put my sweatshirt on, and walked back up the course with my finisher medal on the outside of my sweatshirt! I love when people come out to cheer for runners, so I made sure to cheer for everyone still running while I was walking back up the course.

I said "you guys look amazing" and "this is hard, but you make it look easy" and "you look so strong" and "keep moving forward, you're doing great!" Those are the types of cheers that help me. I hate hearing "you're almost there." Personally, I don't mind "just a mile more" or an exact distance, but telling me that I am almost there just reminds me that I'm not there yet. But for some reason, when I hurt and feel like I am barely moving, I get really motivated when people tell me I look fast or strong or amazing or pretty!

I got to see some of the HAC coaches run by, about a 1/2 a mile from the finish, but I kept walking to try to meet up with Amanda. With almost perfect timing, I spotted her right at the mile marker for 12 (perfect for me, because I didn't want to have to run any more than one more mile with her!) and I jumped on the course to finish the last mile with her! It was a really fun way to finish my half marathon day, and I know Amanda loved the encouragement to finish strong! She was positively beaming after the race!!

The moral of this story is that it is important to have a plan - you know the saying "plan your race, race your plan" - but that its also okay to just go with the flow when things don't go according to plan. Sometimes just showing up is enough. There's always another race, always another day, but that even when things don't go the way you have preconceived them to, doesn't mean that all is lost. It's a chance to practice positivity and gratitude for the little things that did go right or the ones that worked out even though its not the way you thought they would.


When and Where:
  • Saturday, March 15th, 2014
  • Rock 'n' Roll USA half marathon (1/2 number 12 and my March 2014 race!)
What I'm Wearing:


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