Guess what, friends? I have a new race record:
personal slowest half marathon.
But, we had a pretty amazing time last night
It was our squadron Christmas party at Melting Pot. At first it seemed like a strange place to have such a large event -MP has a more intimate vibe and is more of a date spot or small group dinner rather than a large party- but it worked. The food was amazing per usual, and the restaurant put up with our squadron’s antics, including the ugly Christmas sweater contest.
Part of me realllyyyyy wanted to have a glass of wine with dinner, but I knew I would regret it when this morning’s alarm went off for the race.
Turns out I was right- 4:15 comes early enough
So, how’d the race go?
It just wasn’t my day for running.
I had a few things working against me, and was especially worried because my last few long runs were kind of shit shows (<— sorry, but there’s no better way to put it). I decided last minute to go ahead and register, because this was the half I had always planned on running- the last one I did was supposed to be a “training run,” even though I ended up having a better race day. I knew if I didn’t run I’d always wonder how I would have done, and was enticed by the fact that the Tucson half is mostly downhill.
This particular half was unusual because you had to park at a separate area and were taken via bus to the starting line. The last bus left at 5:30, and the parking site was about 30 minutes from the house so I had to get up early. My friend Kelly also ran the race and was at the party last night, so when she texted me on her way to the site, I didn’t want to be a bad friend and ditch her, or waste the registration fee.
It was a chilly Tucson morning (37*!) and there were plenty of heaters set up at the starting line. I wore the Pilot’s beanie, a jacket and sweat pants over my race clothes, and put them in my drop bag before the race. I hugged Kelly and wished her luck -she’s a speedy runner- and waited for my turn to start running.
Miles 0-2: My legs were FROZEN. I just focused on warming up, my playlist and the fact that it was a beautiful day for running. Save for the cold, it was crisp and clear, and while we ran, we were surrounded by picturesque mountains and desert. I was surprised my how downhill the race course was- it felt glorious, especially after all of the incline training I’ve done at Sabino. Both miles: around 8:30 pace. I tell myself to slow down, or I’ll crash and burn at the end.
Mile 2-3: My Garmin dies. Word to the world: all of the rectangular insertion points on the side of the computer are not USB ports I plugged the Garmin in before bed, but was so tired, I plugged it in the wrong spot. It was nearly dead when I woke up, but since I had to leave quickly, I figured I’d be Garmin-less. I was stoked that it lasted 2 miles, since it had been blinking in sadness the entire time.
Mile 3: My friend Rhina comes up next to me, who’s been one of my best running buddies in Tucson. We talk for a while, she gives me some pointers -she’s ran over 44 marathons and is a running coach- and I tell her my watch had died. She gives me hers to borrow…. what an awesome friend, huh? Without her watch, I’d still be running the half right now and feeling awesome, haha.
Mile 4-6: I maintain my pace and take 1/2 Clif mocha gel around mile 5. I try to focus on staying low to the ground, as I’m a naturally bouncy runner, and looking ahead instead of down. There are a couple of hills, but I still feel pretty good.
Mile 6-11: These were a blur to me. I zoned out to the music (even choreographed a Zumba dance) and focused on making it to the finish line. I take the rest of my Clif gel around mile 10. By looking at Rhina’s watch, I’m able to keep my pace around 9 minute miles. Visions of a PR dance in my head…
Mile 11: I hit the wall. I still feel like I’m running, but realize that I’m doing this funny walk-jog from the decline, which is no longer my friend. A few of my friends warned me that the downhill can be tough on your knees, especially if you have weak quads, and my knees and calves are starting to ache. I’m still running, but feel like at this point, I could be walking faster than I’m running. I start to feel prickles on my shins, and the beginnings of a Charley horse. Instead of a PR, I picture my calves cramping up and me screaming in pain on the side of the road.
Mile 12: I realize that with my delirious calculations, I’m going to be lucky to bust 2 hours, and won’t be claiming a PR. During the run, I’d been thinking about different people in my life to push through. I thought about my friend Anna, who’s been fighting to live for the past year, I think about Livi and how lucky I am to have her, my nana, my friends from work, my family, and then at mile 12 (I saved this motivation for the end), I spent that mile thinking about my husband. I thought about his deployments, how he’s completed marathons with bags of sand on his back and in combat boots, how he works so hard at work and at home, what a great dad he is to Liv and our puppies, and that he coached me through hundreds of contractions to give birth our baby. I just had a mile left, and knew I could do it, even though I was in pain and beyond ready for it to be over.
Last 1.1 miles: I pick up my pace a tiny bit towards the end and am so excited to see Kelly waiting past the finish line. I get my medal, some water (which I chug) and am glad to be done- my 4th half marathon! We stretch, grab some food, and head to the bus back to our cars.
This race wasn’t my favorite, it wasn’t my best run, but at the same time, I’m glad I went out there and did it. Running challenges me in a unique way -my mind always quits before my body does- and I’m hoping to do it again (and maybe PR!) next year. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the (more fun) shorter distance runs and races with the family.
It’s funny because I used to be kind of OCD about races, planning, numbers and schedules. While having a baby has made me a lot more laid-back and flexible, I’m still anxious and uptight about some things, especially when it comes to her wellbeing and happiness. I can’t help it. However, my attitude towards running and fitness has changed for the better. I shuffle things around, sometimes I’m lucky to make it to the gym once outside of the days I work, and it’s no big deal. It’s a special treat for me to be able to have that alone time, and instead of lamenting the time I don’t have to train, I’m grateful and make the most of the opportunities I do have. I’ve ran a couple of races since Liv’s been born, some have been great, today was lackluster. I could have trained better, but for fitness, I’ve learned to go with the flow.
You won’t know unless you put yourself out there.
The hardest things are always the most rewarding.
I’m thankful that I’m alive and healthy enough to run, and so thankful for the people in my life that run with me (especially the little buddy in the stroller).
I should have had that glass of wine with dinner last night.