Sunday, December 11, 2011

Too Early, Again

Today was my first half marathon.  I had a great run, really enjoyed myself as I promised myself I'd do.  I was able to keep a good pace and relax, not worry about anything and just run.  Fantastic day.  Here's how it went.

2:00 AM:  I wake thinking, "Alright, if I'm doing under 8 minute miles before mile 10, I'll slow down.  Just finish healthy, uninjured and soak up the experience of your first long race."

3:45 AM:  Both (me and my wife's) alarms ring.  I shoot out of bed.  FINALLY time to get up.  I brush my teeth, eat a banana, cliff bar and protein shake.  On the way out the door my father-in-law asks if he can tag along.

5:00 AM:  We arrive at the location where the buses drive the runners to the start line.  It's cold, but I don't have to wait long before the bus (probably 50 of them) open up for us.  I was surprised they were school buses, and mine was from Nogales School District, about 80 miles south.

My wife reaffirms that I am going to be done by 9 am and wishes me luck.

5:45 AM:  The bus pulls into the start-line staging area.  The race information said there were ample heaters, and there were...if it were May.  12 heaters for 2,000 runners on an exposed hill top, all dressed for a run, in 30 degrees with a breeze.  The portable bathrooms were all zip-tied shut...adding to the excitement.

I huddled around a heater wishing I'd brought some warm wool socks and shoes.  I wore toe shoes for the run, but we had drop-bags that the buses would take to the finish line for us.  I now know how penguins feel. We all huddled around the propane heaters, the body of people spinning and moving to maximum wind protection for its members.

6:15 AM:  The woman in charge of the half-marathon start line comes to our heater area and says we can re-board a bus.  The bus is about 1/4 mile down the road and I trot over there thinking how nice it would be to sit down, remove my shoes and rub my feet warm.  I get to the bus and they're leaving.  PSYCH!

At this point I decide to just move around to keep warm.  I was ready to start the race right then!

6:40 AM:  Time to load the drop-bag, which for all practical purposes means, get naked in the wind.  I load the bag, toss it in the bus and warm up.

7:00 AM:  I leave with the second wave of people.  The first mile was 7:05, way too fast.  A pair of ladies mention the same and point out a group in front that they think will provide a good pace for them.  I decide to stay with them and see how it works out.

We pass people, people pass us as we run down towards Tucson.  I listen to them talk some more before chiming in.  After a while I'm in their group.  They're from South Dakota, traveling for their annual tropical winter run, which they said was terribly disappointed this year (the weather only they meant).

I explain that I'm a new runner and my goal was just to finish in under 2 hours and have a good time.  We were clipping the miles off at 7:30 or so for the first four miles.  I felt great, hardly working.  I only worried about cramping or have my muscles reaching muscle-failure at mile 10.  I expressed as much.

Stacy, the stronger of the two today, said, "This isn't hard for you?"


"Then you can tell us stories to distract us."

So I did.

When we got to the second aid station I decided I'd get some water.  I grabbed a cup that was half full of blue powerade.  I watch Cynthia and Stacy drink their water, then proceed to dump my powerade all over my face.

"How do you drink while running?"

"Fold the top, like a funnel."

Lesson 1 learned.

Lesson 2 was about pace.  We ran and kept watchful eyes on our pace, sub-8 minute miles was their goal.  The two wanted to finish in under 1:44.  I felt great, so just went with them seeing how it would play out.

Around mile 7 I started hurting.  My feet were getting sore.  They usually do around mile 8 or so, as I've not done a lot of running really.  Each time I run a new distance they really hurt once I get past my previous long run's distance.  I also had a blister in full bloom on the bottom of a toe.

Around this time Cynthia dropped out.  She said she was ok, but fell off the pace.  Another runner that had fallen in with us complimented the steady pace, though I suspected he'd not stay as he was laboring.

I mastered drinking while running and was able to pick up a few Gu's or Cliff Shots along the route. At mile 9 I felt ok, not over-doing it and getting that too hot feeling.  But my legs were getting quite tired, my blister was obviously beyond the point of a blister and my feet were complaining at me.  We kept the pace at under 8 the whole time.

At the 11 mile mark Stacy said she usually picks up the pace but said she didn't have it in her today.  So, I left her pushing ahead.  At that point it dawned on me that there was a good chance my family wouldn't yet have arrived at the finish line.  I thought of how they'd be disappointed, especially my wife.  My first road bike race I finished an hour and fifteen minutes before expected.  So, this was old hat.

What happened next surprised me.  We came to our first "hill."  It was a fairly light incline and short, but all of these people that had recently passed I reeled back in.  Pays off living in the middle of lots of big hills I guess!

I labored through the next mile and a half, teetering on the point of getting too hot.  When I saw the finish line I sped up and left those around me behind.  It certainly was NOT a sprint, I didn't have enough left for that.

I finished in 1:42:15, unofficially.  At about this point in time my family was leaving their vehicle in the parking lot and beginning to walk towards the finish line.  My wife was disappointed to not see me finish, but it was really good to see them all.

Here's a post race picture.  I'm happy to have Oreos in my hand!

After the race I was on cloud 9 for a few hours.  My feet and blister really hurt.  The muscles in my feet are so painful now that walking is only done when 100% necessary.

I had a great time, loved the run and can't wait to do it again!

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