Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Woodlands Half Marathon - Check!

This is a long one...more for me than you forewarned. :)

The rollercoaster of feelings within the week of a race is quite astonishing.  Mid last week I went for a run.  It was a gorgeous day.  The weather couldn't have been better and I felt like this last run before the race would secure whatever insecurities I had about accomplishing the task ahead of me.

I was so wrong.  My legs felt like they were attached to someone else's body.  My knees hurt, my IT band was acting up, both shins felt like they were on fire, my feet ached and flopped onto the pavement and reverberated up to my brain.  It was awful.  I stopped several times to shake things out. I upped the volume on my music in hopes that it would drain out the screaming in my legs.
Me, unamused by my most recent run
To say that I was concerned about a half marathon only a few days away would be an understatement.  Doubts, yea, I had them.  I reminded myself that only a few weeks ago I was sidelined by an ankle injury that kept me from taking normal steps.  I decided to not think about it.  I tabled it.

My friend/coach picked my packet up for me and so that eliminated another opportunity to think about it.  On Friday, I picked up some GU to follow the nutrition instructions given to me for race day.  I started hoping.  Hoping that my legs would just show up Saturday morning.  Hoping that I could at least run half of it before things started to fall apart.  Knowing that my heart and mind would be in it and hoping that my legs would come along for the ride.

I was up at 4 am.  I didn't sleep much.  I had coffee, read the packet instructions and gathered all my gear.  I was ready to go at 4:50.  I ate peanut butter on raisin toast in the car.  I had almost an hour drive to talk about everything except MY race.  My friend, my coach, the elite crazy marathon runner was driving and was telling me she woke up with a head cold.  I hurt for her.  Ugh...the idea of running with a headache sounded awful. I was grateful to not have one of those to deal with.  

We arrived and still, I didn't put much thought into my race.  I just wanted to finish.  Follow instructions...GU at mile 3 or 4 and again at 9.  Drink water every 3 miles.  Got it.  I was able to watch the super racers and their pre-race routines.  Two more friends we met there were running the half as well.  They are also crazy fast, hard core.  They applied Glide, Chapstick, drank water and discussed whether or not to wear a layer at the start.  My marathon friend buys "throw away" jackets for times like these.  That's her routine.  Hmm.  I don't have throw away gear.  It was the 50s and I was wearing shorts and a tank.  Way too cold for me to not wear another layer so I figured I'd tie it around my waist when I got hot.  Not them.  No throwaway?  Then, no layer.  That's right, they peeled it off and when out there in a sports bra.  You see, tying it around your waist makes you slower.  I am SO not in the phase where aerodynamics play a role in my performance.   Haha.
With some fast chickies

At 6:30, we all split up into our respective corrals.  Hers, the first for a full marathon.  My other friends, the first for the half.  Mine, the last.   It's pretty awesome to be in their company.  They look not only relaxed but like they are about to have fun (except for the headache part).

I walked back there in the dark, alone through the crowd of nervous runners.  I settled myself next to a couple that had been running half marathons together for 20 years.   They had to be well into their 60s -70s?.  I was also a few feet behind the 2:15 pacer guy and his blue balloon.  To my right, a guy wearing brown pantyhose, a deer costume and a full rack on his head (antlers, of course).  I watched all the selfies taking place all around me and the photobombs that went with them.  I looked down at my phone.  It was 6:40.  Another 20 minutes or so of people watching and NOT thinking about what I was about to do. 
I see you blurry photobomber...:)

I then decided to turn on my ear buds, strategize my music selection and visualize.  Before I knew it, I was walking, jogging and running.  I was listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack.  Yes, I know that sounds odd and maybe even nerdy.  But you know what?  I LOVE IT.  It's a story so you get to follow along and the beat...well, the beat is where it's at.  A few songs I repeated because I found myself BOUNCING on the route.  I am not even kidding.  I will make a playlist of what I listened to and mark the songs that did it for me later.
I'm not throwing away my shot!
A 5k later, I slowly worked on my first GU.  Watermelon Salt?!  OMG.  So good!  I was wishing I had two of those!  I got water at the 4 mile stop and walked through.  In my sights still the blue balloon ahead and the deer, front right.  A few miles later, we caught up to a SuperMan.  Deer and SuperMan began talking and discussing costume choices (I guess...I was still jamming out, probably Lafayette in Guns and Ships).
I was clearly having a great run.  It was still cool out and the fog had yet to lift.  The miles were just passing me by and at 8.5, I worked on my 2nd GU Mandarin Orange Vanilla Octane for an extra boost.  Water didn't come around til almost mile 10.  I felt great but my mind started playing with me.  It was reminding me how badly I was feeling at about this time at my last half.  SIX YEARS AGO.  Right.  A lot of life has happened since then.  I didn't let that bother me.  The fact was, I felt pretty darn good.  I was getting a little tired but the legs were a-ok (THANK GOODNESS).
I realized during a run in the neighborhood recently that music could make or break a run for me.  I discovered that listening to Salsa (Tropical Latin) specifically by the likes of Marc Anthony, Oscar D'Leon, El Gran Combo, Willie Colon (old school, baby) could get me really moving.  So much that at times I really just wanted to pull over and dance.  My childhood memories of the music flowing at my grandma's house all the time and her stopping and dancing while cooking or walking through a room like it was yesterday.  Because of this, I had a few gems saved in my library por si las moscas (Cuban for "Just in Case").

When Hamilton started to get gloomy, I let Marc, Enrique, Oscar and even Pochi y Su Cocoband bring me home.  And did they!  I never lost sight of the blue balloon until then.  I don't know where that guy went (or the deer) but I knew the end was near and I was going to bounce my ass across that finish line!  I was so happy to have come that far with no pain and no mental anguish.  The sun was now shining and it was getting warm but it was still pretty fantastic.  And I was pretty sure I was going to be coming in before 2:30+ (the time on my last half) so it was going to be a good day. :)

La Fiesta de Pilito came on at mile 12 talking arroz, gandules, lechon y ron (rice, beans, pork and rum for a Puerto Rican holiday feast) but the final song across the finish line was "Salsa Con Coco"...I laughed because I hadn't heard that since I was in high school!  My mom got a kick out of that when I spoke to her afterwards.

My final time: 2:14:45.  What?!  I was shooting for 2:20ish and I figured the blue balloon was way ahead...turns out, it was behind me!  W H A T ? ?

Yes, so here we are the Monday after and I am ELATED that I 1) finished 2) didn't hurt 3) Got a PR 4) want to do another to see if I can do it again.  Even better news?  My friends ALL placed!  Both half marathoners placed 3rd in each of their age groups and my rock star super amazing friend and coach came in FIRST of her age group, head cold and all!!  She is so bad ass.  My hero. AND she PR'd!! She came in at 3:20 and some change.  AH-Mazing. (Her 43rd marathon)
All smiles!  Finisher!
Inspiration is contagious y'all.  I am looking for my next half.  I think I can shave at least the :45 off if my legs cooperate.  Take that ankle injury! Boom!

Feeling accomplished. :)