Monday, October 17, 2011
Columbus 1/2 Marathon 2011
Ever since I graduated from nursing school, I have had a very nonchalant perspective going into a race, with the exception of Akron. I have not felt the pre-race jitters, the butterflies in my stomach or that deep burning intensity in my gut for awhile now (and I miss it). Sunday was no exception.
I woke up with no feeling of dread, no nervousness about my target time, nothing. I prepped my stuff and left the hotel solo with my tunes blaring in my ears, trying to focus. I wasn't sure how to get to the start, so I just followed the massess. It was about a 10 minute walk. I stripped down to my sports bra and shorts, so I could bag check my gear and met up with my old boss from LH, JB for a 15-20 minute warm-up. We ducked into the Westin so I could use the fancy bathroom one last time before the race (I am too awesome to use a port-o-potty --- hahaha).
We arrived back just as the gun went off to start the wheelchair racers. I wished JB good luck as he was in corral C (1:46-1:55) and I headed to corral B (1:36-1:45). I was hoping to be able to PR (sub-1:38) when I signed up for this, but I knew I wasn't even close. I, unlike apparently a large number of runners, according to A-train, dropped back to where I felt I should be seeded (I can't tell you how one of my biggest pet peeves are runner's who seed themselves too far up and force those who should be there to run around them -- Idiots!!)
The race start was easily the fastest I'd ever been in. I didn't have to run around anybody and I had plenty of room. It was a little warmer than I would have liked, but I like it in the 40's because I am a freak, but for most it was perfect. It was still pretty dark and I had my glasses on to, so I wouldn't have to mess with them during the race.
My goal was to target 1:43 for the half. I knew anything over 1:45 would make me feel embarassed (not that 1:43 is fast), but my expectation was to be under 8:00/mile. When I race I only have one goal. Until that goal goes out of my reach, I do not change it, no A, B, or C goals, just that one. If that goal becomes unattainable in the race, I immediately adjust and make a new goal. It is the same process at work. Things are ever changing and I have to prioritize and make decisions for the best outcomes. I had printed out the pace band to take along, but only wrote down the splits for miles 4, 8, and 12 (I would end up not using them for the race as I saw my splits at the 3 and 5 mile markers).
The race starts off on a long straight for about 3 miles. It was a great set-up so runners could spread out a bit before crushing on the corners to hit the tangents. I started on the left and about 1/2 mile into the race my necklace fell off. My niece had picked it out for me this summer and I wasn't ok with losing it. I stopped and went back for it nearly getting plowed down by a ton of runners, but I saved the necklace and secured back around my neck where it belonged.
I tried to relax and focus on running "half marathon effort." I was a little unsure of what that was and I kept telling myself to "slow down" and "relax." It seemed easy, but easy can go ugly fast in the longer races. I only had a watch on and I refused to look at it until mile 4. I could see the 3:15 pacer up ahead with the balloons and I knew I HAD to slow the "F" down. I had to learn to trust myself again and not rely on the clock to dictate my pace. I completely missed mile 1 and by mile 2 the 3:15 pacer had moved ahead quite a bit, which was good. Mile 3 I saw the clock and it said 23:26. I figured I was about a minute behind and knew I was still too fast!! 22:26 that was nearly 5k pace for me.
I didn't even bother checking my watch at mile 4 because I knew I would be ahead of the time I had on my hand. I really enjoyed the course and the fans. It reminded me of parts of Akron, without all the hills (thankfully). The official clock showed said 39:01 at the 5 mile marker as I passed.
Somewhere around this time the 3:25 pacer and company swallowed me. It startled me because I hadn't seen a 3:20 pacer. In retrospect it makes sense, because of the new Boston standards, but it's weird nonetheless. They were moving faster than me and I knew I had to stay with them if I wanted to hit my goal. I was a little nervous to because they had time on me from the start, since I had crossed first.
The second start around the 10k marker was strange. I didn't think the crowd was any bigger than some of the other spots on the course, but the effort made by the Columbus marathon to make this a first class race was not lost on me.
As we got back out on Broad Street I started to feel a little fatigue. I was only half way done and in between my thoughts of "Oh shit" I tried to remind myself to stay calm, acknowledge I was tired, relax and just hold a steady pace. To add insult to injury some guy in a kilt and blond wig passed me about then. I noticed the 3:25 balloons had gotten a little farther ahead of me too. I forced myself to work my way back to the balloons and to stare at them. "Focus on the balloons Heier!! Focus!!"
I feel as of late, I get theses bouts of ADD in races and as I passed by a DJ on the left side playing a dope jam that started to pump me up a little, I heard a rock band on the other side drowning it out somewhat. The master mix just ended up annoying me as I ran by. Why would someone place a DJ across from a band and not spread them out with one farther down the street?
"The balloons Heier!! Where are the Balloons?!" again "Focus!!" I was struggling to breathe a little at this point and I forced myself to slow and take a few breathes, trying to re-center myself. I could tell my arm swing had become a little more side-to-side and I was hunching over more. I dropped my arms down lower focused on driving my elbows back and engaging my hips. The balloons had gotten a little closer.
By mile 9 my right leg had turned to cement (usually it's my left leg, with the bad hamstring and the chronic plantar fasicitis that takes a dump on me). My quad was aching and I could feel those precursor twinges a runner gets in their hamstring and calf before they ball up and say STOP!! I have not been running the mileage I normally run in prep for a marathon and I assumed this was just a side effect.
It was apparent this was going to get somewhat painful for the last half hour and I was going to have to fight to make my goal. I had talked to A-train on the drive down and promised him I would not be a pussy and I would run hard for the entire race, no matter how bad it hurt. I was regretting that promise from mile 9 on.
My breathing was more labored and there were some spots where we hit a headwind. It was a double edged sword. I wasn't happy to be running into the wind because it was slowing me down even more, but it felt so nice. I was hot from mile 2 and had been dumping water on my shoulders throughout the race.
When I hit mile 10, I tried to tell myself it was only a 5k, 24 minutes. It didn't matter 5k was too far. I could only focus on one mile at a time. Mile 11 came and went, along with my breathing. I was dead. I pushed forward and the the "F-bombs" came spewing out in my mind...
"Don't be a f*ckin' pussy Heier!"
"Less than 2 f*ckin' miles!"
"You should quit now, you can't f*ckin' do it. Show the world what a quitter you are!!"
That last one worked -- it always does. I got angry enough to force myself to mile 12. I know it seems strange, but whenever I feel numb and I am fading, when I tell myself to quit, to stop, that I can't do it, somewhere deep down I get angry enough to hold on a little longer. Completely stupid, but it works for me.
With one mile to go, I pushed from one traffic light to the next. I knew it was going to be really close and I felt like I was barely picking up my right leg. I could see a straight-a-way that ended going uphill with a left turn. I knew the finish was around that corner. The crowds were cheering and screaming. I used their energy to keep my head up and drive my ass up the hill. I hoped the finish wasn't too far past the corner.
I made the turn and couldn't see the finish, just some balloons and banners up ahead. My only saving grace was it was downhill. I let rip. I didn't even give a shit at that point if I cramped up. The downhill was steep enough I would just barrel roll to the finish if I went down, either way it would be over.
Luckily, I crossed the line on 2 legs. A wave of nausea hit me when I stopped and I immediately bent over. I realize I really don't run that hard. I just have a weak stomach when it comes to racing. The nausea passed after a few minutes and I grabbed a mylar blanket and my medal. I thanked the soldier who hung it around my neck for the medal and for protecting our country.
I made my way to the side to wait for JB, who was just a few minutes behind me and who got himself a 3 minute PR. I would not be able to do a cool down. My right leg was shot for the day.
My official time was 1:43:35. I missed my goal by 35 seconds, but that's okay. It was a realistic, but tough goal for me. I am not mad or disappointed. I ran with everything I had yesterday. It was my 3rd fastest 1/2 marathon ever. I kept my promise I did not run like a pussy.