Monday, June 6, 2011

Personal Record

Fantastic.  That's the best word I can think of to describe my race.  

I've mentioned before how 2:15 has been my goal for the past two races.  It's been taunting me.  Plagued by hip flexor issues, I just couldn't manage to get there.  2:18:30 was the closest I managed to get.  

This time around I was determined to hit that 2:15 mark.  I talked with the track coaches at the high school where I teach, picked the brain of the running coach at the gym I belong to and managed to work out my hip problem. With that under control,  I trained a little harder than before (although there's still a lot of room for improvement for next time) and at one month out, I felt pretty good.  Then I got hit with allergies and the sinus infection from hell.  It knocked me on my ass for about 2 weeks.  I still ran, but 4-6 miles was all I could manage at a time.  I tried to make up some slack in the 2 weeks before race day, but there was only so much I could do.

So I left for San Diego really unsure about this race.  My friend Monika and I drove down on Sat morning and went straight to the expo.  After checking in and browsing all the vendors, we stopped at the pace team booth.  Monika and I both have the habit of starting out way too fast, then falling off at the end.  She is usually  quite a bit faster than me, but was laid up for 6 weeks with a stress fracture in her shin, and had really only just gotten back into it.  She was just as unsure as I was about this race.  We had decided that we would sign up for a pace team.  We'd never done it before, but a lot of people swear by them, so we'd thought we'd give it a try.  

We signed up for the 2:10 group.   Yep, 5 minutes faster than my goal of 2:15.  

I have to admit, I was scared.  I didn't know if I could pull that out.  But Monika and I had agreed that this race we'd try to stay together, and I told her that I really wanted this and her job was to not let me give up.  

Monika and I at the start (me on the right!) 

Race morning we woke up at 4:30 am, got dressed, and walked the mile to the Start Village.  We checked our gear, then headed for the porta potty line (with my roll of toilet paper in hand!).  And it was the porta potty line from HELL (surprise, surprise).  But I had to go.  As we inched closer to the front, and time ticked closer and closer to start time, I have to admit....I almost had a panic attack. (Not to mention we had to listen to this annoying girl brag about her running exploits the entire time....ugh).  I got to the bathroom as the first two corrals started. 

[Side note:  My roll of toilet paper was much appreciated by many of the people in line with us...told you, instant friends.]   

We raced to our corral, #18, then shoved squeezed our way through the mass of people to find the 2:10 pace team.  

Our orange "beacon"  

About 10 minutes later, we had made our way to the start line and we were OFF!  And it wasn't long before I knew that the pace team was a good idea.  Our pacer was awesome.  Not only did he keep us at a nice, steady pace, he told jokes, gave encouragement, and was our own personal cheerleader.  

We stayed right with him until the second aid station (can't remember what mile that was).  At that point, the group walked through the aid station and grabbed water.  We chose to keep going.  After that, we didn't see or hear the group again until near the end.  But we knew that as long as they didn't pass us, we'd meet our goal.  

And then came miles 4 through 6.  What was wrong with those miles???  Why, a nice little climb.  It wasn't terrible, just a lot more than I was expecting.  And by mile 6, I was hating it.  But Monika (who is now officially the Wind Beneath My Wings) kept me going.  She pushed me.  If she hadn't of been with me, that stretch might have blown my whole race. 

But as much as I hated the uphill, the downhill between miles 6 and 7 was glorious.  We definitely made up the time we had lost between miles 4 and 6 and then some.  

We trucked along pretty well until mile 10.  And that was when we both had to dig deep.  I can't explain what happened to me during that mile, but I KNEW I was going to make my goal. I was mentally focused.  I have never felt that good that late in the race before, and at mile 11 I got a little bit of a second wind.  

But that was when Monika hit her wall.  I suddenly noticed she wasn't with me anymore, so I slowed down and looked for her.  She was back about 10 yards or so, kind of run/walking.  I thought it was her leg, but later found out it was her stomach.   And just like she did for me during miles 4-6, I slowed down and pushed her.  She got back in there (she's a champ, I tell you), and we kept on going. 

Now, the San Diego course is simply beautiful...everything except the end stretch going into Sea World parking lot.  I mean, it's a parking lot.  How scenic can it be?  I kept looking for a peek of the finish line, but it never came.  That stretch of the race seemed sooooo looooong.  As we came up on about 12.5 miles, I heard the 2:10 pace guy yelling somewhere behind me.  And that lit a fire under me.  No way in hell was I going to lose my 2:10 in the last 1/2 mile!  So I picked it up a little.  Monika fell back a tiny bit, but I knew she wasn't too far behind and that she would want me to go ahead if I felt good.  When I look at the data from my Garmin, I can see where I kicked it gear for the last stretch to the finish line.  

When I crossed the line and hit stop on my Garmin, I had done it.   2:09:25.  (2:09:23 official chip time).  Monika crossed the line at 2:09:37 (The one and only time I'll beat her, I'm sure!)

After the race

Nine minutes faster than my old PR.  

I'm so damn proud of myself.  I really am.  I felt like I ran my best race, and that's such a good feeling.  

And that 2:15 won't be haunting me anymore.  

Now I need to set a new goal.  Maybe I should shoot for sub-2 hours.   Hmmmmm.......maybe I'll shoot for that in Vegas!

Friday, June 3, 2011

San Diego or BUST!

Well, tomorrow morning I will be picking up my partner in crime (Monika) bright and early and hitting the road for Rock 'n Roll San Diego.  I don't know what we're more excited for:  running the race, or a couple of days without kids.  Hmmmm.....

Yesterday I spent a little time getting my stuff together. Now this isn't my first will be my fourth 1/2 marathon. Before the first one, I was a nervous wreck.  What do I bring? What do I wear? How early do I need be there? For someone with life-long anxiety issues, there was a lot to worry about.  But now I don't stress.....much.  While I'm by no stretch of the imagination an expert in anything running related, I've figured out what works for me on race day.

So here's my "bare necessities" for race day:

Garmin:  I teach high school math and have a BS in Civil Engineering.  In other words, I'm a nerd.  A nerd who likes numbers.  I can't help myself.  I love seeing all that data.

Running belt:  Yes, I carry my own stuff.  For a few reasons. I'm used to it. I can eat/drink when I want, not just when it's available.  Aid stations are complete zoos.  I'd rather just keep on trucking through them.  Also, I've heard from people I know that have worked races that things aren't always as "hygienic" as I would probably like (mixing with bare hands, filling water jugs from hoses and hydrants...yeah, no thanks!)

Gu:  ONLY  Vanilla Bean GU.  I have issues with my sinuses draining when I run, so I always need to spit.  If I consume something that needs to be chewed, that just makes more spit.  So that leaves me with gels.  I've tried them all.  Vanilla Bean GU is the only one that I can tolerate...and that's just barely.

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!  I'm pale. Not as translucent as my 1/2 British kids, but pretty pasty.  I have two skin colors:  white or burnt.  

Burt's Bees Lip Balm:  My lips get really dry when I run, so I slip this in my belt to use during the race.  It's the best lip balm ever.

My clothes.  Not too picky there.  Shorts and a tank top.  Something comfortable and moisture-wicking that doesn't rub any body parts in any weird ways.  And if it's cute and matchy-matchy, score! I've worn this outfit a few times so I know it doesn't bug me.

Hat.  I have to wear a hat.  I can't take the sun without it.  And this hat is my fave.  It's dri-fit and it's a youth size, so it actually fits my head.

Footwear:  Most important!  I've run in the New Balance 850 series (857, 858, back to 850s) for the past few years and I love them.  They are a stability shoe, and they work for me.

As for the socks....sigh.  My feet get hot, so I'm picky about the thickness of my socks.  These socks were recommended to me by someone at Road Runner Sports.  They are Balega Low Enduro's.  They are damn comfortable.  But man are they hot!  I don't like my feet to feel sweaty, but I don't like blisters either, so these are what I go with for long runs.  They haven't done me wrong yet.

Finally....the most important thing in my Gear Check Bag.

Yes, a roll of T.P.  Have you ever been in the porta-potties at a race?  Everyone's bowels are in serious overdrive.  And it never fails...I will choose the one without toilet paper.  Solution: bring your own roll and hit the toilets before you drop your bag at Gear Check.  And if you want to make a lot of instantaneous best friends, share your TP with the other people in line.  They will love you.  

Well, that's it!  I'm ready to go!  Can't do anything else to prepare...I just have to go out there, have fun and run my race!