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!