Thursday, November 10, 2011

Girls ROCK!

[Side note:  I have been very absent from this blog...last post was in August...YIKES!  Without going into all the gory details, I am going through some huge changes in my personal life.  Blogging had to take a back seat for awhile, and sadly, running kind of did too.  I've tried to keep putting in miles while my life went sideways, but I'm definitely off-track from where I want to be.  I'm hoping to be able to get my "running mojo" back over the next month.]

Sunday, November 6 I had the pleasure of running in the Women's Half Marathon in the Scottsdale-Tempe area.  This race is put on by Women's Running Magazine to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.   I haven't run this race before, but I can say I'd definitely do it again.

Without getting too "touchy feel-y," there is something empowering about running a race that is almost all women.  Oh sure, there were a few guys.  At least 6...that's how many I saw out on the course.  But this race was mostly about women.  From the awesome "swag bag," to the great shirt (women's cut nice!), to the beautiful medal, this race was all about the girls.   There were big groups of friends, lots of first time 1/2-marathoners, and of course, the always inspiring cancer survivors.

My race day started at the ungodly hour of 3:45 am.  Yes, THREE FORTY FIVE AM.  Ugh.  I had to get up, dressed, eat, quickly walk my dogs and drive all the way across the Valley to catch the 5:05am shuttle to the start line.  Since this isn't my first rodeo, I knew that having everything ready to go the night before is key.

Can I just say that I love it when our names are on the race bib?  It's so nice having total strangers cheer for you by name!

The shuttle dropped me off at the start line at 5:20am.  And it was cold.  This was really the first cold weekend here in AZ.  Temps were in the 40s.  I know, you Northern and Eastern people think we're wimps.  Whatever.  I could see my breath. And the race wasn't starting until 7am.  I would be a popsicle by then. Luckily, the awesome race volunteers let us sit on the Gear Check bus to stay warm.

My friend Monika was dropped off at the start at just after 6am.  We stayed on the bus in the warmth until about 6:30, then decided it was time for our pre-race porta-potty stop.

Now, we all know how race porta-potties are....just nasty.  Everyone's "system" is revolting, whether it be nerves or what they ate.  And they almost always run out of toilet paper, which is why we now bring our own roll.  But I made an interesting observation at this race.

Women's Races = Cleaner Porta-Potties.

Now, I'll need to do some more research on this theory, but I don't think it's a coincidence that there were so few guys and much cleaner toilets.  I have a son, I know how you guys are in the bathroom.  :) These porta-jons were almost pristine...with plenty of T.P.

So now it was off to find our corral. All the 1/2s we've done so far have been Rock 'n Roll events, which are huge.  So we've always been in corral 10-13.  This was a much smaller race, so we were in Corral 3.

Monika and I pre-race. 

Neither Monika or I had really set any goals for this race. Monika had been up most of the night before doing a Scavenger Hunt race with her husband, and my mileage has been in the toilet lately.  So honestly, it was just run what feels good and see what we get.

When we lined up, we noticed that the 2 hr pacer was in our corral.  On whim, we decided we would just hang with him as long as we could.  And we did...for the first 7-8 miles.

Between miles 6 and 7, I saw two things I've never seen in a race before.

First, we had to avoid a stiff-as-a-board dead cat in the middle of the course...yuck!  Monika had the pleasure of almost stepping on it.

Then I saw something really disheartening.  There was a couple of stretches of the race where you ran down one side of a road, then did a turnaround and ran down the other side of the median.  We actually watched two girls cut across the median about a 1/4 mile before the turnaround.  Really?  I couldn't believe it. I wanted to point at them and yell "CHEATERS!!!"  (I didn't).  I know they weren't going to win the race or anything, but come on.  It's just not right.  I hope they are ashamed of themselves.

The organizers of this race kept telling everyone how nice and flat the course was. Flat except for the hill between 7 and 8 that kicked my ass, and then the big hill at mile 10-ish.  Oh, and the hill between mile 11 and 12.  I don't mind some hills, but the ones that come toward the end of the race are just brutal.

As we went up the first hill, we tried to hang with the pacer.  Monika managed to do it.  I fell off a bit.  My lack of mileage was starting to kick in.  The longest run I had gotten in over the previous 3 weeks was 6 miles.  My body was saying "Ok, you can stop now!"

But Monika pulling ahead is nothing new.  She's generally a faster runner than me anyway.  I kept her in my sights....until about mile 9.  Then my damn hip flexor started screaming at me.  A quick look at my Garmin told me that I was still in good shape to at least finish near my current PR time of 2:09.  So I decided to stop and walk for 1 minute and stretch out my hip.  Monika kept on trucking and then I lost sight of her.

That minute did the trick, and I took off again feeling renewed.  Until that nasty hill near mile 10.  I turned a corner and there it was. I took one look at it and how slow everyone was trucking up it and made a decision:  I wasn't going to run up it just to gain maybe 30 seconds, but be wiped out at the top.  So I walked.  And a dozen or so people passed me.  But then I got to the top, feeling a little refreshed, and started off again...passing all the people who passed me on the hill.

And for some strange reason, I felt like I had a second wind.  I looked at my Garmin and I was running a 9:30 pace.  That's pretty quick for me, especially at mile 11!

Then I saw her...Monika in her red & white hat.  And I slowly but steadily closed the gap, tapping her on the shoulder at Mile 12.  We got to finish the race together after all.  Monika has now nick-named me "Lazarus."  She had written me off after I fell behind at Mile 7.

My official finish time:  2:04:41.  A new PR.  Who would've thought?  Totally undertrained, I managed that time.  A friend of mine said I wasn't undertrained, just "well-tapered."  Ha! I'm not gonna lie...I suffered.  I really had to dig down deep for those last few miles.  It never ceases to amaze me what we runners can force our bodies to do in the moment.

Monika and I post-race....

And the medal.  This is now my favorite medal.  It's just gorgeous.

It's big (probably 4-inches across) and mirrored, and the center is a charm that you can take out and put on a necklace.  Very nice touch!

Looking forward Rock 'n Roll Vegas.  Only a few weeks, but I'm hoping to get some good running in between now and then.  I'm out of commission for a few days due to some medical stuff, but hopefully next week I can get back to it.  That race has a goal:  2 hours or less.  I think I can do it.

Happy Running! 

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