Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wild Life Half Marathon: Trail Blazing

Freezing my little buns & boobies off in the parking lot before the race. It was 29 degrees this morning, people! You see the frost on the grass behind me?

This morning I ran a race which exceeded all of my expectations. At one point I felt as if I were having an out-of-body experience. It was that awesome.

First off, let's get the details out of the way: I set a new personal record by running a 1:43:01, which killed my previous PR, set in April at the Martian Half, by 4:01.

People. Never, ever, ever, EVER would I have thought I would be capable of running a sub-8:00 average pace for thirteen miles.

In early September I wrote this in an email to my running buddy TC:
"I registered to run a local half marathon on October 11. My goal is to at least improve on my PR from April (1:47:02) with a really improbable goal of 1:45:59 or better. An 8:05 pace for sub-1:46 vs. 8:09 to beat my PR...totally doable. Or even more wildly speculative, could I maintain an 8:00 avg and run a sub-1:45 (1:44:48 to be exact) half??? Will I be capable of that in six weeks? Who knows. I'm going to try, though. The course is flat as a pancake, a converted railroad to paved trail thing. One long straight shot, balls to the wall. Should be gorgeous, too, mid-October in Michigan with the leaves aflame in fall colors."
That goal was in serious jeopardy recently because my recurring hamstring injury flared up again a couple of weeks ago during track work with the RF501 gang. One minute I was pounding out a 1:35 400m interval...and the next I was hobbling dejectedly around the track trying to pretend this was. not. happening. again. Since then my hamstring has been much on my mind, dogging me every step of the way on every run I have undertaken. As recently as last Wednesday I was able to run only 2 miles in a row. I downgraded my goal for today's half marathon to "just run and have a good time." The weather forecast was decent, the race would be small, the scenery amenable...what's not to like? Just get out and run.

And run I did. Two days of inactivity did wonders for my hamstring. A pair of compression tights, wrapped snugly around my troublesome thigh, did the rest. I knew the potential for a great race was in me during the first mile. By mile 2 it was undeniable. I found that coveted groove, my fifth gear where I feel as if I could run forever and not shed a bead of sweat.

I was running east into the rising sun (ha) for the first half of the race, and several times, when the sunlight blinded me and I could barely see, I felt as if my legs were disconnected from the rest of my body. They turned over of their own accord, driving forward, pistonlike, and the rest of me was being carried along for the ride. I felt as if I were floating, literally skimming over the ground. It was a most peculiar yet exhilarating feeling. The miles flicked past so quickly, before I even knew it I had reached the turnaround point and was on my way back. I had kept up a blistering pace for so long, I knew at some point I was going to begin to feel fatigued, and around mile 9 it washed over me. My whole bearing changed: my torso angled forward, my chin raised up, my arms crept higher and barely moved, my breathing quickened. I was tiring and I knew it, but I also knew I had run a spectacular race thus far and I had it in me to finish strongly. At mile 10 I peeked at Garmy and saw I was at 1:19. I did a quick calculation and knew that with only 5K left, a PR was definitely in the bag. At the pace I was running, I would cruise through that 5K in under 24 minutes. 1:19 plus 24 minutes equals...1:43.

Holy crap. I was on pace to not only crush my PR, crush my "improbable goal" of sub-1:46, but crush my "wildly speculative" goal of sub-1:45. I just had to stay cool, stay relaxed, stay confident. I forced myself to concentrate on my posture and breathing as the final miles ticked off. Soon enough I passed mile 13, and with only one mile to go, I kicked it into an even higher gear. I passed the posts marking the end of the trail and knew I had only about a half mile to go. I reached deep inside, scraped up some final vestige of energy and let it flow through my muscles. When I pressed Garmy's stop button at the finish line and looked down, I only saw "1:42" on the display. I started laughing. 1:42 WHAT? I quickly found the screen which informed me I had run a 1:42:55, which I realized (sadly) would translate to something a few seconds slower for my official time in this non-chip-timed race. Indeed, my gun time ended up being 1:43:01.

This was the kind of race where one can walk up to the race director and ask "Hey, are there race results yet?" and then read them oneself from sheets which have been freshly printed and handed to one by said race director.

I love tiny races.

Anyway, my official time was 1:43:01, which I immediately zeroed in on as a complete FAILURE, because IF ONLY I had run TWO SECONDS FASTER somewhere on the course I could have gone sub-1:43...all I could think about was my highly annoying 50:00 10K PR from 2008 which twisted around in the back of my head for a year until I finally killed it in May. This is going to be that PR. I am going to obsess over it until I can kill it, and I have already decided where it will be: at next April's Martian Half Marathon. You're on notice, 1:43:01. You're going DOWN!

Never mind that 1:43:01 bested my previous PR by 4 minutes and 1 second and my hamstring didn't bother me at all and I ran one of the best races of my life and I finished third in my age group and 24th overall. No. 1:43:01, people. Two lousy stinking seconds away from 1:42:59. TWO LOUSY SECONDS!



The nitty gritty breakdown:

8:17, 8:04, 7:53, 7:50, 7:50, 7:46, 7:48, 7:48, 7:57, 7:55, 7:45, 7:44, 7:40 & 0.1 at a 6:57 pace.

Final stats: 1:43:01, 7:51/mile avg, 3/10 age group.

I ran today's race as part of the Worldwide Festival of Races global endeavor. I was proud to be part of this informal gathering of runners from all around the world.

I have to give totally mad props to FK, who ran with me every single step of the way in this half marathon. We were side by side, elbow to elbow, the whole way. If it weren't for him I doubt I would have done as well as I did. He pulled me along and kept me going. He's also way smarter than me because while I ripped open my Gu packets and choked their half-frozen contents down immediately, he warmed his up in his hand for a while before eating them.

Also, a huge HUGE HUUUGGEEE shout out to my peeps who ran the Chicago Marathon today: Spike, Morgan, Cowboy Hazel, and Coach Ted from the Chelsea/Dexter RF501 gang.

Final high note: Saturday when I drove out to Concord to pick up my race packet I went there directly from viewing the live broadcast of Tosca at the movie theater in Ann Arbor, and I sang opera the entire way to Concord and back to my house, a trip of approximately 90 miles, and I wasn't in danger of being pulled over for Speeding While Singing Opera Arias because...HELLO CRUISE CONTROL.

Even when I flung out the most perfect string of high Cs and Ds I've ever done (the final run from "Ach ich liebte") and I realized I was straining all of my legs muscles and gripping the steering wheel so hard my knuckles were white, I was motoring along at a sedate 72 MPH (in a 70 MPH zone).

Three weeks to NYC, people!


joyRuN said...

You just CRUSHED that PR!

Congrats :D

Now rub some of that awesome speediness off over here, 'k?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!! A huge PR. Well done.

girlrunningaround said...

Congrats! What an awesome race and race report!

Nitmos said...

Wow, awesome. You are in top shape this year! NYC here you come...


Spike said...

what a perfect and great race. you didn't just beat your pr, you killed it. somebody call the police!

Robert James Reese said...

Nice work! That's a huge P.R. The upper midwest was definitely the place to be yesterday -- that cold weather that made the start so uncomfortable was perfect for the race itself.

Thanks for the shout out, and for the comment. I'm going to the Jets game the day of the marathon, but I'm planning to swing by the GMR get-together afterwards. We'll have to have a beer then and celebrate your great running of NYCM.

Anne said...

Congratulations! Love this for you!

Payam Eric Nili said...

1 second off, huh? You do realize there's no significance between 1:42:59 & 1:43:00, right? It's more important that you ran a smart race, smiled to other fellow runners, finished with negative splits, felt good at the end, and gave it all you had. These details are what make you a great runner, not that 1-second differential.

Congratulations on conquering that race & bring on NYC.

Midwest said...

What an amazing race - and a great race report. I felt like I was right there with you, and it was glorious.

mr loser said...

Congrats on the clump and new PR!