AmFam Fitness Half Marathon

Home today but I am going to try and do a post race recap on my less than optimal keyboard set up at home.

My goal when I began my training was to run a 2:30 minute half marathon. I needed a roughly 11:30 minute mile pace to accomplish that goal.

I had a rough start to my training; Pennsic, Byram’s back surgery, immediately followed by a terrible bout with TMJ (STRESS!!!). But by late September and early October, I finally felt like I was finding my groove and getting my race on.

It was on Octber 13, on our 10 mile run, that I turned up with pain in my right knee. Not a little bit of pain, either.

Each week, the pain got worse, and I debated deferring my race until 2013, but I pressed on, got a great chiropractor, and gave my IT band every ounce of loving care I could.

So Saturday morning, I was wide awake and ready to run at 0500. I knew my 2:30 race was a physical impossibility; I knew in it my head as much as in my heart. My fear was that I was running a 3 hour half marathon though. That was my worst case scenario. The 12 mile training run two weeks before had taken over 2:45 to complete because of my knee, and it wasn’t impossible that I was going to take all of 3 hours to do this.

That thought made my guts clinch every time it crossed my mind.

Byram drove me through the dark and stunningly quiet city streets and deposited me at the steps to the Capitol building. I was a little early, which allowed me time to check my bag and find my friend Christine, who would be lining up for the 8k race at 0700. I easily found her and we chatted for a bit, talked about potential future races, and I wished her the best before heading back to the Capitol for the team gathering and photo op.

The sun came up while I was up on the Capitol steps, and it was an achingly gorgeous sunrise. The whiteness of the Capitol seemed to glow around us as the sun came up, and the windows of all the taller buildings sparkled with the reflected light, while the little crescent moon and Venus still glowed very brightly in the rich, deep royal blue sky. Words fail me and I wish I had the spirit of a poet.

After photos, I went back to Broad Street and just started walking up and down the street between 6th and 9th Streets, hoping to spot any familiar faces. I was near the sound booth where the National Anthem was performed, which was very moving, and a well-timed plane out of Richmond International flew overhead evoking some of the very large sporting events I have been too with military fly-overs.

I never found Christine again, but I waited by the starting line for the 8k and cheered for her. I looked for the attorney I work for who was a couple of waves ahead of me, but never saw him. I looked for some of the people I knew either directly or through the blog-o-sphere who were running the marathon, but saw no one.

It was a little lonely that hour or so pacing in the cold. Back and forth back and forth; I ditched my warm layer that would be picked up and donated to the homeless around 7:40. Right around 7:46 like scheduled, I hit the starting line and my race was off.

Even though I had no prayer of running a 2:30 race, I found the 2:30 pace leader and tried to stay behind him; it turned out it took the first mile before I slowed my roll enough to actually fall behind him and pace with him. Not surprised I started too hot; most people do.

Broad Street is straight, flat, and even; not picturesque. The only remarkable things about the first two miles to me were the 2 mile long human snake of people running ahead of me and the marathoners who passed us; those elite runners were an incredible sight to see. At the time they passed us, the leader was a very tall thin white young man running for all he was worth; maybe 30 seconds behind him was a whole pack of Kenyans. That was quite the sight.

I hit The Boulevard feeling good, smiling and waving to spectators, keeping the neon green shirt of the pace leader in front of me. The hill over the train tracks right before 3 miles was rough for some reason. I lost careful control of my breathing by the time I reached the top, and felt a bit panicky while I couldn’t quite breathe normally on the way down the hill. I did eventually get myself back together, but the neon green shirt had started to pull away. I put my head down, turned up the music and promised myself that I would run my own race and not worry about anything else.

Miles 4 and 5 were uneventful. I took on a GU at about 4.5 miles, with my goal being that it would kick in right around the time I hit Bryan Park, which is the most up and down part of an otherwise pretty flat course.

Byram had signed up for the text messaging service provided to let him get a text when I hit my 10k split. I ran my ass off excited to know he would get a little message when I hit that magic spot. As it turned out, he didn’t. Ah well, my 10k split was 1:12:05; I was happy with that since in training, my 10k time is typically closer to 1:15.

Bryan Park was through, and Iwas running in Northside Richmond now. My least favorite part of all of the long runs I have done is Brook Road. I cannot explain why it is, but I hate running on Brook Road. This time was no different, and here I began to lose the mental battle. My body was really feeling the pounding of all the pavement at this point; my femurs felt like they were trying to break my hip sockets apart. Miles 9 and 10 were dark in my mind. You know the most incredible thing: of all the parts of my body that hurt at that point, my right knee was the least of my worries. The chiro, the PT, the stretching, the rest, the ice, the heat, all of it did exactly what it was supposed to do and that was get me through those miles.

When we hit Mile 10, there was a balloon arch over the course, and it was set up to look like a race starting line. A sign said “START – 5k Fun Run!” I found that hysterical and it lightened my dark mood. 3.1 miles to go. I started finding my confidence again, lost the desire to have someone load me in a cart and carry me home, and started getting back into my groove. My hips hurt, my back ached, my calves were cramping, but I got my ass moving again.

I felt like I was back in familiar territory (not that Brook Road is foreign territory, but it feels like no-mans land); we crossed Broad, turned left on Grace, crossed Belvidere, and my brain stopped thinking at all. Time to go, move my ass, almost there. The blocks were moving past now; I was going home. On Grace Street, the Marathon pace car caught up to us again. This time, a Kenyan man was firmly in the lead and running easily in the realm of a 5 minute mile pace, and he made it look like he was hardly working at all. It was an incredible thing to see in person and up close. I believe he was the winner ultimately.

Now it was Grace to 3rd, 3rd to Franklin, Franklin to 5th, and 5th to the finish.

5th Street is all downhill and I let the downhill take me; by the time I hit Byrd Street, I was probably running an 8:30 min/mile; I let everything out, hit the finish line and then it was finally over.

Someone handed me my medal and smiled and congratulated me. Someone else handed me water. All I really could think was that I wanted one of those thermal blankets because I was getting cold really fast. I crossed over a bridge onto Brown’s Island, found said blanket distrubters, wrapped myself in one and began to wonder how and where I might find my family.

I knew the SportsBackers tent had something for us (a 13.1 sticker it turned out) and so I went there first; I had also told Byram I would go there after the race, but we had no set plan to meet somewhere specific. Just after collecting my sticker, I turned around and just at that moment, Byram and my Mom were walking past heading towards the chute. We reunited happily on the grass where I stretched and posed for a photo op.

When I stood up, my vision turned a little blue and sparklie and I recognized that I was pretty light-headed. They got me pointed in the direction of the food tent where I grabbed a slice of cheese pizza and a bagel. I ate the pizza first wanting the salt and protein in it; I am not sure pizza has ever tasted so good. We meandered the island a bit trying to locate bag check because I really wanted my warm hoodie that was in my bag, but the UPS trucks were parked all the way back across the bridge and by the MeadWestVaco building; I would have liked to have visited more of the post-race stuff on the island, but I needed that hoodie, and once I was off the island, I wasn’t going back. Might send them a bit of feedback regarding that.

I collected my bag and made a humble request for a large, non-fat, sugar free caramel latte at Shockoe Espresso, which was on the way back to the van, and so we undertook the mile long walk back towards the Slip. The latte was achieved, a lady selling roses talked my husband into purchasing one, and soon, we were in the van and headed home.

My offical time came later that day: 2:42 (and change that I cannot remember at this moment). Longer than my original 2:30 goal, dramatically less than my 3 hour worst case scenario, and slightly less than my privately anticipated time of 2:45.

Like every thing I do, I am in a mixed head space about it. The fact that I even ran when I was once a near-scratch for this race was an amazing thing. The fact that I came in only about 45 seconds per mile OVER my originally-desired race pace was remarkable given my slack in training in the past 4 weeks and the injury I was dealing with. But as always, in the back of my mind I feel dramatically inadequate when I consider my overall time and pace. It should be easy to say “F*ck that noise, you ran 13.1 miles and it doesn’t matter how long it took” but that is not my nature.

I am already making plans for March 16th and running the Instant Classic Half again. Upping my long runs, more speed training, more hill repeats, and so forth. Technically I earned a genuine PR Saturday for the half marathon distance. I was 5 minutes faster this time, and injured to boot. But I want to go to Pocahontas in March and earn a PR on that course.

I am still chasing my 2:30 half distance, and I have goals beyond that as well.

So for now I will accept my weird mental headspace about this race; grateful that I ran it, grateful I did as well as I did, grateful for my team, family, coaches, and support staff, but already, I am looking ahead.

I don’t think I will ever EVER be perfectly content with any performance I put out. Maybe that is a good thing; maybe not. But for all my grayness in my brain about it, I am still incredibly happy that I did it.

Next up – Christmas Tree 10k maybe? Maybe that New Year’s Eve race?

You can be sure that there will be SOMETHING.

I always press on, regardless.


One response to this post.

  1. Two minutes faster than my time last year. Whoo hoo! You rock!


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