Having my playlist perfectly match my race--picking up as I speed up, providing motivating lyrics when I'm lagging, pumping me up for a final finish push--makes me almost as giddy as executing a great race. Yesterday I nailed it--the playlist part, anyway--at the Heart Breaker Half in Portland. My time goal was to finish closer to 1:50 than 2:00, but that didn't happen: I finished in 1:57:58 (sigh: getting older is no fun!). Yet I'm proud of how strongly I ran from start to finish, especially up a 2-mile climb, then pushing to the very end. The Marathon: Own It plan from Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity called for 20 miles yesterday, so I slowly ran 3+ miles from our house to the start, then the same route home, calling it good. Here is the race via a few song highlights. (I'll post the full playlist, along with a real race pic, later in the week--I'm running on fumes right now.)
Start: "Telling the World" by Taio Cruz
Given that my eyes are focused on the Boston Marathon and that this half-marathon was prep for it, I wasn't feeling very "emotionally connected" to the halfsie. Yet as racers in red tees, compression gear, and funky knee socks surged en masse in the first hundred yards and Taio serenaded me with the uplifting lyrics of, "Every part in my heart I'm giving out/Every song on my lips I'm singing out/Any fear in my soul I'm letting go," my heart soared. It was game on, and I was filled with a deep love of the scene as it was unfolding. (Fine, shoot me, but sappy sentiment flows as freely as sweat when I run.)
Nearing Mile 2: "Faster" by Matt Nathanson
I vowed to start out at a conservative pace, so instead of following the title of the song, I honed in on the refrain, "you make my heart beat faster," reminding myself this was a chance to warm up.
Mile 3: "Tonight's the Kind of Night" by Noah and the Whale
Mile III is where I switch from warm-up to race pace. Rather than risk going into overdrive with a similarly themed song--"I Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas--I opted for a tune from a band I only discovered last week. My optimism for a speedy time was fueled by the lines, "Because tonight's the kind of night/where everything could change." (Okay, so it was morning...and maybe Noah was trying to tell me I could have a craptastic race instead of a fast one...but like I said, I was in full-on Optimist Mode.)
Nearing Mile 5: "Mr. Know It All" by Kelly Clarkson
The racers were well spread out by this point (the race had fewer than 500 participants so it never qualified as "crowded), and I was running on my own for more than a mile. But I caught up to a loose cluster of about seven racers as we ran through an industrial stretch. One fella didn't enjoy being "chicked" (passed by a woman), so he immediately sped up and re-past me. Well, that move was successful for about, oh, five steps, at which point Ms. American Idol crooned, "Baby, you should know I lead not follow." Grrrrrl power!
Past Mile 7: "You and I" by Lady Gaga
Stay with me on this one: I'd past the halfway point, but I knew two of the most notorious uphill miles in Portland lay directly ahead. As Stefani Germanotta (a.k.a. Lady Gaga) started singing about her busted, long-term relationship with someone from Nebraska, a vivid image of my younger daughter, Daphne, in her Nebraska sweatshirt shot into my mind. Suddenly the grammatically incorrect "you and I" became Daphne and me, running side by side. My whole body, including my feet, felt lifted up by love for my dear daughter.
Closing in on Mile 10: "Cheers" by Rihanna
Focusing on the climb made the music a bit of a blur--other than Jessie J directing, "everybody look to the left, everybody look to the right" in "Price Tag"--but when Rihanna and her backup boys started toasting each other, I felt they were celebrating my climb. I'd passed several runners, and managed to not let my per-mile pace drop more than about 30-40 seconds. My exuberance even bubbled over: When a woman with a thick, blonde braid, who I'd been tracking for miles, slowed to a walk, I encouraged her to, "stay strong," and when another one surged past me, I told her what, "a great hill cimber" she was.
Mile 11.5: "I Like It" by Enrique Iglesias
This was the start of the most money set of gun-for-the-finish songs. Mock me all you want, but I love this song and how it never fails to rev me up. By this point of the race, we'd been cruising steadily downhill for more than a mile and a half, and the course was starting to level out somewhat. Just ahead the blonde I'd urged on at the end of the climb was slowing again. As I came up on her, I yelled out, "Braid, come on: Stay with me to the end." Hmmm, bossy or helpful? I meant for it to be the latter, and she kept up with me for about a half-mile. But then my booster-rockets were fired up by...
Mile 12.35: "Good Feeling" by Flo-Rida
Too perfect! If there's one song that gets my juices flowing more than "I Like It," it's this club mix. The feeling felt especially good because the course started to slope down again, boosting my pace.
Miles 12.88: "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" by Kelly Clarkson
By this point, my mind is being blown by the perfection of the playlist--which was good because it made me concentrate on something other than my lungs about to burst and my heart pumping overtime. I honed in on her words, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger/Stand a little taller [I straightened up my back, dropped my hunched shoulders, tightened my core]/Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone/What doesn't kill you makes a fighter/Footsteps even lighter." I needed my footsteps to feel even lighter, as a little dip turned into a quick climb before a final turn to the left. Then, helllllllo, finish line!