Given how crappy my Half Marathons have been so far in 2015 — with both Pittsburgh (2:50) in May and Portland in July (2:59) I was happy to simply reach the finish line — I knew that shooting for a goal of 2:30, which was 20 minutes under what I’d run so far this year, would be a stretch. But Coach Christine thought it was do-able and devised a plan to get me there. I did my part by putting the work in, no matter how comfy my bed was.
Somewhere, in the middle of one of the killer tempo runs in the middle of the training cycle, I found another level of runner’s grit that I didn’t know I had. I wish I could point to one workout in particular but it seems to have been a cumulative thing. At some point, five miles at race pace of 11:22 was a completely achievable challenge.
I know. I’m shocked too.
I womaned the AMR booth at ZOOMA Cape Cod the weekend before Wineglass. Since I was already in Falmouth and the ZOOMA chicas had gone to the trouble to map out a 10K course, I figured I’d run it just for grins. Well, “run” is the wrong word. I wasn’t to unleash any beasts. I was to mosey. I was to amble.
So I did. My 10K stroll took 1:18 and I never really felt that I was working hard. The scenery was absolutely stunning and the weather could not have been more ideal — and how great I felt at the end was a huge confidence boost going in to Wineglass.
I spent most of the Wineglass weekend hawking AMR merch (with so much help from Marianne, Heather, Abbigail, Tamara, and Lisa) at the Expo. What makes me love this community the most is how lovely mother runners are. You guys are so willing to share your stories and support each other that it makes working the booth a delight.
That said — it is also rough on the feet and legs. Still, we all tagged each other out during the weekend in order to share the burden. Because that’s what BAMRs do.
Some of us couldn’t resist the lure of the Saturday morning 5K because the prize at the end was a Corelle medal and bowl. And yes, as the internet meme says, I might jump off of a bridge if there was a finisher’s medal at the end of it. Lisa and I meandered through the cold, damp course, which was a good way to burn off some pre-race jitters.
Half-marathon day dawned cold and clear. We caught the bus to the start at 5:30 a.m., then hung around a high school gym eating yogurt and drinking NUUN until we had to wander to the start at 7:30.
At which point, when I was far from a portapotty, I realized just how much NUUN one can drink in two hours. Dozens of runners were taking advantage of a nearby cornfield. I didn’t because I’m a city girl who is convinced that only evil lurks amongst the stalks. By the time I remembered that I have had two children and that my bladder sphincter is less than reliable, the race had started. By the end of mile one, I no longer had to pee, which was the upside. The downside is that my shoes kept squishing.
The first two miles felt great and I ran them like a dog chasing a frisbee, even though I know it is a rookie mistake that I have now made about a thousand times. Why is it so hard to stick to the plan? Why? I even internally commented that I was “giving myself a cushion” and “banking time,” even though I know that’s not really a thing.
Miles ticked away. As proof that I live in just the right area of the country, I actually got a little bored on the flatter parts of the course. A little downhill would have been lovely. Or up. Anything other than endless yards of flat — a hazard when the course is a net downhill and this particular runner is used to grappling with varied terrain. Regardless, the course was delightfully autumnal, with all of the pumpkin spice-iness that word calls to mind.
Until about mile 8, my mental game was dialed in. When my mental monkeys would come out to play, which they did every now and again just for fun, I refocused on the mile I was in. Then I changed something I could control, like making my podcast louder or quieter or switching songs or taking a Gu. Generally, that was enough to distract the monkeys, which is the Peter Gabriel album that gets no respect.
Even with these few wobbles, I stayed on pace until I hit mile ten. By the middle of that mile, I started to physically feel every single minute I’d spent on my feet at the Expo, every single step I’d taken during the previous day’s 5K, and every single second I’d “banked” during the first few miles. That’s when it started to really hurt.
I knew none of the pain was the harbinger of a real injury but, still, I’m not into the whole 50 Shades of Running. In the last half-mile, I developed a side stitch, which I never did shake until well after I crossed the finish line at 2:34.
Even though I was four minutes over my goal, I was — and still am — elated with how the race went. This run felt pretty great until the last little bit. I shoveled a ton of time off of my last two results. And, as Lisa and I marveled to ourselves on the bus ride to the start, we’ve only been running this distance for a little over a year and a half, even though it might feel like years and years.
Will I do some things differently next time? Of course. It’s a process. I’m going to work on entering the start like I’m a big hot air balloon and only cut off metaphoric sandbags one by one as I reach the last third of the race. That alone might buy me the extra speed I need.
And there will be a next time. I’ve already signed up for the Austin Half in February and Pittsburgh again in May. Given how hilly each course is, those might not be PR races — but I’m damn sure going to try, especially since I have this experience to build on. I might also be plotting to give the Wineglass course another go. I’ll take advantage of the corn field next time, too.
Was there a race or workout (or whatever) that fed your runner’s confidence? Or are you still looking for that boost?