I can only begin to tell you how much more chill I was at the start of the Empire State Half Marathon, my second half, than I was at the start of the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, my first. This dynamic was also true with me and childbirth. I was wound pretty tightly when it came to making sure baby number one had the “perfect” birth. With kid number two, I could have birthed anywhere as long as that epidural drip just kept working its magic.
I was pretty chill on Sunday for another reason: it was really freaking cold. Forty degrees is a great temperature for running, yes, but it is a hard temp to bear when you are waiting for the run to start. Fortunately, I’d grabbed a throw-away sweatshirt before I left home and was less numb than I could have been when the proverbial gun went off.
My friend Lisa, who I know from a knitting retreat I’ve gone to for quite a few years now, came down from New Hampshire to run with me. Her official 13.FUN race was a couple of weeks earlier and she killed her goal time. Fortunately, she had enough stamina (or lack of common sense) to sign up for another run so close to her last one.
Before the official race start, I sandwiched myself between two parked cars to block the wind while I waited for Lisa to hit the porta-potties one last time. And while I was standing there, women from the AMR meet-up the previous night kept wandering up, drawn by my muppet-like nimbus of pre-race hair being tossed by gale force winds.
Just a quick note about the meet-up: Mother Runners are awesome.
A couple of other quick notes: If there hadn’t been a race the next day, I suspect the eight of us could have spent the rest of the night talking and laughing and commiserating. We had a whole range of stories to share. Some were about running, as you might imagine, but others were about having small children and tweens and college age kids. There was talk of injuries and leaky bladders.
There was also swag, which had been sent by the AMR home office aka Dimity’s house. When I opened the box, the air smelled like Denver.
We didn’t make any formal plans to hook up at the start. It just kind of happened, mostly because the Empire State Half Marathon is small enough to run into people and I am relatively tall.
After Katherine Switzer gave her pre-race pep talk, we were counted down and sent off. The speedier of the AMR meet-up runners took off. Lisa, Molly, and I settled in for a 2:30 finish.
I didn’t really notice the first three miles. The pace was just a leeetle bit faster than I’m used to and I had to focus to keep up. I also had to focus to push through the bitter headwind. If any race could have benefited from a peloton, this would have been it.
What shocked me most was how the pace felt OK, even through the first half of the race. I kept disbelieving the 11:30 number on Herr Garmin, even though he has never, ever lied to me before. But there it was — and it was corroborated by the watches around me. Turns out that inconsistent training still can provide benefits. Crazy.
Which makes me think two things: maybe I’ll spend some time this winter training to complete a speedy quick 5K in the early spring and maybe I could even get below 2:30 in Pittsburgh in May. But those thoughts are getting ahead of the story.
The three of us stuck together until just past mile eight. Ms Molly felt the need for a little more speed; Lisa and I cheerfully urged her on. Between that point and just before the end of the course, Lisa and I alternately chatted and ran in comfortable silence. Every now and again, we stopped so that she could stretch her IT band, which was beginning to grumble, and I could shake out my lower back, which was beginning to tighten up. Also every now and again, we were passed by the first pack of marathoners, who would sneak up behind us like jungle cats, then speed on down the road, looking like they could maintain that pace for hours.
About half-a-mile out, Lisa dared me to reel in the runner in pink in front of us. I said something that can politely be translated as “never going to happen,” but gave it a go. After catching said runner, Lisa suggested reeling in the next runner. I believe I was more emphatic in my never going to happen - in my head, at least, because saying what I was thinking would have taken more energy than I had. Still, I gave it a go — but we crossed the finish before we caught her.
I can honestly say that without the support of Lisa, who you should all run with because she is pretty dang awesome, and Molly, whose left shoulder I spent the bulk of the race drafting off of, I never would have set a PR of 2:32.
That number still makes me smile: 2:32. I had no idea I had that in me. But, as the kids say, woot. There it is.
We’re musing about meeting up for another local-ish race — maybe Wineglass, because, um, wine — next fall. More details to come, should there be more details.
As for the rest of the week, I’ve been basking in my post-PR glow and deeply digging the lack of long, hard training runs in my immediate future. I might, like, bake a pie this weekend, just because I can.
How do you celebrate after any goal race? Do you enjoy all of your newly found free time? Or simply start plotting the next race?