This morning, Ben sauntered into our bedroom around 4:50 a.m., when I had the alarm set for 5:10 to get ready for the Denver Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon. The day was already starting out with hard choices; do I just get up and sacrifice 20 minutes of "sleep" and let him have my warm spot, or do I try to get him back in his own bed--or worse, sandwich him in between us? (Read: I reel from the stench of his urine-soaked Pull-up while he kicks me in the back?)
I get up. Dang him.
I watch an episode of Fashion Hunters on Bravo--only thing on that isn't an infomercial--eat my banana, English muffin with almond butter, please-let-me-poop steaming latte, gather my goods, and head over to the race. My car thermometers reads:
Brrr. Get really worked up about wondering if I should bring my gloves with me to the starting line. No, I finally decide, I won't need them, so I check them. Walk away for about a minute, stick my hands into my capris and realize, yes, I want them. So I retrieve checked bag and gloves and recheck. Get to the starting line, and burn about 100 calories shivering. Seriously freezing.
Pre-race, I talked with Brianna, my coach about my race goals and pacing strategy. My biggest goals: race a smart race, and finish strong. Pacing-wise, she wanted me to start at the back of the 2:10 pacer so I'd go out with three 10:00 minute miles--and not fly-and-die, as per my usual M.O.--then slowly reel, via miles that were 5 seconds or so faster that the previous one, in the 2:05 pacer.
I selectively forgot this bit of advice, and lined up in my assigned corral, where the 2:00 half-marathon and 4:00 marathon pacers were also standing. The 2:05 and 2:10 pacers were quite a ways behind me. I didn't want to burrow my way back into the crowd, so told myself I'd just go out at 10 minute miles, despite the fact I was in a corral with speedsters and I had nobody, except my wishy-washy self, to hold me back.
Our corral started moving up to the starting line, and I realized I was being an idiot, repeating the same mistakes I've always made (and for paying for a coach and not taking her advice). I found a little peninsula of space between two fences, so I wouldn't trip any runners, and waited for pacing peeps to creep up. I fell in behind the 2:05 guy, because he--smart pacer he is--was running 10:00 miles. His strategy, which he announced: start slow and get faster. There's a novel idea. He also mentioned a 2:05 is about 9:32 splits. Got it.
I hung with that group for two miles, which was a practice in self-restraint. The first mile has a nice, let-'er-rip downhill, and to look at my Garmin, hovering around 9:57, felt like making chocolate chip cookies and not eating any dough: no fun.
But my running was easy and light, and I was definitely not going out too hard. Win. Then my third mile clocks in around
And I freak a little. 9:30's have been, putting it mildly, hard for me sustain during this training stretch, so I pull back and let the pacer and his little 2:05 stick bob on ahead and decide to run my own race. If pacer boy is still in sight around 8 miles, I'll make my move to rejoin him. So I put on the cruise control, telling myself I'll keep my miles between 9:35-9:45 and enjoy the race.
Briana told me to take something at every aid station; the cold doesn't let you feel dehydration, which is an issue for salt-lick sweaty me, as well as hot, humid temps do. Since I'm totally buying in, I do this even though I'm not thirsty: water at some stations, Cytomax at others, three GUs around 30 minutes, 70 minutes, and 100 minutes. I really didn't want the last one, but SBS considers the third and final GU her secret weapon, so who was I to rebel?
Around Mile 7, I take off my gloves. I liked the symbolism: I'm taking my gloves off, my race is starting. Derobing is s a trick I use when I'm doing a tough workout like speedwork: I'll wear two layers on top until I'm at least 60% through the workout, and then shed one if the temps call for it. The chilly feeling of crisp air on previously sweaty parts gives me a little mental boost.
So I'm all fresh-handed and 4:10 marathon pace group swallows me up. Cool, I think, I'll jump in with these guys: if this pacer is like the other one, they'll be running 9:40's since it's only Mile 7 of the marathon. I speed up to hang, and...
Like 8:45. For at least a quarter-mile; it's not just a temporary glitch. I let them go, and feel sorry for the runners in his group. My new, improved smart-pacer self knows that's really fast to be going when you've got 19 more miles to go.
I resume my own race, but feel a little weary. I see the 2:05 group at two turn-arounds, and they're not out of range, but I'm not sure I have the juice to get to them. A 10:0o+ mile--my first of the race--from 10-11 does my spirit no good, even though it was a decent uphill. Then all of sudden, I pass my sisters-in-law who notice me before I see them. Five minutes later, I see Grant, who I didn't expect to see (cold temps + bored kids = no show). "Where are the kids?" I, always the mom, ask. "Right over there," he yells, "See you in a bit." I head into Cheeseman Park for a few miles.
A friend spots me twice in Miles 11-12.5, and I get a "wide back" directive from Pilates maven in there too. Then I see my kids, and the sound of their yelling voices is, unlike most times, so appreciated. Plus, I'm not dragging, like I was in this four-miler (Illustration A), which was the last time they saw me running. In fact, I'm feeling and looking strong; something Grant comments on post-race.
I finish feeling springy--a downhill last mile will do that to you--and cross the line in 2:05:32. (The 2:05 pacer was a little faster than he wanted to be, he told me post-race.) I think that's my slowest half-marathon ever, but I'm totally cool with that.
Why? It's my launching pad for runner Dimity 2.0. This version of me can actually pace myself; can run a negative split by a minute; doesn't hurt much, save one tweak of her right glute that she's icing as she types; and runs her own race so that she doesn't burn out and need to walk, save the aid stations, which, btw, she uses liberally.
I'm sure, like any upgrade, a few major bugs will quickly let their presence be known, but she's installed and there's no looking back. Excited to see what she can do.
We're in the thick of racing weekend--Portland, Long Beach, and Chicago were also awash in runners this weekend--so if you raced there or anywhere/any distance, how was your pacing? Your race?