Grant and I celebrate 14 years of wedded bliss about a week ago, and this year—for the first time since we walked down the aisle—we actually celebrated beyond flowers, a thoughtful dinner, a bar or three of chocolate. (Rituals, it should be noted, that don't happen annually...I have totally forgetten our anniversary more than once.)
Anyway on Friday, I dropped the dog off at the dogsitter, we left the kids at my sister's house, and then motored west and north to Steamboat Springs, one of my favorite mountain towns. Although we were both going to run Steamboat Springs Half-Marathon, the weekend was far from focused on the miles—which is probably why I had such a good race.
And now, because I like neat little packages, here are...
13.1 Reasons I Had Such a Good Race
1. I left my phone off most of Saturday (read: no work, little social media, no stress) and just plodded around with Grant, just like old times. We did a short hike, we ate a long lunch, we spent time in a bookstore. I treated myself to Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by cartoonist Roz Chast, a memoir about her aging parents. Tough topic, but so insightful and good. I devoured it in a few lazy hours (read, drool, read, drool). Just like old times.
2. I did, however, jump on my phone download a bunch of songs from iTunes that I already owned but didn't have on my phone and haven't listened to in a really long time. Everything from Sugarland's Stuck Like Glue—good anniversary tune—to The Traveling Wilburys End of the Line, a long-time fave of mine. Got really excited to listen to music during the race, which I rarely do.
3. On Saturday, we also drove the point-to-point course. I'm not usually one to scout a course, but Grant wanted to, and I had nowhere else to be. As we were driving by the foaming Yampa River and fields of baby cows and wildflowers, I gushed, "We are so lucky to be able to do this. So lucky." As much as I try to maintain an attitude of gratitude in re: running, it doesn't always come easily to me. Not on Saturday; my joy was ricocheting through every cell in my body.
4. The SBS 262 logo for the Steamboat Springs marathon; I had to pick SBS up a few momentos since she just kicked off Boston Training. I was so excited to find such deliciously perfect gift. (USPS wil bring them shortly to you, SBS.)
5. We had a lovely, fun dinner with old friends on Saturday night. I drank more wine than I should've; I laughed like I needed to (true story: when you live in a mountain town, bears come IN your house); I breathed in the crisp spring air and petted their aloof cats when they'd let me. When we got back to our place at 9:30, I went to bed instead of worrying about my race number and the like. Instead, I set my alarm to give myself an extra 10 minutes in the morning.
6. When decibal-level-100 thunderstorms woke me up at 4:30 a.m., I decided I would run in the rain, if need be, and worrying about it any more wasn't worth my energy.
7. I (optimistically) brought my sunglasses to the race, and the skies cleared. I needed them almost immediately. Gonna be that kind of day, I thought to myself. Sweet.
8. I didn't wear my Soleus Fit GPS. I know the numbers can be a very useful training and racing tool, but I also know I get way too hung up on what the numbers say—and I let them dictate my mood. Not this time. I wore my Soleus Dash, a basic sports watch and hit "lap" every time I passed a mile marker. So I wasn't totally running naked, but I wasn't looking at my wrist every nano-second. I'd look down and see, "5:14" or somesuch and think, "Cool. I'm likely past the halfway point of this mile." I didn't know my splits until I saw the mile signs. When I saw them, I wasn't too emotional because...
9. I ran the race tuned into my effort, so I knew my splits were honest and right-on. The first eight miles were mostly downhill, and I knew that could slay my quads if I got too greedy for gravity. So I kept repeating the same advice Sarah and I give at expos: The first half of a half-marathon is all about taking care of yourself. Going at a very maintainable pace. Eating and drinking properly. Not letting the adrenadline and fresh legs get the best of you.
I didn't really hold back, but I didn't go for it. I wanted to save my legs for the 2-mile-ish climb around 8, and then see where it left me.
Over the race, my mile splits ranged from 8:28 (mile 10-11: the steep decline, where I did go for it) to 9:38 (mile 8-9: the biggest climb). I'll admit: Solid splits like those are about the most stable thing I've produced in any aspect in my life in the last few months.
10. I didn't let myself get caught up in the people around me. There were a few guys—one man in Born to Runish sandals in particular—that I kept yo-yo'ing back and forth. On another day, I'd turn it up just to put them behind me—and likely see buzz by me again around mile 12—but on Sunday, I kept telling myself, "Run your own race, Dimity. Your own race." Music definitely helped with that perspective, by the way.
11. Extra wine notwithstanding, I fueled properly. I knew running 13.1 miles at nearly 7,000 feet would leave me, a heavy sweater, with a raging headache. I chugged bottles of Nuun proactively all day Saturday, pumping up my electrolyte levels. On the course, I walked through the aid stations and made sure I got a full cup of sports drink down my hatch. (And I followed SBS' GU at mile 4, 8, and 11 strategy; the new chocolate peanut butter flavor definitely put a spring in my step.)
After the race, I drank another bottle of fruit punch Nuun, grabbed some PowerIce—frozen electrolyte-rich bars—and had a sugar-free, crazy-packed-with-protein-and-natural-healing-ingredients Superhero Smoothie from Joose, a local company.
12. I hung tough. That last mile, in the full Colorado sun as we came into town on the main street, was not fun. Unlike the previous 12 miles, I looked at my watch at least 20 times; my plan was to get five minutes into the mile, then try to run harder.
So No dice on the "harder" part until I knew I had less than 100 steps to the finish line. (It's one of those finish lines on a straight road that you can see for way too long...seems to be a signature of mountain town races.) Anyway, I looked down, saw 1:59:16, and decided I had to shoot for sub-2 hours. I fired those jets up and finished in 1:59:46.
"You looked so strong at the finish," Grant said, "Did you run the whole mile that way?"
"So far from it," I laughed. (Here's hoping I had enough energy to smile for a good finish line pic.)
(And if you're going to ask if we ever run together, we don't. Tried it twice, and it wasn't pretty either time.)
13. My entire race, minus the last mile, was a delicious round-up of memories. Everything from our first hike with Amelia when she was Bjorn-sized to the time our bassett hound ate an entire pineapple, leaves, spines, and all. Around mile 11, I started thinking about the parallels between marriage and running. It's probably worth a book, but here's the quick and dirty: Both are incredibly freakin' hard, and both are incredibly worth it.
.1. And as I ran in a cool shadow with wildflowers on the road next to me and a raging river nearby, I realized, yet again, how lucky to be able to run—and how lucky I am to have my dear Grant waiting for me at the finish line.