Friday, April 16, 2010

Whidbey Island Half Marathon - AKA My First Race

It was so fun! I so didn't expect it to be so fun! Coming into this run I felt like I'd been totally distracted and definitely not well-trained so it was a truly lovely surprise to realize that I was having a ball out there last Sunday.

Nick and I headed off-island for the race the evening before, leaving the girls in the capable (though somewhat anxious) hands of my dad. It was our first night on our own since the Bunny was born and as soon as we hopped in the car it felt like a special treat. Anyway, we picked up our race numbers and whatnot at the little expo and had some BBQ for dinner (it was fine but not great - when relying on Yelp you have to keep in mind that reviews are relative to the area you're in - let's just say Oak Harbor isn't a bastion of culinary delights). Our hotel was comfy and we slept really well with a bit of help from Mommy's Little Blue Helpers (AdvilPM). In the morning we were up and at the breakfast bar bright and early and I forced down a bagel with pb and a banana which felt like way too much food but was probably ideal. Since I had a plane to catch later in the day I was already thinking less about wanting to just finish and more about wanting to finish in less than 2:30. I knew my runs had been getting a tad quicker recently but they were with other runners and not so far so I wasn't counting on being able to sustain a faster pace on my own. And, my last half marathon had been harder than I'd anticipated and I'd injured myself in the process so I wasn't taking anything for granted.

We got to the start with plenty of time to hit the portapotties and mill around (happily I had tp left over from my last long run in my trusty running windbreaker since there was none to be had there). I don't spend a lot of running time with dh since we generally trade off on childcare and other than last year's Turkey Trot we've never started a race together so I hadn't thought much about how it would be. Turns out that he was typically tight-lipped and stoic which is fine but it did make me feel a little self-conscious that my inclination was to chat. Was I just feeling chatty because I was nervous? Or because everyone else around us was? Or because that's just how I am? Whatever the case it reminded me of a run we did together when he asked if we could not talk because he was trying to concentrate on running and my enthusiasm to see if I could keep pace with him and his vastly longer legs faded away. It wasn't a bad thing, I just realized that if I'm running with someone I'd rather feel free to talk (and listen when they reply) but I'm just as happy to run quietly on my own so that helped me set my pace as soon as we touched off of the starting mat. Dh immediately started moving ahead more quickly than I wanted to, I've been swept up in the salmon run starting line paces just enough times to be wary of getting ahead of my abilities, so I let him inch farther and farther ahead until he was lost in the crowd ahead of me.

The first mile was mainly a gentle rise and some flat, then the second mile was a long descent which really got everyone moving along. I was doing my best to keep it reined in tight for the downhill remembering clearly how my unconscious downhill on the Golden Gate Bridge was my marathon's undoing last year. But by the time we reached sea level for miles 3 and 4 I clearly got caught up in the group's energy and I logged the fastest 2 miles of my life at 18:06. When I saw that lap time I was so shocked at myself I dialed it back to a more normal pace, 10:32 for mile 5 and then forced myself to walk for 30 seconds at the 6 mile marker and also tried to pace along with an old guy who looked like he'd been running for 100 years and was totally comfortable with his slow and steady pace (he also had a big honking Garmin on that he was paying attention to). I was feeling pretty good but by the time I decided to take the walk break I had started to notice a little tweaky thing going on on my inner thigh which was new and since I'd woken up with a nasty crick in my neck and anticipated a week full of lugging and bending with a big emotional load on top it seemed nuts to risk killing myself on the run. So for miles 6, 7 and 8 my pace was quite a bit slower, 11:51, 11:30 and 11:00 respectively. Miles 6-9 were also steadily uphill and so even though my pace slowed down, everyone else's did too so by the time we hit Mile 8 I was flying past people who had smoked my way back in the first descent. I can't deny that I get great joy from passing people going uphill. It just feels so satisfying, especially when you overhear them gasping and choking and begging for mercy as you call out "On your left!" Slowbies like me have to savor every moment like that, it's not like I"ll ever be in any danger of placing so I don't feel at all guilty about a touch of schadenfreude.

Anyway, on the way up the three mile hill I'd decided that when I got to mile 10 I was going to push it hard and figured that even if I bonked then at least I'd be close enough to limp it in and still catch my flight. The scenery at this point of the route was really lovely, pretty farms with sea and snow-capped mountains in the distance. The sun was out, the marathoners had just caught up with us and since it was a dog-leg there was plenty to watch. I tried to be sure to hoot and holler for each marathoner that I passed (or that passed me) and it was energizing to see them flash a little smile as they heard me. And now and then the view and the sun and the breeze and the general vibe would just be too fun and I'd give a whoop of running joy and then someone would laugh or nod or flash a thumbs up and it was like this little feedback loop of joy that kept pushing me on down the road.

Now, the last three miles were all downhill and I'd made up my mind to toss caution to the wind and just let myself flow with it but I definitely had a little voice white-knuckling on my shoulder that kept imagining what I'd look like if I tripped. Road-kill essentially. But happily I stayed on my feet and my knees stayed strong, my IT band kept it zipped and the Hannah Montana song I couldn't shake out of my brain was well-suited to my breathing. It was just all pretty excellent.

By the time I hit the 13 Mile marker I was feeling the oxygen debt and it was took conscious effort to get my knees up. I really had to focus to keep pushing, it was like someone had attached a bungee cord to me and it would have been so. much. easier. to just slow down. So it was a little demoralizing to find a series of turns in that last .1 mile that kept the finish line just out of view, I don't know if it was intentional or just necessary to make up the full distance but I did hear myself cursing about it. But then - finally - it was there and all clear so I just doused the thought that I could totally puke and ran it in. Whew. It felt great to be able to stop and I felt totally elated that not only had I blown my goal time of 2:30 out of the water at 2:16 but I was even in early enough to get back to the hotel and take a quick shower before heading off to catch the plane.

And that's the way it was. Mommy's first race. :)

Go Fellow Runner! Woot! Woot!