First, I’ll start by congratulating myself. Last night I completed my 11th half-marathon. It was a race but honestly, I treated it as a training run for the Marine Corps Marathon (my first) in October. You may wonder why I gave myself kudos but you will see that the rest of this post I will spend deriding myself so I figured I should start off with the positive!
I ran the first six miles of this race with my friend Nicole (sister of Lorraine). This was Nicole’s third half-marathon and she killed it! Prior to the race she made me swear that I wouldn’t leave her. And I didn’t. I asked her to go ahead and leave me. Honestly, at my heart, I am a solo runner. I don’t like having people around me, in front of me (in my way) or playing loud music behind me. I will graciously let people pass me to keep myself in my quiet comfort zone.
However, for most races I will hang out with friends for the first six miles, it is a nice warm-up and it helps the generally brutal first few miles of the race (or training run) go faster. But I like to breakaway (or let others leave me) after awhile. In hindsight, I think things would have gone better for me during the Area 13.1 if I stayed with the 2:30 pacers because they were going at an even slow pace that I enjoyed. My downfall was trying to do the walk/run method because once I fall behind I just don’t feel like exerting the effort needed to catch up with folks.
So the first 4 miles were actually really pleasant. Nicole and I chatted, cheered the forerunners in the race (it was an out and back course) and enjoyed ourselves. But somewhere around mile 5 I started to feel the heat and humidity, the sweat coursing down my arms and legs and I asked Nicole to just go ahead. She didn’t want to leave me, she tried to give me a pep talk but I told her I’d catch up and finally she just did it.
My reasoning behind this move was two-fold. One, I actually wanted Nicole to run on her own. And two, I wanted to run on my own! I did mention I’m a solo runner right? Anyhow, we caught up with each other around mile 7 in the park where there was ample water (which I did not partake in) but once again I asked her to go ahead and she did. That was the last I saw of her until the turnaround at mile 9.
Mile 9. By the time I reached mile 9 I had run(walked) on dark, dark, roads. Been slightly pelted by rain – which I was thankful for because I do not, I repeat, DO NOT enjoy running in heat and humidity! And at mile 9 there was NO WATER! I knew on the approach about the lack of water because disgruntled runners were shouting about it and saying “turn around now because there is no water!” However, the turnaround/waterstop was part of the course so to not cheat myself, I ran down there anyway. I took a Gu and guerilla style ate/drank/slurpped it without water and continued my uphill UPHILL journey back to the rest of the course. This was probably the lowest point of the race. No water on a hot, humid night at mile 9. No bueno. AND did I mention that my last drop of water was at Mile 4? Yeah, that kinda helps explain my poor showing last night because I AM NOT falling out on a race course to beat a time because of poor hydration. Not me!
So, I trudged along, in the darkness and somewhere around mile 10/11 I saw a guy on the race course and asked him about water. He said there was a station about ½ mile up. Yeah, that was a lie! I have to say thank you to the folks on the course for cheering but for every cheer at that point I retorted “Water…I need water!” with the hope that a kind soul would have mercy on me and give me just a sip (at this point I cared less about mono or any other communicable disease) of water or the gatorade that they were nursing as they sat in their chair cheering.
Anyhow, between walking and running I finally reached mile 12 where there was a water stop. But. BUT. There were no cups. So after running/walking/meandering 8 miles with no water in the rain, heat and humidity I was greated with “Fill your bottle or cup your hands!” Um. Seriously? Well, I cupped my hands and drank water as if there was no tomorrow. For a moment I was going to ask the woman to simply pour the water in my mouth keg style but I kept it classy. Well, as classy as it could be given I was drinking out of my hands like a man stranded in the desert with no water!
The last mile I continued to meander, running swiftly at some points and walking slowly at others. But when I hit the last quarter mile I ran like the wind. Which you can do if you meander for an entire race. It was so funny to me because I was literally sprinting and the race volunteers were shouting “Way to finish strong! Pass all of them, pass everybody!” and you know what? I did.
Which speaks to the mental aspect of running. I stubbornly got it in my head that I was bored/tired/lazy and didn’t want to put up even a quarter of my general effort level during races. I seriously regarded this as a training run and I had nothing to prove, I simply wanted to log the miles. With no injuries, no real problems on the course (well the water but I should have stopped at mile 7 for a drink) I ended up with my slowest finish EVER. I believe it was 2:52.
For me, the beauty of this experience was receiving a medal for a training run and having people cheer for me along the way!
This week I met up with Jonathon Prince who has run THOUSANDS of miles, literally – he has run across the United States! And has never run an “official” race. Jonathon told me he has no desire to race. Like me, he is a solo runner and during runs he meditates and advised me to do the same.
I like that advice but like Jonathon, I am working on being more sociable during my runs. For me it is about getting a rythm, finding that space where I can spend time with others on a run and then break off. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m working on it. Because I am sure that when I run my marathon I will welcome the company of others!
So, lessons learned:
1. Hydrate. Even if you don’t feel thirsty take a sip. If you aren’t carrying your own water you don’t know what will happen when you reach a waterstop.
2. Lose weight. Although I didn’t mention it, I am convinced that since I am heavier, running has become more challenging for me.
3. Push yourself. Despite the water fiasco, I know dang on well I could have run more. I experienced a case of the lazies this time out.
4. Give yourself a break. This was not my best run but I completed it. One for the bank and many more to go before my marathon. I refuse to wallow because I didn’t do my best.
5. An Ice Cold Pale Ale at the end of the race is marvelous! A big thank you to my Team in Training teammate for that treat!!!
And that my friends is my race report from the Area 13.1. Will I do it again next year? Maybe. I actually love the course and have run parts of it numerous times in the past on training runs. Which may in fact be one of the reasons why I really didn’t view it as a race!