Tuesday, March 20, 2012

13.1: RNR USA Half Marathon Race Recap

I signed up for this race the day that registration opened. It would be my third half marathon, and my second in this great city where I live. I was very excited.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography

But about a month and a half ago, I became quite the cynic about it. Five weeks out from the race, I woke up sick, set out for my planned twelve mile run, and then bailed at mile four, all the while thinking that I just didn't care that much. My epic bike journey this summer was the next big thing on the horizon and my upcoming half marathon only seemed like a hurdle I had to jump to get there.

But I kept training, in a somewhat half-assed way, and then finally became excited about five days out from the race. I decided that my reach goal was to finish in 1:50 but that my real goal was to PR by beating 1:58:43. I went to the expo and everything felt real. I felt like I was ready to race.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I was pumped. I ate oatmeal, got dressed, crammed into some very tight metro cars, waited 25 minutes for a porta-pottie, checked my bag, and then basically sprinted to my corral. I had no race plan and, before I knew it, I was off and running. I started off too quickly, with adrenaline pumping through my veins, at about a 7:45 pace. I forced myself to slow down and I felt confident. I cruised through the first two or three miles at exactly the pace I'd need to sustain for a sub 1:50 time.

Splits for miles 1-3

Then, around mile 4, I started to slow a bit. I wasn't even a third of the way through and things got tough. I was comparing every step of the race to last year, when I was chatting and laughing with Nikki, with no regard for my pace. Pushing myself and running alone was obviously nowhere near as fun. And I think, mentally, that made things harder. We turned to run uphill and I powered through. We ran under Dupont Circle which is always special and I emerged to cheering from my friends Ben and Steph. I raised my arms and put on a big smile for them but it took some extra energy. I was surprised when Steph told me that night that they were impressed by how effortless I looked, that I seemed in much less pain than the runners around me. I was definitely in pain.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography 

Their cheers helped me get up the steepest incline of the race, at the top of which I heard my name called again. It was Jamie and Drew, my neighbors who were out there to cheer on their many friends running. I turned onto Columbia Road and my legs felt terrible. I thought about the many tempo runs I'd done on that stretch of ground and knew that I should have done many more. My legs should not have been in this much pain only 6.5 miles into the race. But I kept running.

Splits for miles 4-6
I put one foot in front of the other for another mile or so and, as I crossed 16th Street, someone said "Carrie?" I turned my head and saw an old friend from high school, and my seventh grade boyfriend, Brian. I had enough time to do a little wave and say "Hey!" before running away. I spent the next few minutes wondering what he's up to and where he lives. It was a nice distraction from the way my body felt. I ran and ran, downhill and up, uphill and down, and I honestly can't tell you what I thought about during those middle miles. I had a few flashbacks from last year's race, and I actually said "FML" aloud to myself a few times. Otherwise I think I was in kind of a daze.

I had slowed down and I knew that I would not finish this thing in an hour and fifty minutes. But I had finished every mile thus far in under 9 minutes and there was little doubt in my mind that I'd PR. I decided that my new goal was to beat 1:55.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography 

I turned onto North Capitol Street, knowing that I had a lovely downhill stretch which would bring me within three miles of the finish. I think I was in the middle of cursing this race, making my way under an overpass when I heard my name called again. I looked up and... Ingrid! Standing on the bridge overhead! I had looked for her in Dupont Circle thinking she may have come out but hadn't found her. Seeing her face and hearing her voice at mile 9.5 were far better for my psyche and my drive than they would have been at mile 6.

Splits for miles 7-10

I reached the bottom of the hill, turned left onto the very flat K Street, and ran smack into that same wall that I hit last year. Right around mile 10.5 I decided that the last thing in the world I wanted to do was run another 2.5 miles. But, for some reason, I did. I was breathing fine and everything felt great except my legs. Those damn legs.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography 

The remainder was uneventful. My legs remained heavy and tight but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I checked my watch like a madwoman to make sure I wouldn't completely flop on my time. I no longer felt like I was racing but like I was jogging. My legs literally felt like they could not go any faster, like they wouldn't even know how to sprint if they tried. I got within  a half mile of the finish and decided that they must have something left.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography 

I hated that we were finishing up a hill but I decided to fight. I watched the seconds tick away on my Garmin and I wanted so badly to at least beat my newly formed 1:55 goal. I heard my name screamed from afar (Josh) and waved at the sound.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography 

I continued to push for this final "sprint". I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch. It read exactly 1:55:00. Cool.

Splits for the final miles
I grabbed everything that my arms and my sports bra could hold including: a banana, an apple, three water bottles, a bagel, a greek yogurt, a powerade, a chocolate milk, a snickers energy bar, and two packs of fruit bites. I consumed it all within two hours.

Check out all my goods.

I was so incredibly glad to be done with this race that I never cared enough about in the first place. I found Josh, and then Nikki, Jamey and Eric. We hung out, took jumping photos (obvi) and then Josh and I set out for our soccer game. I played sixty minutes of soccer (don't ask me how- it wasn't pretty) and then headed home for some quality time with Vace's, Madmen and my couch. It was all over.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography 

I ran my third half marathon and I am definitely proud of that. But I know that I should be more proud, ecstatic even, than I am. I shaved 3:43 off my record but I am still somewhat disappointed that I didn't run faster. I believe that if I had run this race 6 weeks ago, when I was still giving 100% in training, mentally and physically, when I ran an 11 mile training run at an average pace of 8:25, that I would have done much better than I did on Saturday. 

I am annoyed by the fact that my legs were in so much pain but that my stomach and head and lungs felt A-OK. You might remember that after crossing the finish line in Baltimore, I spent 10 minutes leaning against a barricade, unable to stand or walk or think. I had used up absolutely everything I had. This time around, though, my legs were used up long before the rest of me was. And it's nobody's fault but my own for training poorly in recent weeks.

Poor training = big-time positive splitting

I am sad that I never felt like crying before, during, or after this race. When my heart is in a race, it overpowers me and it always makes me want to cry. Not on Saturday. I appreciated the beauty of the course and I was touched by my friends who showed up to cheer (even by accident) but, emotionally, it felt like just another run.

I could be discouraged by all this, by the lack of a high I've felt post-race or by the extreme positive splitting that happened on Saturday. But I'm looking at the silver lining. I need to not be 100% in love with running when I start my bike trip this summer or it will distract me from my love for biking. I will, of course, continue to run for fun and for a good sweat over the next few months. But I will not obsess about race registrations or about my best tempo pace.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography 

At the end of the day, I feel very lucky that the worst of my problems is "I was so emotionally un-invested in this race that it didn't make me cry". Life could be a lot worse. I made a hell of a lot of sweat on Saturday and I am proud to say that my new half marathon PR is 1:55:00. As I pointed out to Josh, not finishing in 1:50 will only make it easier to PR the next time I set out to race 13.1 miles. That, my friends, is the silver lining!

How was your weekend? Did you race? Do anything you were proud of or frustrated by?

1 comment:

  1. I love the jumping photo!! So happy for your new PR and it's a definite one to be proud of! :)