Saturday, April 14, 2012

Palmetto Half Marathon Race Report

I left the warm cocoon of my giant rental car ("a medium crossover," the man at Dollar said. "A Ford Escape." Um, this is the biggest car I have ever driven...) and walked the few hundred feet to the start. Despite the cold, I decided to go jacket less, wondering when exactly I had stopped packing disposable running gear. But the sky indicated that it was going to be a lovely day, so I should warm up fast enough.

pre-race sunrise
 A lovely balloon arch marked the start, and I had the usual pre-race happy/scared feeling. A few announcements, a fine, Irish-tinged rendition of the national anthem, and off we went.

I was a little nervous that everyone would be fast -- but I was happy to see a few folks setting off, determinedly, at a brisk walk. I figured that, if nothing else, I could walk with them.

I started off mile 1 with my usual "oh, no, I can't do this... I'm stiff and cold and wah wah wah." But then came mile 2 and I settled in -- and suddenly we were at mile 5. Very nice.

We had run out of the shopping mall, along a busy highway, and then through a nice neighborhood where we passed "golf-cart crossing" places and fine looking sand traps. A little further along, the frontrunners came flying toward us. One guy on his own way ahead of all the others, and then 6 or 7 other men before the first woman (who ended up winning -- I noticed her because she was wearing Brooks).

We turned down a shady road and ran around a gorgeous little lake, marred only by the "PRIVATE LAKE. NO TRESPASSING" signs dotted around it. I liked the fact that the grand houses showed variety -- they weren't all cookie-cutter McMansions.

The stretch was really lovely and I ran comfortably through it.

I hadn't really formulated a "race strategy" for the day. Given that I am running again tomorrow, I didn't want to go all out. I originally planned to check in at mile 5, the halfway point, and definitely stop at mile 10. But 5 and 6.55 passed smoothly, and when I got to 10 I was surprised to by the time -- I was on pace to either PR or run my fastest race since, oh, 2009.

So it was a bit of a dilemma. Do I stick with my plan? Or do I go for it?

So I went on, having a little conversation with myself... reminding myself that I had to run on Sunday, that it was getting really hot, that I was having a hard time breathing already, and it was just getting worse as the temperature rose. So a PR was by no means a sure thing. Conveniently, my hamstring piped up to remind me that it had been feeling a little strained for the past couple of runs -- so that sealed the deal. So I dropped to a walk, and just made my way to the finish line.

My new goal was to finish ahead of two other runners I had dubbed "sparkle butt" and "hippy dippy".

I'm sure I'm not the only person who picks out another runner and decides to try and "beat" them. In this case, I picked out a girl in a cute sparkly running skirt, and another with a tie-dye shirt. Now, there was nothing else remarkable about either of these women -- I just decided that they were identifiable and I would watch them as I ran. I'm pretty sure someone tagged me as "green socks" and watched me. It's just something to do while passing the miles.

I had dropped sparkle butt early on -- but didn't know if I would see her again now at I was walking (I didn't). But hippy dippy came and went. I was well ahead of her at one point, but with about half a mile to go she passed me again while I walked.

We were coming to the "final turn" -- I could see the finish arch in the distance. So I started to run. I briefly thought I should rally the handful of women around me, with a "come on girls, leave nothing in the tank", but I had stiffened up with the three miles of walking and wasn't even sure I could speed up at all. Sure, I had stuff in the tank, just no spark. Or something.

As we came to the final 30 yards or so, I gave it all my creaky legs would give -- and passed hippy dippy somewhere between the "name tag" marker and the finish line. Success!

Oh, I also got a nice shout out from the announcer -- "Here comes Sunny.... all the way from Seattle, Washington!" That got an "oooOOOOoooo" from the crowd. Nice.

I picked up my medal, had some Gatorade and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a little bag of potato chips, and stretched a little. But I was feeling antsy, so I headed to the car, changed clothes, and hit US 1 for the (completely fantastic) drive to Raleigh. South Carolina -- CHECK!

2012 Palmetto Half Marathon medal

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