Sunday, December 2, 2012

Runner's Den Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon race report

After a bit of chaos trying to pick up my bib (in the pitch dark morning, along with several hundred other runners and six panicked volunteers...), I stood around trying to relax and stay warm before taking off my long sleeve and leaving it at the bag drop. I noticed that the race had pacers for 2:07, 2:15, and 2:30. I idly wondered how long I could hang on to the 2:15 group, but then just laughed that off.

I made my way to the starting area, where I lined up on the right-hand side (the slow lane...) and a but behind the 2:15 group. But when the race started and we all had to funnel through the timing mats, things got a bit jumbled and I was running with the 2:07s. Yeah, not my tribe.

I ran the first two intervals without the walk break -- we seemed too bunched together to stop. I did decide to walk the next break, however, which is when the 2:15s passed me. But when I started running again, I caught up with them quickly. Given that I struggle with my pace over even short runs, I decided to experiment with joining a pace group.  Crazy, right? But I figured I would just run with them until I ragout of gas.

Marie was the pacer. Holding her balloons (2:15 ROCKS!) and wearing a Santa hat, she kept up an almost constant chatter.  She asked members of the group if they wanted to dedicate miles to people, told funny stories about being a pacer all over the country, and sang songs. At every mile marker she would sing,, "Do you see what I see? It's mile marker number ________". And then the group would shout "2:15 ROCKS!!!"

Never having run with a pacer (umm, besides Wil...), I didn't know what to expect, but it was okay. All I had to do was keep close to them and let the miles and minutes click by.  It was sort-of the real-world version of running on a treadmill.

I have been running intervals for years now, and other than occasional long treadmill slogs, I really haven't run more than 30 minutes straight for a long time, if ever. So I kept thinking that eventually I would just crash.  But the pace was fine, I felt good, and I just kept going.

Then at a water stop somewhere around mile 8 I somehow ended up behind three other women from the group, but ahead of Marie.  I figured we would all shuffle back together, but we never did.  For a while I could hear Marie right behind me, but I stuck close to the three lively ladies and soon we had gapped them. I also knew that I should try to eat up some road while I was feeling good mentally and physically... And that I could let the 2:15s sweep me up later.

After another little stretch we did a loop to turn onto a bike path. As we wound our way through a park, I thought the ladies were slowing down, so I scooted around them and ran on my own. I kept picking out a runner to join, but I would catch them and keep going. I should remind you that this is a very unusual phenomenon for me!!!

The organizers had placed lots of water stops toward the end of the race -- one at mile 10, 11, and 12. This was great for me because it gave me a chance to have a sip of water, walk for a few moments,, and then move on.

At mile 11 -- always the toughest mile for me, mentally -- I decided to just think about things I love... Wil, Kiki, Bub, half marathons... ;) I thought about how great this year has been, how much Wil and I have accomplished, and how proud I am of us.

Then came mile 12 -- such a relief! I dedicated the final mile to Wil, my favorite running buddy, and wishing he was there running with me. The day had been nperfect -- coolish temperatures, gorgeous blue sky, no wind, flat course.

Every so often I looked at the elapsed time on my watch. But seeing that stat meant I didn't really know where I was on the course. So I started just thinking in terms of minutes. Fifteen minutes of running left... Fourteen minutes of running left...

I had looked at the course map before and noticed that there were three 90-degree turns in the last little stretch: right, left, right, finish. That was hugely helpful because I knew that I wouldn't see the actual finish until I was almost there. So I was ready for that.

It was interest ting -- and shamefully satisfying -- to pass so many people in the last couple of hundred yards. But I knew a PR was on the line, so I went for it.

As I was running in I got a shout out by the announcer, which made me wave and whoop. No one responded. But who cares?!? I had just finished in 2:13:06!!!

I felt wobbly and winded and gratefully took the medal and cup of water from the volunteers. At a bit of a loss for what to do next, I just picked up my gear bag, called Wil, and walked back to the hotel.

I already don't remember much about the race. No signs, no sits, just running behind and with a little group of strangers for a couple of hours.  Nice volunteers. Good course markings, including big, honking mile markers. Tons of police helping direct traffic. Plenty of water stops. A handsome medal. OH, AND STATE #17!!!!

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