Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wicked Half-Marathon Race Recap

1.5-2 mile w/u
Target: Victory
Actual: 1:20:32; 1st place female; $300
1.5 mile c/d
Total: ~16 miles  

Let me preface this post by saying how wonderfully exquisite it is to sleep well and soundly the night before a race in your own bed, wake up a mere 90 minutes before go time, drink your own coffee out of your own mug and then casually jog over to the start. Don't get me wrong; I love traveling, and I am blessed beyond measure to have a job that allows--more accurately, necessitates--me to run races all over the country and squeeze them in amid changing lives for Karhu before and after. But man, was it glorious to run a "hometown" race this morning with absolutely no work responsibilities!

Undoubtedly there were several factors that played a role in me feeling so terrific this morning, the aforementioned certainly being one of them. It also didn't hurt that I set several sleep PRs this week as well, something my body was desperately craving after a few exhausting weeks of work and travel. I started strong out of the gate with a whopping 12 hours of sleep on Sunday night, settled in to a comfortable 9-hour rhythm early in the week, then made another definitive move on the penultimate lap with a 10-hour kick on Thursday night. Friends, never--like, never in italics--underestimate the power of some good shuteye. Trust me, it will make you feel like a completely new and instantly better person.

But I digress. This post is supposed to be about today's race and not this week's REM cycles (although can you tell which one I'm more proud of??), although as I was saying prior to my tangent, no doubt the success of one was directly correlated to that of the other. As Jordan and I jogged to the starting line in the cool early morning fog, I felt fresh and confident and light on my feet. When we signed up several weeks ago I'd envisioned not really pushing the pace on this morning's run, as I'd hoped the $300 prize purse would not be quite enough to draw any of the city's big talent. It's not that I'm averse to running an honest race, but three nearly-all-out half-marathon efforts in three weeks is just silly. That said, as we trotted closer to the start area we began to see more and more reasonably legit-looking men and women. BAA jerseys were abundant, as were those of several other Boston-area running clubs. On the women's side, I didn't spot anyone I recognized but did see several other fit-looking women who could easily be in the mix. As we toed the starting line, I began to feel a faint twinge of uncertainty.

Fortunately, once the race began all doubt evaporated fairly quickly. I eased toward the front at what felt like a fairly relaxed early pace--I'd decided from the outset not to look at my watch at any point in the race, so all of my pace deductions would be derived solely by judging effort--but none of the women made a move to come with me. I settled in to what felt like a very comfortable uptempo pace as we ran away from Salem Willows toward downtown, then took a left and headed downhill past Salem State University toward Marblehead. I've run or driven this route about a million times before, a reality which could either manifest itself as comforting or boring in a race scenario. As the miles clicked by effortlessly, it felt distinctly the former. Just before approaching Ocean Ave. and turning right to approach the familiar terrain of the causeway and Marblehead Neck, I spotted a familiar mustachioed gentleman just ahead. Apparently Jordan, whose hip has been nagging all week, decided to pull the plug on his own race effort and shepherd me for part of mine. I tucked seamlessly behind him as we bridged the causeway just like we've done a hundred times, allowing him to dictate the pace over the rolling terrain of the Neck. This hilly section, miles 5-7, was the only time I felt remotely pressed or uncomfortable during the entire race. Just before the 8-mile marker Jordan slowed to a stop and waved me onward, leaving me with just 30 minutes of running remaining. The roads were so familiar, the route so routine, that instead of feeling increasingly fatigued I actually felt more energized. No race happening here, my legs remarked. It's just another day of finishing up our morning run--only slightly faster than normal.

But how much faster? Believe it or not, I'd actually held true to my promise of not looking at my watch a single time throughout the entire race. As I passed the 12-mile marker, only minutes remaining, I reasoned that based on the difficulty of the course (noticeably tougher than both the Chicago Half-Marathon and 13.1 Boston) and my perceived level of exertion (legs growing a bit fatigued but breathing quite comfortable), my finishing time would probably be somewhere between 1:19:30 and 1:20:30. Sure enough, as I crested the final hill and spotted the finish line, the digits clicked over from 1:19 to 1:20 and ticked just past 1:20:30 as I crossed the line. It may have been my slowest finish in the past three weeks, but it was by far my most comfortable and relaxed race experience.

And so, as I shared with the Facebook world shortly after the race, home by 9am with 16 miles under my belt and $300 richer is not a bad way to start the weekend. After having such a great experience today, the Wicked Half-Marathon is already on my calendar for next year! 


Unknown said...

yay for dollar billz!!! congrats girl. Glad you had fun out there. I'm sure the weather is absolutely fab right now.

mfranks said...

Nice $300 training run! We have a half marathon in town that starts in Pheba MS and ends in Starkville (we ride MSU shuttles to the start). It is straight course, runs down HWY 389 and it's hilly as crap.. but its in our hometown and kind of a tradition.

It doesn't pay $300 though...last year I won a golf towel.

Congrats on the win.