Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Rocking the half**

I am currently writing this entry from my office chair, which is very comfortable, but whose comforts I have no problem leaving, should the need arise. I can sit, stand, run, bend my knees and do the charleston with nary a whimper.

I’m not broken, is what I’m trying to say. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

I can’t quite figure out where to begin this story. Should I start at 4:15 am when the alarm went off in the hotel room that Jackie, Tim, and I shared in VA beach, and Tim sprang awake, with an alacrity that should not be possible at 4:15 am, to turn on ESPN2, which was rebroadcasting the USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying game, just in time to see the US score their second goal? Or maybe I should start the day before, when we picked up our race packets and hit the beach for a few hours of splashing and sand.

I’m tempted to start even earlier, to the days leading up to the weekend, during which I was so unpanicked about the upcoming race that I failed to buy any PowerBar Gels, neglected to do laundry (I washed my running clothes at the last minute on Friday night), and slept like my beauty depended on it. Because before the marathon? Well, y’all remember.

But instead I think I’ll skip to 7 am, the moment that the race began. The national anthem had been sung, the final announcements had been made, and the gun went off.

I sat down.

What? I’d been up for almost three hours at that point, and my feet were starting to hurt. We weren’t moving anywhere. There were more than 20,000 runners registered for the VA Beach half marathon, and the race organizers had assigned everyone corrals based on projected finish time. We were in corral 18 (of 24). They were starting each corral every 45-90 seconds.

About 15 minutes into the race, we started to move forward. Four feet. And then we stopped. We inched forward for the next 10 minutes, and finally crossed the start line almost 30 minutes after the race had begun. Which I get. Because if you're fast, you don't want to have to dodge the slow 'uns. But for the sake of argument, isn't there a case for *not* giving the fastest people a 30 minute head start?

Ha! Just kidding!

This was going to be the farthest that Jackie and Tim had ever run, and they were understandably nervous about being able to complete the distance. Being far more intelligent than me, they decided that we should begin at a reasonable and sustainable pace. And then, within reason, sustain it. So off we jogged, comfortably weaving among the walkers and Abominable Slo-Men (they had t-shirts).

By the end of the first mile (10:45), we had picked up the pace a bit, and ran the next few miles at about 10:15-10:20. We basically maintained that pace the entire race, with time added for re- and un-hydrating. Around the 3rd mile, we crossed a bridge that we would cross again at about 8 miles. The winners of the race had already passed through by the time we got there, but there were still plenty of speedy and impressive runners to gawk at.

Just after the bridge, Tim asked me how I had been feeling at the same point during the marathon. Three miles in? “I was feeling amazing,” I told him. “I was having a great time, and I couldn’t believe everyone didn’t run marathons ALL the time. Oh, how little I knew.”

A fellow runner overheard me, and jumped in to ask, “What was your toughest mile?”

I thought for about half a second, and replied, “the last six” with slightly more bitterness than I’d intended. But everyone laughed, and the woman conceded that “you really do start to feel it at 20.”

Our goal was for the three of us to run the race together, and even in those crowds, it wasn’t too hard to achieve. We watched each other to make sure the pace was okay for everyone, took turns in the lead, wove through openings between slower runners, and waited for each other to catch up after slowing at a water stop or a bathroom break.

Speaking of which, is it wrong to cut in front of a little boy doing the peepee dance? Even if you’re running a race and he’s totally not? Even if his dad tells him to wait until after the runner goes? Just checking.

The last couple miles were all boardwalk, and I’ve never been a fan of dead straight, totally flat, full sunlight (I’ll take a hilly, woodsy trail, any day), but it was the home stretch, so it wasn’t too bad. Jackie kept thinking the finish line was closer than it was, and kept putting on the final kick, only to realize that we still had a ways to go. But we were still passing people throughout those last few miles, and when the finish line finally was in sight, we poured it on and sprinted across the finish line, three abreast. And, minutes after we returned our chips, collected our medals, and stretched a bit, we were back in the ocean. All races should end on the beach. Please note.

So that? Was super fun. And now I want to do another one. Who’s with me?

**Because it was a Rock n' Roll Half Marathon? Get it? Eh. That's not funny. Sorry.


Blogger a.maria said...

hey!!! congrats!!! no biggie. just a half marathon.

sheesh, who are you woman!!!?!

2:59 PM  
Anonymous ali said...

Congratulations! I loved your report, it sounds like you had a great race.

I thought for about half a second, and replied, “the last six” ... okay this is my biggest fear, I actually shuddered when I read it.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

congrats! i'm always smiling (or laughing) reading your posts...

5:03 PM  
Blogger jeanne said...

Yeah, la-de-da, i think i'll just wake up tomorrow and run 13.1 miles..
Wowza... what a great pace! Great job. (how many times can i say great?) Terrifically great! Inspiringly great!!
And yeah, you do get to cut in front of little kids. completely. and then give their parents dirty looks. It's fun!

11:28 PM  
Blogger jeanne said...

p.s. how do you run and then go in the water? I'm asking because I ran on the boardwalk this summer, and nevermind that it was during a thunderstorm, but i thought oh it will be so nice to just jump in afterwards, except, oh yeah, i'm wearing clothes.

so just curious: how does that work? Cuz it sounds awesome.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Way to rock! I think it is okay to cut in front of the little boy at the toilet when you are racing, don't feel guilty, he could water a tree if he had to go that bad! No biggie, just a half - I'm starting to enjoy them (just finished #6)!

2:29 AM  
Blogger Running from my House said...

YAY!!! I'm so glad it rocked!

What will you conquer next? an Ultra marathon?

8:13 AM  
Blogger Wil said...

WOO HOO!! Good for you! Awesome job!

11:52 AM  
Blogger susie said...

Nice work! Great report, too. Made me just a little homesick for old VA :)

7:20 PM  
Blogger andy-senpai said...

Hi! Congrats!! I live in Northern Virginia too. I just started running and made this blog. Visit my blog and leave a comment =)

12:25 AM  
Blogger David said...

Golly G. You made a half marathon seem like a wade in the ocean, which I heartily endorse too, after a run. It's so good for the legs especially if the water is cool.
Nice race and smart of you to take a seat while waiting for the runners you passed later on to start earlier.
I think you'll make the Peace Corps Varsity Cross Country team.

9:38 PM  

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