For those who don’t know me on Facebook and for those who don’t want to read through what is sure to be a LONG and pic-heavy post, I will cut to the chase and tell you right now that:
I DID IT!!!!!!! I broke two hours and then some!
I am still high on that accomplishment. Just so incredibly proud of myself. Also, tired. And, sore. 😉
So, let’s deal a little bit with the pre-race stuff. Obviously I was a maniacal, anxious ball of nerves pretty much all last week. Friday night I did my three-mile shakeout run and it felt both like it was a slog and yet easy. It probably wasn’t a good idea to do it post-meal/half-a-beer and without headphones. Oopsy daisy. On Saturday, the day we left for Eugene, I woke up feeling *extremely* nervous. Heart thumping in my chest, shaky hands, paralyzed in my chair nervous. However, by the time we left I had calmed down and over the course of the day I grew more calm. I drank water with Nuun and enjoyed the beautiful drive and a tiny “shakeout hike” where we walked in an old growth grove.
Blurry but purty.
There was a hiccup in my chilled demeanor when it seemed it was going to take forever to get to Eugene, as we stopped off for a couple errands (we rent out a house in the Valley, and the day we sell it I am going to eat two pounds of crab legs and drink an equal volume of margaritas). But we finally made it to the expo at the Matthew Knight arena (which is HUGE) and in about ten minutes I had my bib and T-shirt.
We went out to eat, and I was a big old cliche and had a small salad with extra beets (red blood cells!), a Sprite (sugar!), and spaghetti with meatballs (carbs!). I tried to eat a decent amount but something about those meatballs was throwing me off. That something would be nerves. I stopped drinking water so I wouldn’t pee all night or flush out my electrolytes, and once we were back at my friend’s house, I laid out my stuff and snuggled with my hubby, who remarked that I was doing pretty well, all things considered.
New race outfit! Oiselle tank and Saucony shorts.
Strangely, I was. I think I just knew that whatever the day brought, I couldn’t be more ready. There are few things I could’ve done differently. I was rested. I was fueled. I didn’t forget anything. My legs were fresh, almost alarmingly so; I’m so used to something being sore from weights, running, and PT that I worried all my muscle had left the building! (I did a few glute and quad squeezes just to make sure everything was still there.) It just was time to do the damn thing. I went to bed around 9:30ish, set not one, not two, but THREE alarms, took two Calm’s Forte and lo and behold, I fell asleep! At one point I turned over and opened my eyes and felt awake. I thought, it’s probably time to get up. It’s GO TIME. Then I looked at the clock.
Spectator area. D showed up a half hour before my expected time “just in case”. If that isn’t confidence in your spouse, I don’t know what is.
It was 1:42 am. Oops. I slept on/off until 4:40 am and then I was up and at ’em! My sweety got up after me and when I first saw him he was playing the beginning of “The Final Countdown”. You know, the horn part. Do de do dah…. Dah da da da dah! It made me laugh and set the mood for the morning. I ate yogurt with chia seeds and granola, drank about 12 oz of water with Nuun, and got my handheld and hydration belt ready.
There were only two hiccups: I didn’t poop and I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the shuffle feature on my ipod. Regarding the former, I figured things were on hold until after the race. With the latter, I decided that music playing out of order was not the worst thing in the world and definitely not worth freaking out over. Damien, who had gotten far less sleep than I, drove me to the start and I got there about 5:40. He had to take the obligatory “before” shot and I think he intended to Instagram it but wisely decided not to.
Why am I so orange? And, so insane? I seriously thought this would be my “I’m nervous but cute” face.
WOW I look murderous and insane (and really orange?). If I had Photoshop skillz I could crop in a million different people in place of my handheld.
Quick note about the weather: for a summer race, it was as good as it could’ve been. The humidity was up, but the temp was cool and there was a thin layer of clouds. Plus Eugene has a lot of tree cover, so I was so relieved not to be sweating before I even began. Thank you weather gods, thank you.
Thank you thank you thank you.
After our goodbye, I started walking to the official start, right outside Hayward Field. The atmosphere was incredible, especially since it was before 6 am! Super fast people were warming up in what I assume is the area for only super fast people, and runners of all stripes were coming in the corrals. I immediately saw my friend Kim, who was running the full. I also noticed a distinct feeling of things, um, moving around in my insides. I think I pretty much told her right then, and loudly, that I thought I had to poop. I made my way to the portapotties where, of course, the line was HUGE. Shocker. But the lines were moving fast. It was 5:50. The race start was at 6, but I knew there’d be a few minutes to let the first corral out. I decided that I’d stay in line until 5:55 and if I couldn’t get to one, I’d just have to stop while on the course.
I got in one at 5:54 and mission accomplished. I was SO relieved. Pun intended!
I found my corral, fired up the Garmin, set up my ipod & headphones, and in about two seconds it was national anthem time. SHIT! I needed to do my dynamic warm-up! Argh. There wasn’t enough space, so I did as much as I could in one spot, all the while staring at the flag and holding one hand on my heart. Calf raises, heel walks, butt kicks. Yup, I did that. Was this unpatriotic? I don’t care. Then a serendipitous event happened: to my right, I saw a marathon pacer holding red balloons and a sign that said “4:00”. He was talking to his group and about their pace. He said they’d be shooting for a 9:10 pace and then asked if any halfers were running with them. I realized I could run with them or just ahead for the first half and I’d be on pace. Sweet! Corral A went, then Corral B. I was running!
The beginning of a race is always a weird moment – you’re finally running, and it’s exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and shocking all at once. My main thoughts were a mix of just trying to position myself, keeping my eye on those red balloons, and calming down. My body didn’t really have any trouble starting out fasterish, but at the same time I had to settle into a pace I’m not used to running the first few miles. I knew the first mile would be slower and I purposefully didn’t want to jockey a lot for position so as to conserve energy, but I consciously picked it up for the second and third. Most of the time I was around a 9:05 pace which felt doable. Not effortless, but doable. The first mile felt like it was over in a flash and after mile 3 I allowed myself to think that things were going well, and I was nearly a quarter of the way through. I took a gel (salted caramel) at mile 2.5 and sipped either water or nuun/water every mile.
Yoga and stretching afterwards. They really did it up right for the runners.
As I work in Eugene and lived there for six years, I was super familiar with the course, which was nice. It helped me zone out and just run. Around mile 4 we started to climb a long ascent. I hung with the same group of runners I’d been with for awhile but didn’t push hard, as I knew I’d have a long descent where I could make up time. At the same time, I didn’t want to slow down a ton either. This climb wasn’t super steep but it was definitely noticeable, more than I anticipated. I felt the effort but race brain was in effect: you notice everything but somehow you just keep going. We reached the top and then made the turn to head back into town and there we had the downhill.
For a long time I was not a good downhill runner; last year my husband beat me by 43 seconds at the Eugene Butte to Butte and he won it on the downhill (grrr! I will be redeemed!). If I had one more mile I would’ve caught him! Since then I have worked on being a better downhill runner, at least on easy trails and road. I know they trash your quads but since February I have been working like a maniac on quad strength (thank you spin! thank you wall sits!) and as a result I don’t tend to get very sore there, even on my 11 miler with a solid 5 miles of downhill. So I let myself be carried by the downhill and it felt terrific! I thought about really going for it but I held back once I was at 8:20 pace because I knew there was a lot of running left. I was sad once the downhill was over but I actually forced myself to think thoughts of gratitude for that stretch instead of “wah.” Seriously, I thought, thank you, downhill. Now it’s time to get back to work.
At mile 5.5 it was gel time (mocha with caffeine) again, and at mile 6.5 I told myself to pick up the pace. I went ahead of the 4:00 pacer and never saw him again. This stretch of miles I felt really good; I wasn’t quite hitting 8:30s but yet I felt like I was at the right pace. There were a lot of us on the road, but enough space to make moves, yet I really wasn’t looking to pass people. I repeated the mantra “I run my own race” and kept near people who seemed to be on the same pace as I was. Around mile 7 the sun came out and I tried to put on my sunglasses but they kept fogging up! We got more shade again and at mile 8 we were near campus – back where we started. Here I took my last gel (lemon lime).
Getting close to mile 9 we had another big hill in the neighborhood just outside the UO. I was starting to feel tired but yet at the same time I knew I was on track to go sub-2. I didn’t think I was going to hit 1:55 but I was okay with that; I just wanted to stay under a 9:00 pace. I knew, though, that I had to push harder up this hill than I had on Mile 4. I remembered a tip my friend Jill told me to try, which is to pick a runner ahead of you and pretend she’s pulling you up. Dude, that works! I picked a runner who looked strong and contained but wasn’t super far ahead, and I let her carry me up.
Can I tangent quickly and talk about crowd support? The early miles had thin support because it was so crazy early, but midway through there were far more on the course, including a Girl Scout troop I wanted to hug and tons of people ringing cowbells and yelling positive affirmations as well as holding funny signs. I was very much within my own head this whole race – I didn’t really talk to many people and when I did it was in the early miles – but I love saying thank you to the crowd. I knew my hubby would be at Hayward Field to see me in and I couldn’t wait for that moment, but I have to say I wished I knew more people on the course. It is SUCH a boost to see smiling folks cheer you on. When we got back to campus the crowd was insane and I loved it. I high fived an elderly guy who was high-fiving as many runners as he could and it made that mile!
We headed through campus and east towards Springfield and over the bridge to the paved paths along the river. At this point I knew it was close. Just a 5k left! I knew I was going to finish and I was going to go under 2 hours. I was also getting really tired. The air was warmer and I sometimes got the chills, but yet I didn’t feel thirsty or nauseous and nothing was crazy sore. I still had water left, so I sipped on it every few minutes. I had a mild side ache that I breathed through and I knew I was getting some blisters. And yet, I kept running. This part of running is fascinating to me – you want to stop, you are tired, things begin to hurt, you are noting that you are close and yet there are miles left, and yet, you just keep moving. Time definitely slowed down here but yet when I think about the race, I remember distinct points (I am going into a tunnel; I am turning this corner; here is a turnaround; the marathoners have split off) and yet entire sections in between those points are a total blank. My thoughts were all mantras at this point: I can do hard things. I got this. I get to do this. I am strong. I am capable. I worked for this. Go for it!
Same thing on the other foot. I wore my trusty Injinjis AND used Body Glide. Hm.
At this point I started to pump my arms more. I really wanted those 8:30s but they weren’t happening. I had to focus pretty intently to keep up my pace, as I just naturally started to slow down. I kept pace with a woman ahead of me again but I was still struggling, so – I can’t believe I did this – I passed her. And then I passed some more folks. Not a ton of people, but one by one, I picked off a few just to keep moving. I am really flippin’ proud of myself here because it worked. Britney told me what I had to do: “Work, bitch!”
Then it was Mile 12 and I was crossing the Autzen Footbridge and this was it. The last mile!
I really tried not to constantly look at my Garmin but I was anyway. I wanted my last mile to be my fastest and I also just wanted to know I was getting close! I remember seeing 12.10 miles, then 12.28. The pace was hovering at 9:00 so I pushed more. We crossed Franklin Blvd. and we were on Alder. There were a lot of people out there cheering, telling us we were so close. I high-fived a guy again and saw a camera and tried to smile. OH GOD. When it is your last mile and you are pushing and you are so, so tired and so close and yet the finish will not come, your smile is not quite what you think it is. Instead, you have this:
Argh. I look like a slightly top-heavy, tall, middle-aged woman… Oh, wait. And yes I know posting this is naughty but charging $25 for ONE photo? Eff off.
HA! Oh good god.
I turned off my music so I could soak in the crowd noise but ten seconds later I turned it back on again. I needed everything possible to keep moving.
I saw the entrance to Hayward Field and it seemed so far away and then the next instant, it was there. I was on the track. Holy shit! I am running on Hayward Field! We veered right and the woman in front of me started hauling so I instantly picked up the pace. I felt like I was sprinting as hard as I could but I’m sure it was WAY slower than that, lol. I looked to my right and saw Damien! He was beaming and pumping his fist and shouting and it was wonderful! I think I smiled/grimaced at him – maybe I waved? I truly have no idea! – and then just kept going.
Last bend before the straightaway!
I saw the time on the race clock – it was 2:00 something – but I knew I was under that time because of the staggered start. Then the woman ahead of me kicked it up even further and I tried to match her pace but couldn’t. In my defense, she was about 20, lol. Then another woman behind me sprinted past which PISSED ME OFF. But then she pulled up before the finish line and if there was one thing I learned in my track workouts it is this: NO LET UP. I sprinted forward to pass her (sucka!) and I was across the finish!
I pressed STOP on my Garmin and saw 1:57:46. I had done it! I had broken two hours! By minutes!
Happy but I still look like I want to eat someone’s face.
It was an amazing relief to be done. I heaved at the marine who gave me my medal, told the girl who handed out chocolate milk I loved her, probably drooled a little on the kid who handed me my bag of snacks. I posed for my official finisher’s photo with what I thought was a smile (WOW, Tina. Seriously, just… wow.) And then Damien was there! He came to the spectator/finisher area with open arms and a HUGE smile and I gave him a huge sweaty hug and a sweaty kiss and teared up. I was over the moon. I was beat but yet I was elated. I pounded that chocolate milk and he hung out while I stretched and foam rolled, and then he went and looked up my official results.
21st in my age group?! First number of my pace is an 8? I’ll take it!!!!
My splits. Hell yes last 1.1 (3.2?)!
We had pancakes and more snacks out of the goodie bag, and then I noticed that a band was playing but no one was dancing. This might be my favorite moment of the race experience outside of 1) finishing 2) seeing Damien at the track. I did some stupid, silly dance moves and D took a picture and two dudes in the beer garden yelled out, “Go on girl, get it!”
You know this is my new FB profile pic.
Doing the butt after PRing and more than meeting my main race goal. Awww yeah.
We hung out a bit more and then left to get out stuff together and head home. Poor D was zonked and well, I had just run hard for two hours. On the way home I had a bag of Tim’s potato chips that were orgasmically good – mmmmmmm salt – and a bottle of kombucha. For lunch I had bacon and eggs. Then I napped for 1.5 hours. And proceeded to be glued to Facebook for the rest of the day. My friends = super supportive rock stars.
And to you, Internet friends, all in all it was a fantastic experience. I am very, very proud of myself. I ran smart and I ran hard. I had to work for this and I did. I never walked. I never stopped, not even for aid. I feel like my time reflects my absolute best effort on that day and in those conditions. The race itself was brilliantly organized and to finish on the historic track at Hayward, with my husband cheering his guts out for me? AMAZING.
That stupid right foot STILL kicks out. You know what I say: I don’t run pretty! Good lord these pics prove it!
Final note: on the way home Damien asked me, “How long ago did you do Couch to 5k?” And I realized that I finished that eight-week program two years ago at the end of July. In fact, I just checked: July 30, 2012. He smiled at me and told me that in two years from first starting to run I ran a half-marathon in under two hours. Unbelievable! Or, wait…
My dear friend Dana gave me this card for my birthday. So fitting!
Believe it! And YOU, dear reader: go on, girl, GET IT!