Thanks for all of the advance congrats, blogpeople! I am pretty happy with how I ran this race. It wasn’t a PR. Nothing ever is. But I haven’t cracked 1:40 since…um, high school? So there’s that. Huzzah!
Here’s how it went down:
After exactly seven pee stops (that’s one every thirty minutes!), I rolled in to Virginia Beach on Saturday afternoon and made a quick stop at the expo to grab my schtuff. I promptly got the hell out of there because I had to pee (again!) and the bathroom lines were outta control.
Headed out to my friend Jenni’s house (thanks for letting me camp in your guest room, Jenni!), a few miles away. We gabbed and I drank more water. We went out for pizza and I ate more than her and her son combined. We were both yawning by 10 PM. I peed one more time and then fell in to bed like a pizza-stuffed sack of…well, pizza, I guess.
Up and at ’em at 5:00 AM on race day. Ugh, that is the worst part about races. I drove down to the beachfront, parked in an already-packed garage near the finish area, and started the 15-block trek north toward the start. I quickly realized that it was windy and miserable, and that everyone was wearing sweats and hats and gloves, whereas I was a shivering mess in shorts and a long sleeved throwaway tee.
Ugh. Why am I doing this again?
Although it was a mild 45*, the wind felt like ice. Ice that blows sand in your eyes. I ducked in to a 7-11 and purchased a cup of the worst coffee I’ve ever consumed, sipping it while considering my options. I could:
(A) Go back to the car and get more clothes; or
(B) Suck it up and start moving to warm up a little.
Of course I opted for B. I continued north at a slow jog and started to feel slightly less miserable.
As it turns out, that was a good decision because as it was, I barely had enough time to drop off my bag, defile a port-o-potty, and hop in to my corral. Right on time at 7 AM, we were off.
Mile 1 – 7:38
Mile 2 – 7:37
Mile 3 – 7:31
Thankfully, we immediately headed a couple of blocks inland. The wind backed off considerably. I focused on just getting in to a nice easy groove. I still had my throwaway shirt on and didn’t even look at my Garmin until I saw the first mile marker.
I had gone in to this thing with a couple of goals:
- Break 1:40.
- Run a nice, even, smart race.
- Don’t f*ck up.
I was rather pleasantly surprised when I saw my first mile split. I had assumed, with how mellow the pace felt, that I was closer to 8:00. Still, I held back. Smart race. Smart race. Smart race.
After a couple of miles, we turned off of the residential road and headed thorough a park-like area and a pretty grove of windswept trees. Easy peasy. Hey. This is actually kind of pleasant.
Mile 4 – 7:26
Mile 5 – 7:21
Mile 6 – 7:29
I spent most of miles 4 and 5 attempting to lose this chick who was, like, sucking gas. Loudly. “Damn,” I thought to myself. “If that’s how you feel at mile four, it’s going to be a long morning for you, sweetie.” And then I remembered that I’ve gone out WAY too hard in my fair share of races and have probably totally been that girl before. Huh.
Regardless, I finally shook her loose and fell into step with a friendly older guy from Ohio. We chatted our way through mile marker six. And then just like that, we were halfway there.
Mile 7 – 7:24
Mile 8 – 7:31
Mile 9 – 7:20
We were now running through some sort of military site thingy and making a slight turn back toward the water – right in to the wind. Awesome. I could see this lighthouse in the distance. I figured it must be the lighthouse I had heard people talking excitedly about. As in: “Yeah, as soon as we hit the lighthouse it’s a straight shot down Atlantic Ave!”
But I knew it was way too soon to be thinking I was on the homestretch. I glanced periodically down at my wrist and saw that I was hanging on to my goal pace just fine. Just hang out there, I told myself.
Somewhere around mile 8, we made the final turn around the bluff and hit a nasty patch of headwind, along with the only hill of the course. It was a wee little thing, but suddenly it felt like I was running up Mt. Suck.* I could feel my gait start to flatten – oh, hey, there’s the feeling I’ve been dreading for the last hour.
Mile 10 – 7:18
Mile 11 – 7:29
Mile 12 – 7:30
Well, at least we’re past that damn lighthouse.
Running was starting to feel a little bit…well, hard. And as much as that sucked, physically, I was actually a little relieved because it hadn’t really felt like I’d been racing up to this point. Thirty minutes, I told myself. You can run hard for thirty minutes, I thought. That’s one episode of House Hunters.
And at some point, it dawned on me that I was actually going to do this. I was going to finish under 1:40. I was not going to f*ck up.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt that way during a half before. Whoa.
Halfway through mile 10, I felt a little surge of energy and started to work my way forward in the pack. I pulled up alongside woman in a pink shirt. We chatted for a bit and she started snarking on a woman who was running in front of us in a wool hat, who I’d been watching for the last several miles. I immediately decided that I liked Pink Shirt.
“Let’s go get her,” I said. Pink Shirt agreed.
I totally owe Pink Shirt and her sass for what would be my fastest mile of the race, that mile 10.
Unfortunately, I lost my nerve somewhere in the early part of mile 11.
We were averaging sub-7 pace. I got…scared? I don’t know. I let Pink Shirt pull away and settled back in to my more-comfortable low-mid-7 pace. This, I count as my only mistake of the race. Because she was fun and distracting and really…why couldn’t I have tried to go with her? Sigh.
And so I plodded along. I focused on just staying sharp on my feet and avoiding the temptation to shuffle. Pink Shirt and Wool Hat were still well within sight.
Mile 13 – 7:19
0.1 + change – 1:01
So this last mile was hard. But I’m not sure the last mile of a long race is ever easy? I tried to talk myself in to picking up the pace. Myself snapped back that it was actually rather weary of this whole running thing. We compromised and I focused on just maintaining.
With half a mile to go, we turned on to the boardwalk. Finally, the ocean! Yay! But…oh damn, is that the finish line? Why does it look so small? Ugh.
I wish I could say I had an awesome sprint finish for this one, but no. I gave it my all, but I just didn’t have much of a kick left in me. Still, coming down that last stretch of boardwalk, I managed to pass a bunch of people who were in worse shape than me. Little victories.
Finish time: 1:38:01. 7:28 pace.
I found Pink Shirt in the baggage claim area. She beat the annoying hat chick. And finished about 30 seconds ahead of me. Why didn’t I go with her again?
Oh well. Next time.
Am I happy with my finish time? Yes, absolutely. Do I think I can run better? Yes, definitely. But the thing I’m most happy about, reflecting on this race, isn’t my time. It’s that I finally (finally!) seem to be learning how to race a little smarter. I went out conservatively (maybe even too conservatively) and finished strong. I didn’t f*ck up. Yay me.
And a beer for you if you made it though this entire post.
Well, I’m off to eat cheese straight off the block for dinner. I really need to get my act together when it comes to preparing decently healthy food for myself. (And maybe get my blogging act together, too. Are y’all sick of cartoons about peeing and long-winded race reports yet?)
[*Side note: did you know there is actually something called Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach? I can’t decide whether this is awesome or disgusting.]