Sunday, May 04, 2008

A half marathon, but a full dose of effort

If you looked at a manual that gave you tips on how to run the race of your life, I seriously doubt “Get Up at 3:45 a.m., then bus out to remote field and freeze for an hour” would make the top 10.
Probably not even the top 20.
Yet there I was today, shivering in the 6 a.m. air, with a helpful breeze slathering us in chill, as we waited for the start of the Colorado half marathon. The race started at 7 a.m., but the “luxury” buses (meaning “not school buses”) took us up the Poudre Canyon at 5:45 a.m., I guess, to make sure we all got there on time.
We were the last bus to leave and we still waited an hour. It got so bad I had to slip on my Superman/Superhero/Ghey Under Armor tights and try to keep busy by walking around. I wore a hat, gloves and two tech shirts along with the tights. I wore the same outfits at times during the dead of winter, when the temperatures struggled to scrape above single-digits. Yet, in May, I was shivering like a baby penguin.
I also used the potty - a vital part of race preparation, for obvious reasons - and lingered in the port-a-potty because it felt so damn good to be out of the breeze and frosty air. It’s probably the only time I’ve ever wanted to stay in a port-a-potty after the deed was done. Again, for obvious reasons.
The race did eventually start, after all 1,200 of us became like bees in a hive and huddled together, and it took all of a mile to realize I had made a huge mistake by leaving the tights on and checking my shorts. I had stripped my top layer, the hat and gloves, and I was still a little warm.
Crap. Crap crap crap. How long is a half marathon? 13 miles?
Crap. I’m screwed.
Only I wasn’t because despite the fact that my legs felt like they belonged on a cadaver, thanks to the cold I whined about above, I was doing pretty well. My goal for this race was to run faster than an 8:30-per-mile pace, with outside hopes of hitting above 8:15. It was a lofty goal, given that it would mean hard running for one hour and 45 minutes. But I also thought it was attainable.
A good portion of the course is downhill, like the first third, and I was breezing along and feeling pretty good. I probably should start out slower, I thought, but I knew I could finish the race, so I decided to run as hard as I could and see how it went.
My iPod Shuffle, stuffed with speed metal, the occasional inspirational song (”Stronger” by Kayne West) and a cheesy ballad or two, kept me moving.
The first real challenge came at Bagel Hill, around mile 5, a steep hill, but at the bottom my running partner was there with a Gatorade mix and some much-needed encouragement. It’s funny how just a little cheering from a good friend can really lift your spirits.
I’d need it again around mile 10, when she showed up again, this time with more Gatorade. After a pretty uneventful race, I was beginning to crash. My bones hurt, my legs didn’t want to move and I had a hard time finding any kind of rhythm, despite the fact that running like a robot is more crucial than ever when you’re that tired.
She got me to the last mile, when I found another friend, an older woman who is basically a studette. She was planning to run a marathon in six days. I ran with her the last mile and pulled ahead in the last few moments.
I crossed the line in 1:49:57.
The pace was 8:24-per mile.
And stopping felt really, really good.
I finished around 245th out of 1,200. Not bad.
I went home, fixed some Tyson chicken tacos (and I managed to ignore the fact that the “Now with 10 percent more chicken!” was considered a good marketing gimmick from Tyson officials) and took a long, hot shower.
I’m sitting at the computer now, with my right leg in a pretty bad mood, something Advil hasn’t even soothed. It’s not injured. I think its feelings are hurt.
It can’t understand why I’ve sacrificed its comfort for the health of my spirit. Someday, when I know myself, I’ll explain it to him.

1 comment:

SirFWALGMan said...

Watch that leg or we may have the euphenize you.