Sunday, March 21, 2010

4 seconds.

It took 5 years to get 4 seconds. For the first time since February of 2005, I have a PR in the half-marathon, but for some reason I can't quite be excited about it. 4 seconds over 13.1 miles is almost negligible. It was the difference between me kicking it in at mile 13 and not. At least that's how it looks on paper.

After having my first big allergy attack of the year season yesterday, I was relieved to warm up this morning so that I could breath out of my nose. It stopped the sniffling and sneezing, but I still couldn't really use my nostrils for much. Tim and I warmed up and arrived at the starting line with about 2 minutes to spare... perfect timing in my mind. I was surprised to see two children wearing Team Blitz singlets; Andrew 3.0 and 4.0 were both in the half (I thought they were doing the full.) I also saw Pat a few rows behind me. Jimmy Jam was nowhere in sight, nor was Kathy. The gun went off and I thought the field looked a little small. About 20 meters in I realized that there was a median in the road that separated us and that a majority of the elites must have been on the other side.

Tim ran away and I yelled to him "You can win it!" I think that was before I saw the other half of the field, but it turned out I was pretty close to accurate as he got 4th place, despite having a bad day. I went out as slow as I could and found a group of people to get behind. I was letting anyone and everyone pass me if they wanted to; I would not win the race in the first mile but didn't want to go out as fast as I did at Colonial. The Andrews were around me and we found ourselves in a group with some women. It looked like there were a lot of people in front of me. That first mile was 5:42, however the clock at mile 1 said 5:32 so I was initially frustrated until I saw my own watch. We dropped some of the women right then and I was still wondering where Jimmy and Kathy were. I figured the former to be way ahead and the latter to be somewhere close behind, but I wasn't going to focus my entire race around the two of them. I stayed right where I was in the back of my group and didn't go when some of them started to break apart to move ahead.

I'm glad that I didn't because we hit the 2nd mile in 5:19. I wasn't ready to make that kind of jump-- I was hoping for more like 5:35 for the 2nd mile. There were no more women and the group was a lot thinner now as we still went straight down Pacific Avenue. I took water at the first two water stops and it didn't make me feel good, so I didn't have any more. Mile 3 was a surprising 5:53... I looked around at the group and said--maybe out loud, maybe in my head--"5:53 isn't going to cut it," and moved around the group and out on my own. There were two guys pretty far ahead so I set my sights on them. I stayed relaxed and didn't get after it too soon so that I didn't pull another 5:19, and reeled them in for a 5:28 4th mile. I asked them what they were trying to run and one guy (eventual 20th place) said 1:12. Sounds good to me! I'd found my race partner after all, so I thought. After a 5:32, somehow the group I'd dropped caught back up to me. I guess they ran a smart mile too for mile 5, but I was astonished to go through 5 miles in 27:56 after running an 8K on March 7th in 27:52. That really WAS a bad race!

We got into Fort Story after a 5:35 mile-- it felt faster than that as the group was falling apart, but I was resilient. Somehow I run through water stops faster than other people so I was able to reattach myself to the back of the pack. One guy wearing the new Brooks green eco shoes was running all over the place and I said something to him about it, he told me that he was still drunk from his 8k celebration. Ridiculous. He ended up 19th ahead of me too. Miles 7 & 8 through Fort Story were good; the pack dropped down to 4 with me tucked in behind just trying to hold on. We got to another water stop near the end of the fort and the lighthouse and I took the lead. I pulled the group through 5:28 and 5:31 but felt like I was starting to lose it. I didn't hear anyone behind me so I thought they'd dropped off, but I saw a short woman with a pony tail and a yellow shirt in front of me... KATHY! She'd gone out way faster than I thought she would, but I was catching her. As I got closer, I was sure it was her, and I passed her and said "Good job Kath" without looking over. Shortly after that I passed Trevor, wearing Team Blitz as usual, cheering me on. I tried to motion to him that Kathy was behind me so he could cheer for her too, but he mustn't have seen her tucked in behind me.

Well it turns out that wasn't Kathy. Getting back onto Pacific, the guys who were all tucked in behind me passed me, and so did a little short man that wasn't Kathy at all. Getting passed by bizarro Kathy and the guys who I thought I'd dropped was tough... I fell to a 5:37 mile, but still passed through 10 miles in 55:35, which was 5:30 pace! I still had a shot! I kept telling myself that as I passed other runners and bizarro Kathy, but lost a lot of ground on 19 & 20. An 11th mile in 5:40 and a 12th in 5:47 were hard to overcome, but I kept saying to myself that I could break 73 if I kept going. It was so windy and lonely, I just wanted to turn those last two turns and be done with it! I got onto the board walk and threw down everything I could at the wind. The 13th mile was 5:41 (which I didn't know until later because of course I didn't look!) and I closed in 34 seconds. I saw the clock turn past 72 into 73 and stared at it all the way in. I crossed in 73:19, amazed that I'd worked so hard to accomplish so little that morning...

The whole race, except for maybe mile 3, was perfect until the last 5k of wind. I had company for 10 miles, I was on pace, and I felt good! The weather was a little warm but nothing that set me back. I could come up with a bunch of reasons why I didn't run faster, but I don't actually care! I don't want the reasons, I just want the results. There is nothing that could have stopped me from smashing my PR today... yet everything did. Sure, I can say that my PR isn't 5 years old anymore, but who cares! It's still slow! I'm still slow and my half-marathon time is still crappy.

Historic Half in May is unlikely to yield a better result. I suppose that my new basket will be Rock N Roll...  I'll put all my eggs into that one.

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