I had already run 10 miles. It was 9:30am on Mother's Day morning, and already 90 degrees and super humid. We had been running in almost complete sun for the last 5 miles. At each water stop, I started taking not one but two cups of water from the wonderful volunteers—one to drink and one to pour on my head. The occasion for the anguish? The 5th annual Western Mass Mother's Day Half Marathon, same local and awesome race that I ran this time last year.
This is my third half marathon. Each time I run the distance, I make it a little further along before the inner doubter starts to scream in my head. Each time I make a more organized and slightly more viable plan, and each time it works well enough to get me a few miles further down the road. But Sunday was not the day I conquered the half marathon. Sunday was the day I got close enough to finishing in comfort that I'm intrigued to TRY AGAIN.
Here's the rundown, for my own reference if nothing else:
5:30 AM: Up for coffee, Ezekiel muffin with almond butter and jelly, and bathroom use. My light-sleeping son joined me around 6am, which was unexpected but nice.
6:26 AM: My crew showed up to take me to the race and support my efforts! Thanks mom!!!
7:15 AM: Arrive, apply sunscreen, pick up my race bib, more bathroom use.
7:55 AM: The national anthem is sung. It always makes me a little weepy.
8:00 AM: We begin!
Miles 0-3: My plan was to stick to a 9:30 pace to warm up. SLOW. I was fairly successful--there were some downhills where I went faster, but I decided that was allowed. 9:42, 9:14, 9:29.
Miles 4-5: Speeding up a tiny bit—aiming for 9:09, which is the pace that would get me a 2-hour finish if I ran it for every mile. 9:09, 9:13.
Mile 6: The only major hill (which is short but steep) is in this mile, so I consider 9:31 great for this split.
Mile 7: I'm halfway done and slowly starting to realize it's getting hot. I also start to purposely speed up. I'm still basically keeping up with the same group of people. I had a gnawing feeling in my tummy, like too much coffee and not enough food, and easily solved it with a dried fruit ball washed down with lots of water. Better! 9:06.
Miles 8-11: I pull out my secret weapon, my ipod loaded with a pumping RACE DAY playlist. I feel amazing. I start sailing past other runners. This works for an amazingly long time. 9:01, 8:55, 8:45, 8:53.
Miles 12-13: Kachunk, kachunk! That's the sound of the wheels falling off the bus. I am suddenly so very drained, tired and overheated. My brain seems to scramble in an instant. A guy I passed recently passes me again. The miles tick by in painfully miniscule increments. Time slows to a crawl. The final hill is absolutely nowhere in sight. See inner dialogue quoted above. 9:41, 9:38... almost as slow as mile one. Ugh.
Mile 13.1: Uphill. The race finish is on the opposite side of a highway overpass, so you have to run UP it, and then down a bit to the finish. I passed a guy on the down part who was going inexplicably slowly, so that was something. 8:10 pace for that tenth of a mile!
So here's my recap. I'm really happy with how 10/13th of this race went. I've never felt so good during a race before! I think for a few miles I was actually experiencing Flow, as described in the excellent Runner's Times article Locking Into Flow. I also knew, from some other magazine, that peaks of feeling great are generally mirrored by troughs of feeling awful. I managed to hit my trough right before finish, and I believe that's part of what made this my slowest half ever. I trained for this for 10 weeks, but never in infernal heat!!
Official Time: 2:01
And then... dim sum!!! It is a requirement that I refuel with this Chinese tea lunch after every half marathon. I made a collage for you!
Clockwise from top right: chili oil, lotus leaf rice wrap, pork siu mai, char siu bao (bbq pork bun), shrimp har gow. (We also had an order of wu gok (fried taro roll)--love that one!)