Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Middle Half Recap 2013

Warning: This is long and there are no pictures. Okay, there are two pictures at the end. Sorry, not my fault. Well, it's kind of my fault. 

This morning I ran my 5th half marathon, The Middle Half. It's a local race with a flat course, so it's very popular seeing how it's the only 1/2 marathon the city has. Because of their quick sell out last year, they added 500 more spots to registration for a total of 3,000 runners, and it STILL sold out in two hours! It's kind of a big deal. The Middle Half, and Tom King in Nashville, are the only flat 1/2 courses in this area (and I've run both), so I was eager to race the course for the 2nd time.

Back in March I ran a 1:57:xx at Tom King, and decided I was going to aim high (very high) and go for a sub 1:50 at The Middle Half...7 months down the road. Dream big, right? Well, I thought if I put the work into it I could manage. And maybe I could have, had I not started training for a marathon. My mileage went up, but my pace went down. I had off and on ankle and calf issues for a few weeks (it's always something!) And I'm fine with that. I know that I have not been training for a sub 1:50 1/2. I've been training for a marathon. There's a big difference.

Anyway, here's how today went: 

Alarm went off at 4:00. I did NOT feel like running. Nothing physical, just mentally did not want to get up and do anything. Was in a major funk. Like one of those moods where I just want to cry for no reason. Women, right?

But I knew I couldn't go back to bed. I couldn't NOT race. I had lots of people that were going to be wondering how I did, and I couldn't disappoint them by saying I gave up before I ever left the house. 

(By the way, Chris is out of town, so that just made me less motivated. I didn't want to do this alone. Meh.)

So, I made some eggs, but had no appetite. I tried to force down as much as I could without having it come back up. I thought, "Great, I'm gonna bonk, because I didn't eat." Whatever. At the time I didn't care. I grabbed a granola bar and made myself snack on it while driving.

I got to the parking lot earlier than I needed, but after all the races I've been to (mine and Chris' combined) I'm used to it. If I had gotten there much later I probably would have had an anxiety attack. I don't like to be rushed. 

I sat in the car for what seems like forever. Walked around and chatted with a few people. Went back to the car. Walked to the bathroom. Went back to the car. Stretched. Sat around, zoned out, thinking about the race. Went back to the bathroom. Went back to the car. Called Chris. Stretched some more. Went to drop my key off at the drop-off place. Then went back to the bathroom one last time.

You might think "that sure is a lot of trips to the bathroom in a 30 minute period!," But seriously, you're not a runner if you don't have a nervous race bladder. If you think you have to go, you go. If you don't think you have to go, you better go anyway. Hey, I've never once had to stop during a race. 

Apparently, I got stuck in the slowest port-a-potty line, because afterwards I had to sprint to the start line to find my pace group with about 5 minutes to spare. Talk about STRESS!

I weaved my way through the crowd and found the 1:55 group. I had decided to sign up for a pace group, so that way I would not have to worry about looking at my watch or keeping pace myself. I was really looking forward to just chilling and following someone. The gun went off, I looked up, and my pace lady (I really wish I could remember her name, so I wouldn't call her pace lady) was way ahead of me! The thing I HATE most about races are the crowds. It is so hard to weave in and out of people. That's why it's so important to line up with your pace, so people aren't having to go around you. Sorry, side-rant. Anyway, I caught up with her and stayed right behind her most of the time. I figured I could stay behind, at a slightly slower pace, and as long as she stayed just ahead then I wouldn't worry about any specific pace. 

There were a few times when I got behind (stopped twice to tie my shoe, slowed down for water, got trapped behind some old folk who crop-dusted me), but I easily caught up. This was before we got to mile 10. 

Mile 10. I don't know what it is about that mile, but that's when the wheels usually start to come off for me. I had decided before the race if I felt good at mile 10 that I would push the last three miles. Yeah, right. I was barely able to hang with my pace group at that point. Normally, I only take one PowerGel during a race (around mile 7), but today I took one at mile 5 and another at mile 10 hoping it would help me during those last few miles. At mile 11 was the first time I actually stopped and walked with my water cup. I knew that my pace lady (Angela! That's her name. I remember, now) was not stopping. At all. For anything. Dang! Was kind of hoping she'd slow down and wait for me. And also be able to pause the clock. 

But she didn't. She looked like she was getting further and further away (probably because she was.) I kept trying to catch up, but my legs were slowly giving out, and my breathing was getting labored. I was getting a side stitch, and I started doing that cry/whining that I do at the end of races when I just don't have much left in the tank. I heard Chris' voice in my head telling me to focus on my breathing and to just get through it. I'm almost done. At mile 12 Angela was still at least 1/4 mile or more ahead of me. I stopped and walked for about 10 seconds and told myself "NO. You can't walk. If you walk you will only get further behind, and you didn't run all that way to throw it in the bag at the very end." So, I kept pushing. I focused on my breathing, and the fact that I was almost done, and would, without a doubt, set a new PR. I hadn't really looked at my watch all that much, so I had no idea how much time I had before I hit 1:55. As soon as I turned left onto Greenland (which confused me, because I still have no idea how we ended up there? I must have really been out of it for 1/2 a mile) and with about 1/4 of mile to the finish line I CAUGHT MY PACE GROUP! Not only did I catch them, after spending the last 2 miles chasing them, I sprinted PAST them to the finish line. Seriously, y'all, that was the highlight of my run. Not the fact that I ran a 1:54:45. Not the fact that I had a solid race and wasn't hurting. The fact that I dug deep and kept after it, not giving up when I wanted to - THAT'S what I'm proud of myself for. I know without a doubt if I had not had that group to chase after I would have thrown my hands in the air at mile 12. I still would have finished, but I would have stopped a lot more. And I definitely would not have finished in the time I did today. 

Blurry, yes, but there's a smile underneath all that blur! At least I think there was. Maybe not, yet. P.S. Can you even see my shoes? Looks like I'm just running in pink socks.  

Aside from the times that Chris has paced me, this was my first time running with a pace group - and I absolutely LOVED it! I'm not one to talk when I run, but hey, if you want to talk I'll listen! I wish I could run in a pace group for every race - even for 5k's. It took the pressure off of me constantly having to look at my watch. I just followed that pink sign, and went wherever it went. If you have a specific time you are aiming at, I encourage you to jump in with a pacer!

Have you ever run with a pace group? Do you think it helps or hurts your race?