2012 is off to a busy start! At the end of last season, I signed up for two half marathons to ensure that I would focus on my run training during off season. The run has always been a bit of a problem for me, as I don't come from a running background. Historically, each time I tried to train for half marathon I'd lose steam half way through my plan, injure something, or simply not start laying down consistent base miles for enough time before ramping up distance or speed. Running itself is not hard to do, but to do it correctly and remain injury free, that takes some work. Since I'd signed up for four Half Ironmans and a Full Ironman, I figured I better get on the ball with this running business. My first half marathon was in January of 2010 at Surf City in HB and I showed up under-trained due to a foot injury (plantar fasciitis) and decided to run anyways (bad choice). Needless to say, it was an unpleasant experience and it hurt like hell. I finally dragged my sorry ass across the finish line in 2:32:39. My next half marathon was at the end of Orangeman 70.3+ in September. I thought I was relatively trained for it, but again the run hammered me into the ground with a depressing 3 hours. Granted it was over 14 miles and it was hills AND it was after swimming 1.2 mi and riding 56 mi of Ortega Highway, but it was NOT the half marathon I wanted and I vowed to never repeat that miserable run/walk/cry again.
I logged plenty of miles in November and December and even ran a nice slow 13.1 on Christmas Day. My mileage felt comfortable and I felt confident that I could get through and possibly even improve my time for the half marathons in January and February. Once I signed on with Joby as my coach, he switched my Sundays from long slow runs to speed-work with add-on slower mileage afterwards. Each Sunday was under 13 miles, but Joby assured me the speed-work sessions would handle the half marathon. The speed-work sessions were brutal and I endured largely through the camaraderie of teammates, our mutual suffering and the confidence that the work now would pay off later.
The last weekend in January found me at the extremely early Tinkerbell Half Marathon with my co-worker and friend Tristan and two super cool runner chick friends of hers! I can't recall the last time I was at Disneyland, but it's been ages. I figured it would be kind of neat to run through the empty park, but had no real expectations and was following a tempo/speed-work plan Joby set out for me to do for the duration of the race. I was tickled by the flood of memories that came back from my childhood as I jogged through what seemed like every square foot of Disneyland. What a trip! Since it was empty, I could clearly pinpoint areas I'd been as a child. I waited in line there. We bought candy there. We went into that shop on Main Street. We watched the parade from here. Never in a million years did I think I'd ever be allowed to run all out through Disneyland! It was a blast, really well organized and a nice way to start my official 2012 season.
The following Sunday was the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach. Joby had backed my training load off a bit the week prior giving me some well needed rest and recovery. On Saturday he sent me 5 pacing options for the race. I realized that I'd be actually racing a half marathon for the first time. There's a big difference between finishing and racing. To be honest I felt nervous about his plans. I knew I could do the slowest plan which had me running pretty much 10:00 min/miles with a little speeding up half way through. What I wasn't sure is if I could run the fastest pace plan which had me running 9:15 min/mi. That's a big difference. Every mile would have to be 45sec faster than the slowest plan and my regular easy/long run pace is more towards 11:00 min/mi. Yet, our speed sessions had often involved around 5+ miles and I had to do bonus miles afterwards that I often ran at a 9:30-10:30 pace. I decided that if I woke up feeling strong, I'd go all in and aim for the fastest pace plan and the 2:00:00 goal.
|Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2012 Results|
|And here I'm in the happy-fun-fun first 5 miles|
I woke up feeling great but still unsure about that 9:15 pace. I decided it didn't matter what happened out there. This is not an "A" race for me and I'm not a runner.Freeing myself up from those expectations, I didn't have to care if I blew up at mile 10 or wound up ascending my pace/mile. After an easy warm up, I got in my corral and waited for the start. Surf City is a really, really big race. Over 20,000 people packed onto Pacific Coast Highway to run either the half marathon or the full (which fortunately starts earlier). I took off and began my run hoping to clear away from the crowds as soon as possible. With 20,000 people, there's no real breaking away from the crowd. The crowds are everywhere. It took a bit more navigating around people than I would have liked to have wasted time doing, but I was committed to my pace.
|A little more serious now...|
The first 5 miles went fantastic. I was having to hold myself back and even cruised up the one uphill section. I wasn't sure when I'd need my E-gel that I brought with me, but I usually can spot the cues from my body when I need to take it so I wasn't worried. Until I I began to slow down. I felt like I was running just as fast, and I was going downhill, but no matter what I did, my pace kept ticking up and up and up. So much so that I figured my Garmin was just having an issue, but it stayed at 10:07 and I realized it wasn't being flaky, I was actually slowing down. I realized too late that due to the huge increase in pace, my body switched over to burning glycogen much sooner than usual and I needed food NOW (well, actually half a mile before this). Fortunately Adam was riding by at the same time on his BMX (taking pics) and I snagged his water to get my gel down with. Not surprisingly, my pace went back to normal!
|Bringing it home!|
I never got back to that awesome feeling I had for the first 5 miles. I knew I was on limited time until my sugar was depleted again, and I had no real plan. The food they had on the course (shot blocks) don't tend to sit really well with me so I was going to have to just do what I could with what I had. I was starting to lose focus when Tammy Lynn came up behind me and said some really words of encouragement. I was so happy to see her and felt renewed. I pulled up every trick in my head to get myself back on track for 2 hours. It was getting hot, I was getting a bit cranky with the crowds and I just wanted to get it done. The next five miles were a push. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed. I mentally tied myself to people in front of me and used them to pull me forward. I played games with my cadence. I counted. I set up mini-races to get ahead of certain people. I dug deep and had very little left. I took what I had and pushed it into the last mile and crossed the finish line in 2:01:11. That's good enough for me!
I'm really pleased with my time. Not too shabby for a 31 year old ex-smoker who only started seriously trying to run a few years ago! It's reaching goals like these that make me realize that anything is truly possible and it's experiences like this that make me understand how crucial the right people being around you are to your success. I'm so fortunate to have a core group of people who not only support and encourage me, but believe I can do things that I'm not even sure of. I spent most of my life trying to do things on my own and I got pretty far. From this side of the fence, I can tell you, life is so much easier when you have a reliable set of friends to help you on your way to your dreams.