Saturday, May 9, 2009

Eugene Half-Marathon Race Report

Forgive me Blogger, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last posting and there is a race report to give. Let's get to it. It's long but it has been two whole weeks. I have words backed up in me.

Race Day! Alarm goes off at 5:00. I am crabby. I had a horrible night's sleep. I saw every hour on the damn clock. I am too tired to even drink a Diet Coke and that is really saying something for me. We leave the hotel, drive downtown, get on the shuttle and get to the start line at 6:15. Lots of time to mill around and wake up a little while standing around in a light rain. I am having a hard time shaking the grumpy off. Kevin, being the great boyfriend that he is, got up with us at that ungodly hour to hang out, be our personal bag check guy, take race photos and cheer us on. It meant a lot to me that he went through all of that for me.

Me and the boys pre-race

This year the marathon had pace teams from Clif Bar there. I notice the balloons of the 5:00 hour pace team. Half of that, of course, would be a 2:30 half-marathon and I think to myself: "That's my time goal. I can't run with them but I can keep them in sight I will be fine. Don't lose sight of those balloons. That's my 12:00 minute pace right there." Last year I ran a 12:01 pace and the Galloway training run went so well there was a tiny thought in the back of my mind that I might actually be able to PR even with the lousy training. Keep in mind that it was early and I was tired. Thinking is not my strong suit under these conditions. Last year I almost put my mp3 player in the urinal of a port-a-potty because I thought they were providing us with cubby holes to put our belongings while we did our business. So I went out with the plan of keeping those balloons in sight and maybe still PR.

The uber-crabbiness won't quite leave until I get in the starting corral. The gun has gone off and I see the bobbing heads of people waaaaay ahead of me starting down the road. At that moment a big ol' grin appears on my face and I think "THIS is why I do this." Standing at the start line before a race is a thrill I haven't gotten over yet. I start the race happy.

Cold and wet waiting for the start

I have the Garmin set to the 3:1 run/walk ratio and I start that way right off the bat. I hate walking that early in a race but I know that if I want to finish remotely strong that this is what I will have to do. Run/walk, run/walk, run/walk. I have become a slave to the beeps coming from my wrist. Garmin says RUN; I run. Garmin says WALK; I walk. Garmin says JUMP; I say "Might as well jump" because I am old like that. The balloons are in sight but with each walk break they get a little further away. I reel them in a little on the runs but can't catch them. It doesn't feel like I am that slow. I think to myself that I can't be running more than a 12:00 minute pace right now but I must be because there go the balloons. By the four mile mark I reaffirm my earlier decision that I am not even going to look at the distance or pace on the Garmin and merely obey the beeps and enjoy the course.

The temps are perfect for running, about 48 degrees, a little mist on the course but no real rain. The miles start accumulating. The hip twinges every now and again but no real problems. At mile eight there is a scream-tunnel section packed with people screaming your name (it's on the bibs) and high-fiving you and generally making you feel like a rock star. Those few seconds really gave me a needed energy boost.

Mile 9

Run/walk, run/walk, run/walk...see Kevin at mile nine. He tells me I am doing great which I don't believe because my balloon people are long gone and can't he tell how slow I am going? He still makes me feel good and actually manages to take race pictures of me where I don't look like I am going to vomit. Good man.

Head across the beautiful Willamette River into Alton Baker park and enjoy some quiet peaceful miles. Quiet peaceful miles that I am starting to feel. The calves are tightening. The hip has become fairly painful about mile 9.5. I find myself wincing and changing my stride a little bit. My stomach is rumbling and I keep thinking about the pancake feed at the finish (thanks Krusteaz!) and how I would really like those pancakes now. Can't stop now. Across the Autzen footbridge and back to the U of O campus and the finish line. The Galloway method says that if you are feeling good you can throw off the run/walk the last mile or two and just run. I did not feel good. I ran/walked until about 1/3 of the mile before the finish line. Turned the corner near Hayward field and saw the FINISH sign in the distance. Once you become a runner the phrase "the finish line is in sight" takes on a whole, new, warm fuzzy feeling. There is so much energy from the crowd and other runners in the finish shoot, I kick with what I have (not much) and cross. Garmin says 2:38 with a 12:00 pace. Garmin also says 13.2 miles so I know the official pace will be more than that. The official pace is 12:06 per mile and a 2:38 chip time.

The finish chute

But how can that be, I ask myself? The balloons!? The 5:00 pace balloons left me in the dust. Something must be wrong. And then it occurred to me. A 5:00 hour pace is not 12:00 minute miles. In fact, it is slightly sub 11:30. I was doing math in my head while exhausted and possibly cost myself a PR. If I hadn't given up looking at the Garmin I would have known what my average pace was and maybe I could have sped up here or there on the course. Maybe I could have reeled in another 78 seconds to beat my last year's time. Truthfully, I didn't have much left in the tank at the finish so I don't know if I could have done it. But dammit, I think I could have.

When you factor in my whopping 7.5 mile a week average, I am pretty pleased with my time. I went out and did it and enjoyed the race. I got my medal, my pancakes and some good memories.

Todd and I reliving the race

More importantly, Todd and Matt had good races too. Todd had a PR (of course he never ran this distance; skipping ahead to the marathon a few years back) with a 1:51. He is the most naturally gifted runner I know. He definitely trains but if he got really serious about his training he would be so dang fast.

"Where is Matt? Shouldn't he be here by now?"

Cheering on the gimp

The big inspiration was my big bro. He had gone into this race with a goal of 3:45 which would have smashed his last year PR of 3:53. He was trained and ready to go. The PR was a slam-dunk; the time goal doable but a stretch goal. Kevin, Todd and I waited for him at the finish. 3:45 rolls around; no Matt. 3:53; no Matt. Uh-oh, something has gone wrong. Clock keeps ticking and then we spot him lurching and limping but still running with a grimace on his face to the finish. Just under 4:00 hours. Turns out his hamstring went wonky on him around mile eight and then got really bad around mile 13. But he persevered and finished in a time that most people would be giddy with. I don't know if a lot of people would soldier on for 18.2 more miles with a bad hamstring. I know he was disappointed with his performance. He trained ridiculously hard for four months for that morning. However, I hope time will show him that, in some ways, this was a greater victory than his other two marathons and he should be very proud of his time.

Once again, these guys put on a great race. They are so organized. Plenty of port-a-potties, plenty of water and Gatorade on the course, shuttles worked well, tasty finish line goodies, wonderful volunteer support. A well-run race in a beautiful little town. I am done with this distance for the time-being. It is too much for me to train properly for with everything else going on in my life right now. I am going to focus on building a stronger base and getting some speed in the shorter distances. I plan on toeing the line again for the half-marathon; just not sure when.

1 comment:

Kath said...

Yay, Anne! You rock. : ) Congrats on a good race. I laughed out loud at the tale of the urinal "cubby"...