This morning, not surprisingly, when I woke up at 5:30 am, I wasn’t thrilled with the baseline plan of running a half marathon today. I went alone as the race started at 7:30, and that’s too early to be dragging the girls out without a very good reason. I was able to find parking close to the start, albeit for $15, which was great since it was raining, and I was able to stand under cover at the parking garage waiting for the race to start.
I wore shorts, short sleeves, a water-resistant vest, a visor (to keep rain off my face), two LS throwaway old race shirts, and a disposable plastic poncho from the race goodie bag. With all the layers, I was comfortable in the 50-degree weather, breeze and drizzle waiting for the start. My anxiety peaked when I pulled up at the parking garage, and once I got to the starting line and resigned myself to my fate, I started to feel better. I spotted the 1:50 pacers and made the decision to stick with them until Mile 5 at least, assuming I wasn’t feeling too terrible.
Finally, we were off.
The course is a tour of Seattle, not that I paid much attention. I have gotten to know the city a bit better with the cycling I’ve been doing, but still, most of it passed in a blur. The main reason I didn’t want to run this was was because it’s a rather hilly course, with 1000 feet of elevation gain.
We started out, and I didn’t feel great, but also not that bad. At first, it was quite crowded, especially near the pace setters. I ditched the plastic poncho and the first throwaway shirt after the first mile or so. I took off the second throwaway shirt but kept it in case it started pouring and I started freezing. The pacers kept a very steady pace, and the first few miles ticked by.
I tried not to think about how fast or slow I was going. It was tremendously helpful to have the pacers. It relieved the mental burden of trying to decide if I was going to fast or too slow. All I had to do was follow them. This was mostly easy, but since there were so many people on the course, it was tricky from time to time staying with them.
I remember feeling rather demoralized on that big hill you can see on the elevation map around mile 4/5. Before that, I’d been feeling pretty good and happy about my progress, but I started to doubt myself at that point. If I’d known it was the biggest hill of the day, I might have felt better. I really struggled to stay with the pacers and lost some ground.
I broke the course mentally into three parts – the first 5 miles, miles 6 through 9, and the last 4 miles. I felt like the first 5 miles should feel pretty easy, the next 4 would be a little harder, and the last 4 would hurt, but I’d know things were nearly done. I took the same approach on my long runs, always breaking them into three parts and trying to pick up the pace a little as i went on. It was a great mental boost to finish the first five miles, and an even bigger boost to cruise down that hill. At that point, I caught back up with the pacers, and felt very comfortable for a while.
- 6: 7:58
- 7: 8:36
- 8: 8:34
- 9: 8:27
Between miles 6 and 9, things definitely got harder mentally, but I was still feeling very good overall. The hills were tough, but the downhills were blissful. The pacers, who were obviously capable of running much faster than 1:50, were two women a bit younger than me, probably early 30s or even late 20s. They chit-chatted the whole way, which i actually liked because I enjoyed the distraction. They kept a fairly steady pace, meaning they didn’t slow up much on the uphills and didn’t speed up much on the downhills. That made the uphills absolutely brutal, but the downhills felt easy.
A bit past mile 9, I started feeling like I was waiting for the pacers. Adrenaline was kicking in because I knew I had only 4 miles left, and I knew I was on 1:50 and PR pace. And of course, the adrenaline was speeding me up a bit. So, around mile 9.5, I decided to go. I missed the distraction of the pacers immediately. It felt quiet without them, and I started worrying about pace. Was I going too fast? Too flow? I was surprised to see Mile 10 was only 8:33 since I’d left the pacers behind. Maybe they’d slowed a bit? Who knows. I start to push at Mile 11, and it started to hurt.
By the time I got through Mile 11, I was definitely hurting. I was rejoicing that I had only 2 miles left, but 2 miles felt like a very long way. I was going all the self-talk. My mantra during the biggest part of the race was “You can do it, yes you can.” So inane, but that was in my head, and at least it was positive. When i felt myself wanting and needing to slow down, I reminded myself that slowing was a choice, and I could choose to keep going and accept the discomfort.
The small hill at the very end was just torture, and then finally we went into the Seahawks stadium, and I ran across the finish line, and found H and the kids waiting for me. I had some trouble breathing for a minute or two, and then i was elated and exhilarated, and then I just wanted to be home flat on my back. I’m absolutely thrilled and excited with how my race went. I’m trying to bask in it. You never know what the future may hold, and therefore, i want to savor the high points when they happen. This was definitely a high point.