Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Race I Trained For

"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." 
- A.A. Milne

I started training for the Missoula Half Marathon in March.  I always use a spreadsheet when I'm training because I get a little obsessive and also, I like to cross off each day's workout with a different colored marker.  
Code that only partially makes sense.
The carb loading began about three days before the race, or if I'm being honest it started about ten years ago.  I got a good nights rest two days before the race and tried to sleep the night before.  Side note: Does anyone else have weird dreams the night before a big race?  I dreamed that I was in this huge crowd and the race was over; I didn't know my time or anything.  I'd run, but totally missed the experience.  Telling, no?

I woke up at 3 a.m. and made breakfast.  I can't even describe how much thought went into a bagel with peanut butter, an apple, and a smoothie.  Sam came over (he slept elsewhere because I live in a studio apartment and was going to bed at 7pm on a Saturday) and helped me with my chip and bib.

Sam drove me to the shuttle stop downtown and we said goodbye before I joined the several hundred runners already in line.  I chatted with a woman with princess stickers on her hat and saw the shortest pair of shorts I've ever seen on a man, even as a runner.

Heard on the shuttle: "Welcome to the south Missoula refugee camp."
Thirty minutes before the start I got in the giant line for the port-o-potties, peeled off my jacket, stretched, and had a gel.  Then it was time to line up.

We had a moment of silence to remember Boston, to remember why we run and who we run for.  

After another minute, we were off.

I started slow, but strong, and stayed that way.  I let the fast starters go ahead of me instead of trying to keep up with them and bonking later.  I kept a mostly straight line instead of weaving around people.  I listened to the pounding of feet, my own breathing, and the conversations (woman to her husband at mile one: "I can already tell I'm going to have to pee." Husband: "There's lots of trees off to your left, just go.")
It's all smiles when you're only six minutes in!
A short way past the mile three marker, I realized I'd run a 5K without slowing down.  At mile five, I had half a gel and had the same realization.  At mile nine, I had the last half of my gel.  It was the longest distance I'd ever run without having to slow to walk once.  In retrospect, it kind of made me think of that part in Forrest Gump where he talks about running and how he might as well keep on going.

I surprised myself.  This past year I've been wrapped up in my struggle for speed and I never stopped to think about strength.  Every mile marker I ran past surprised me.  How was I still running at this pace?  How have I not had to walk?  How have I kept going all this time?

It's a heady thing to know, not to believe but to actually know, that you are stronger than you think you are.  It made all the training, the injuries, the time spent alone on the trails at 6 a.m. worth it.  I worked damn hard and every minute of it was worth it.
Law enforcement running to commemorate a fallen officer.
I had a few little goals for this race: to run the second half faster than the first, to not have to stop to pee (I had to stop last year and it has irritated me to no end ever since), and to enjoy it.  I had no time goal; I just wanted to run strong.  I ran the second half of the race 9 seconds faster per mile than the first half and ran right by every single port-o-potty!

Ultimately, I ran 5 minutes slower than I did last year, but didn't care.  I loved the experience and knowing that I'm stronger than I was last year.

Goals accomplished and on to the Big Sur Half Marathon in November!

And now a few more pictures from marathon weekend:
Goodies from the expo.
Half marathon finishers flyin'.
Top men's finisher in the marathon, Jason Delaney.
Finishing strong.
Run like a girl!