18 June 2011

My 8th Half Marathon

“See Jane Run” – Boise, Idaho June 18, 2011



Today I finished my 8th half marathon since I started on this journey in October 2010. Since I started keeping track of mileage in January, I have walked/wogged/shuffled/swam/elliped a total of 212.84 miles. If I had walked from Grand Junction heading in the direction of Denver, I would almost be in Denver. This blows my mind.



When I did the BolderBoulder at the end of May, I suffered an injury to my hip flexor. Which means it’s painful to walk and I was told to not do any races until I could walk without pain. I could do weight training (recommended), swimming and the elliptical. I just wasn’t supposed to walk for any lengthy duration (and all my races are lengthy because I am so s.l.o.w.). However, I had already paid the registration fee for today’s race, had already requested the time off from both jobs and was very anxious to color another state in on my map. Granted, coloring is not a valid reason to forgo medical advice, but it was a reason to me. I did waffle for the next two weeks about whether I should go or not and didn’t really reach my decision to go until Thursday – the day before I was scheduled to leave. My boy, the thief of my DNA, the male heir to half of my fortune, decided it for me. I had to go – I needed a break from him. I still had not decided if I was going to do the half marathon, skip down to the 5k or just volunteer – I was going. Even after I picked up my packet with my shirt and race bib, I hadn’t decided. I was the picture of “sitting on the fence” and my indecision was driving me nuts.



I have no idea how many people were registered for this race but it wasn’t too big. Definitely NOT 64,000 people like the BolderBoulder or even 15,000 of a Rock n Roll series race. “See Jane Run” is a female-centered race and it was kinda neat seeing all the husbands, boyfriends and male children out supporting their runner. I’ve never done a race that was all female before and I liked it. But I still had not decided if I was going to the do the half marathon or the 5k. It wasn’t until after the group warm up (way cool) and running in to another Half Fanatic that I decided. When it was time to line up for the half, I took my place at the back of the pack. So. The half marathon it was.


I have been analyzing my mile-by-mile pace of my past races and discovered that I do incredibly well the first mile, slow down for miles 2, 3, 4, and 5, pick up a decent pace for miles 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 and then drag for miles 11, 12 and 13.1. The information was useful to me to try something different today. Instead of charging out of the gate (don't snort, I can "charge"!), I decided to take it down a notch and level off. I figured if I kept it even, I would be able to nip my dragging pace for the last 5k and help warm up my calves and hip so they would carry me through comfortably to a decent time. And I switched up my music. I redid my entire playlist and spaced Army cadences throughout the list. When an Army cadence came on, I’d shuffle/wog. When it was music, I’d just keep walking. I figured I would change up my playlist with each race, adding more cadences until, one day, I was shuffling for an entire 13.1 miles and hitting the goal I have of completing a half marathon in 3 hours. At least that’s my thinking.



My plan worked for half of the half marathon. I managed to keep a consistent pace of 16:15 per mile and I was quite thrilled with my plan. And then the blisters started. I believe I need to change to a hot weather sock. I’ve been wearing the same pair (washed, of course) for all my marathons. But those happened in much cooler (and wetter) weather. Today’s weather was the hottest I’ve done a race in. It was 71 at race start and while the clouds kept the sun from beating down, it did warm up to almost 80 by the time I finally finished. So my feet got hot, they started to sweat and the sweating lead to sock rubbage, my old foe.



I wanted to quit at mile 8 and mile 10. When I saw the mile marker for mile 12, I was ecstatic – only .1 miles to go and then I would be done. After walking for a half mile and seeing the track go way out from the finish area, I wondered what cruel joke the race organizers were playing on me. I then remembered that a half marathon is 13.1 miles, not 12.1. I actually stopped. I turned off my music, took the buds out of my ears and just stopped. I was done.



There was a woman who I was playing leap frog with throughout the race. At this point in time, I was in front of her and she passed me when I stopped. She must’ve seen my face cause she turned to me and said, “Come on. Don’t you quit now – you’re almost there!” With her kind words, I got over myself, put one foot in front of the other and finished the damn race. I collected a bottle of water, my medal, my champagne flute and a plastic cup with cheap champagne and sat.



The course at “See Jane Run” was absolutely beautiful. It wound through what is called “The Greenbelt” which is a series of parks that loop for over 30 miles. Even if it had been sunny, the course was shaded, often followed a river and was relatively flat (which I have come to know that the phrase means there are hills, just no mountains). It wasn’t fancy in the timing department or the technology but it was efficient, friendly and fun. The volunteers were amazing, each aid station was fully stocked for even the last in the group and nothing was torn down until the last runner crossed the line. It’s a race I will do again. Boise is beautiful and I want to take more time to explore.



Oh, and it didn’t rain until I was tucked away in my hotel. Sweet.

06 June 2011

Addiction

I went through a dry spell the month of April for events. I had 5k races lined up but no half marathons. I can’t believe how much I missed all the hub-a-baloo in getting to one, participating and then getting back. I think my friend Tami has it right – I’m as badly addicted to the events as addicts are to their drugs. But I said it nicer – she compared me to a crack whore. And while it might be an appropriate comparison, I’m not so sure I like being in the same group as crack whores. She’s right, though. I’m addicted and half marathons are my drug of choice. You can dress up my addiction any way you want – getting healthy, getting fit, challenging myself, etc – but it still amounts to a dependence upon an outside force or event to feel worthy, alive and strong.

April was the first month I did not have a race scheduled since October of last year. And I didn’t like it. I kept looking for a feasible race – something close that I could get to in between shifts at the fun job and the job that pays the bills – but I couldn’t find one. So I settled for 5k events. They were enough to whet my appetite but failed to satisfy my craving. I did one the first weekend in April and was excited when I came in with a time of 38 minutes – that blew my old best time of 52 minutes out of the water. Then I got the news that the course was only 2.2 miles, not 3.1. Hmph - so much for really rocking that race. I did another 5k toward the end of April but I didn’t finish that one. We had an uncharacteristic amount of rain and the course was on a muddy, hilly track. I think I walked about 2 miles with my feet slipping and sliding all over the place and I decided to quit. I was NOT going to get injured on a stupid 5k – I was saving that distinction for one of my beloved half marathons, by golly! Besides, the very next weekend I was flying to Oklahoma City for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon (please remember that when I say “marathon”, I really mean “half marathon”).

I was very excited for May. I had THREE races lined up and was contemplating a fourth. The first one was the OKC race May 1st; the second was the Run Colfax race in Denver May 15th and the third race was “just” a 10K in Boulder, the BolderBoulder 10K on Memorial Day. The other race I was contemplating was the Grand Valley Marathon May 7th in Palisade – an easy race to get to with no travel or time off required. Whether I signed up for the Grand Valley Race or not, May was going to be a stellar race month for me and I couldn’t wait. I was excited and nervous all at once. Never had I attempted two marathons in one month and never had I attempted a race with a 3 ½ hour cut off (Colfax had that cut off). Yea for May!

The Oklahoma City Memorial was a bust for me – it rained like I had never seen rain before and it was cold. I decided to not even start. I rationalized with myself that I pay to race, not be miserable and that I couldn’t afford to twist an ankle or have my knee go out on me while I was walking. But what it really amounted to was the fact that I was a wimp – I could’ve done the race and my heart knew it. Oklahoma is left uncolored on my map (I have a map of the States on my wall and I color in each state when I complete a marathon) and when I think of why, I kick myself. The quitter in me tells me that not doing that race did me in – I’ll never do another one. The drill sergeant tells the wimp to shut up and she won’t be quiet until I sign up for the Grand Valley Marathon. “Redemption,” the Drill Sergeant tells me, “You do this one, you’re still good. You don’t do it and well, I’ll go find a new recruit.” I couldn’t have my Drill Sergeant abandon me (who would I blame my potty mouth on?) so I signed up to do the race. Besides, it had a medal.

Grand Valley was a beautiful race with Pike’s Peak (not really, but it sure seemed like it) smack dab in the middle of it. Not only did I have to go up it on the way out, I had to go down it on the way back in. Everyone who passed me going down the mountain as I was going up it asked me if I was ok. One guy even told me that there was a medic at the top. How was I supposed to take that? Yes, I was walking up the mountain and yes, it was killing me but I was still moving and I was even encouraging them as they ran by me on the way down. What part of that screams distress? Still, I made it to the top, I made it down and I finished 6 minutes faster than my best time at the Dallas Rock n Roll. So there, you “true runners”! I made it and didn’t have to stop at the medic station for first aid! Granted, it took me twice as long as some of you but I still finished and I even worked a double at the fun job right afterwards. AND I got a medal – the SAME medal you got. (Imagine me sticking out my tongue and performing the ever elegant raspberry)

The next race on my schedule was the Run Colfax Marathon. I was nervous about this one as it had a cut off time of three and a half hours and I have yet to do one of my races in three and half hours. I am getting closer to that time but I’m not quite there yet so I was worried about this one. I did not want to be picked up by the SAG wagon and I wanted the medal. Of course the weather couldn’t cooperate – it was rainy, windy and slightly chilly. But I have come to expect nothing less than rain at a race. My friend Cheryl says I should contract my services out to areas that are in a drought – get them to pay my race entry and I’ll come and it will rain. I’m your very own walking Indian rain dance but slightly more successful as of the 7 half marathons I’ve participated in, only 2 have been without drizzle or rain. And at this race, not only did it rain but it snowed as well. The Colfax was a beautiful course, though, despite the rain and snow, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The course went down the most “colorful” parts of Colfax Avenue and even ran through a Firehouse (I really enjoyed THAT scenery). It ended at Denver City Park and my friend, Mark, walked with me the last 2 miles of the course and Tami was waiting for me at the finish line. I must say, it was the best way to spend a birthday.

The last race of the month was the BolderBoulder 10K race on Memorial Day. According to all the advertisement, it’s the “best 10k race in the nation” and attracts a lot of runners from all over the world. I was a little skeptical because I couldn’t imagine a 10k generating so much interest and I couldn’t believe the cost to enter – it was almost as much as one of the Rock n Roll series marathons. AND they didn’t give medals! What kind of funky race doesn’t give a medal? And why in the world did I register for it if I wasn’t going to get a medal??? I wasn’t very worried about this race – it’s just 6.2 miles and that is just half of what I’m used but I was a little concerned over the reported 50,000 people signed up (yes, that’s the right amount of zeroes) cause, as any one of my friends or family will tell you I DON’T DO PEOPLE. My wave started at 0824 exactly and off I went. I kept expecting the crowd to thin out because it ALWAYS thins out but not this time. The people kept coming and coming. There was a big group in front of me, there was a big group behind me and there was a big group all around me. Everywhere I looked I saw nothing but bobbing heads and undulating flesh. I got tripped 3 times by people passing me, I tried to hold hands with a number of surprised folk and yet the crowd never thinned out. I started with a group of a thousand and I finished with a group of a thousand. And I got my first running injury. Just after mile 1, I pulled something in my left hip that made me catch my breath. And then it made me contemplate quitting. For the next mile I thought of nothing else than getting to an aid station and throwing in the towel. All the people were overwhelming, I was hurt, it was raining (of course it was raining), and I kept getting stomped on and tripped. I tried to keep to the right; I tried to keep to the left. All I wanted to do was quit but the crowd was relentless. By the time I saw the first aid station, I was swept by it with the crowd. So I told myself to make it to the next one. And then the next one. And then the next one. Until I was at the course summit and only 2 miles from the finish. Limping and whining, I made it to the finish with the millions of others. And I wasn’t even last. But I didn’t get a medal. However, I did get my first injury which, according to the doctor, is a typical IT Band injury and will sideline me from running (ok, keep in mind the very loose interpretation I have of the term "running") for the next 1-2 months.

Overall, May was a successful race month. I finished 2 half marathons and one 10k in one month. This time last year, I was barely doing 10 minutes on the treadmill and hadn’t even entered a 5k yet. I spend free time on www.halfmarathons.net, dreaming of my next race. I spend any liquid assets on race gear – Ktape, Tech Shirts, running socks, fuel belts, etc. I do my best to get my friends addicted with me so I’ll have company on a race and I think of things in relation to entry fees. For example, “I could buy a couple of new outfits for work or I could enter ________ race.” Guess which usually prevails?

My name is Bethany (or Starunner as I prefer to be called) and I am an addict. It’s been 7 days since my last race and I can’t stop thinking about the next one. And I’m thinking my doctor imposed 1-2 month sanction from racing will be whittled down to 2 weeks. There’s a race in Idaho I’ve already paid for…

Grand Valley Half Marathon – 3:39:59
Run Colfax Half Marathon – 3:37:30
BolderBoulder 10k – 1:50:44

And just to give some perspective, my first half marathon in San Francisco in October of 2010 came in at – 4:26:26.