It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
(Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
OK, so that may be just the tiniest bit dramatic, but I cannot think of a more accurate way to summarize my feelings after running my very first half-marathon. I had some soaring highs, some crashing lows, and a little of everything in between…come, sit and hear my tale!
The End of the Beginning, or How we nearly stopped before we started!
The race was held on South Padre Island, a delicious slice of land at the southern tip of Texas…but I live in Houston (a long way from there) so the Wife and I set off Friday at sunrise, because while the expo and packet pick-up ran until 6pm, I wanted a cushion, to avoid stress..after all, this is not just a race for me, it’s also the first vacation for us in years, especially the first since she finished treatment and started living again. We finally got away from the infamous Houston traffic, and I’m just starting to relax, when smoke begins billowing out from beneath my old truck! I get it pulled over, look beneath, and see this –
For those not mechanically inclined, that is my transmission spraying fluid all over the exhaust. The cooling line had cracked, and I wasn’t going anywhere without some repair work…or a wrecker! The good news is, I have been driving old Chevy trucks for many years, and knew exactly how to make this repair; all I needed was to get a few miles down the road until I found:
Two hours, $30, and a few minor burns later, we were back on our way! The rest of the trip went smoothly – thank goodness! – and we made it to the event.
Now, I admit it, I do not have a vast wealth of race experience; but walking in and seeing only three vendor tables, two info displays, and no other runners made me a little nervous…I have been warned about “inaugural” races, and now I know why. My heart went out to Ashlee, the RD, because you could see the strain in her eyes – over 200 had registered online, but at 4pm I was number 50 to pick up my packet; many had called or emailed to say they were coming late, or in the morning…or not at all. She ended up staying until nearly 8pm, poor dear!
After stopping by the bar for a drink, the Wife and I headed back to our hotel, because she was hot, tired and cranky, and I was itching to get out to the beach. There is just something magical and magnetic about the ocean for me; I simply feel more alive and energized when I hear the surf and smell salt water. So I got her settled down for a nap, and went to explore. I had never run on a beach, or raced on anything but roads, so I wanted to get a feel for it before the morning. I set off for a quick trot, and realized an awful truth – the damn sand gets in everything! My shoes were full before I got 200 yards, and I had horrible visions of bloody, chafed feet…and then I did the only logical thing: took off the shoes and socks, and did my first ever barefoot run! Only a mile and a half, but it was wonderful; I am sure that the experience is far different on any other surface, but if this is what minimal running is like, I may have to expand my shoe shopping…oh, darn! I headed back to the room, got all my gear laid out, and got myself to bed – we had a 7AM start time, to beat the heat.
The Beginning of the End, or Ready…GO!!
The morning came soon, and I arrived at the start line around 6:30. There were only a handful of people waiting, and Ashlee was still taking late registrations; about half of her volunteers had also bailed on her, which led to a somewhat late start…at 7:30 she literally said, “Screw it,” called everyone to the gate, and with a hearty, “Three, two, one…GO!” we were off. At very nearly the last second I made the impulse decision to run barefoot; I threw my shoes under her table, said, “I’ll pick these up later!” and off I went! (I’m not 100% certain, but I believe I was the only one who made that choice; there were one or two folks wearing Vibrams, but only me going “natural”.)
I’m very glad that I was using my Nike+ app on this run: on a completely unfamiliar course, and the loss of time-sense that goes with racing, I have a hard time staying consistent – I start too fast (of course) and then I slow down too much and for too long (one-minute recoveries are WAY shorter than you think they are!). So the pace reminders at 1/4 mile intervals help me adjust before I get off track. I have been saying that I wanted to run 1:45:00, which is Houston Marathon qualifying time, or 8:00/mile; in truth I know I am not conditioned to this level yet – I can maintain that pace for only 3-5 miles at a time, and that leaves me pretty wrecked. So I set a goal of sub-2 hours, which is must more realistic, given my average pace of 9:00, my 5K pace of 8:20, my 10K pace of 8:40. I knew I could do the distance, but the last few weeks have told me that it would hurt…the question was, how far could I get before “exertion” crossed over to “risk of injury”?
I found that point, where I had to make a decision – how far, indeed? For the answer, come back tomorrow for Part Two of the recap. And thanks for sharing this reliving with me – I am so happy you are here! Let me hear from you, any questions or comments…you don’t have to wait until the end…ask it now!