Monday, April 27, 2009

Oklahoma City Half Marathon Race Report

An emotional race with a good focus... I had a great time improvement on this race from last year, but it was brutal and I had no chance to PR.... a good race to test my hardiness... That's it in a nutshell, but the details are where the meat is!

I had PRed with a 2:42 3 weeks ago at Big D. I hadn't run since then but I woke up Sunday morning feeling good. The only negative I felt like I had going was the recent stress and lack of sleep from the bus trip / hotel arrangements and then the upcoming Heels and Hills Half Marathon next weekend - too many details. But I woke up feeling like, if the weather was decent, I might PR again. Little did I know how the weather forecast that popped up on my Blackberry that morning would affect me.

68 degrees, 80% humidity, winds gusting to mid-20s...I stepped outside and thought the wind wasn't too bad and at least a good temperature to the wind - not freezing cold, not a dry hot wind. Humidity hadn't really hit me at that point.

I get about a mile into the race and a girl "latches" on to me. "Hi, I'm going to run with you for a while, ok?" Wow. A less social runner would have said no, I bet, with that direct approach. But I don't mind having several conversations with strangers during the course of a half marathon, so I say sure. Her training partner, the veteran half marathoner, has injured herself about a half mile in and decided she'll walk the whole way, leaving this newbie half marathoner to run the race on her own. And she looks scared! We chat about our lives, our kids, she asks a ton of questions about running and races, I share a few other tips and advice as we go. The poor thing doesn't even know her typical training pace, doesn't wear a watch, never tracked it.

I was trying to work on even pacing again, and I've gone out too fast, so I'm taking an occasional walk break to conserve some energy and keep my pace on track. The newbie takes the walk breaks too even though I encourage her to go on. At about mile 4, I go to take a walk break and she thanks me for the help and encouragement and goes on ahead. Passed her a couple miles later, much to her surprise.

Races are emotionally draining besides physically draining - anyone that has ever cried for any reason after crossing a finish line will attest to that. Halfway through mile 5, up about 50 feet is a spectator family - dad, couple kids, jogging stroller with something in it. That falls to the cement. I approach and it's a girl about 18 months, my daughter's age. The dad didn't have her strapped into the stroller and wasn't paying attention and she has tumbled out and hit the cement! He scoops her up and she bawls, and he acts so nonchalant. The mom in me just wants to SCOOP up that child and run the next 8 miles with her and gets overly protective and wants to scold "bad daddy!" Every mom has felt that more than once...but you don't act on it. Instead, I keep running, but tears well up in my eyes. All of a sudden, I miss my little girl SO MUCH. I'm mentally lost the next half mile as I run along, holding back tears.

I'm ahead of PR pace up to about this point, but it's all downhill (figuratively, not literally) starting at mile 6. I'm sweating heavily, and I hit an aid station and think "Can I just sit down here and drink ALL of your water?" That's when I start to think that I'm starting to dehydrate, because I'm rarely thirsty anyway in my day-to-day life but especially in the middle of a race!

Mile 7 and I get a little cramp in my left calf - never had a cramp during a race before. I stretch and go on. But now I'm wondering if it's related to salt and electrolytes and such and connected to how I feel dehydrated and a little ethereal. I take that slight lightheadedness, the urge to drink, and little cramp, and I completely change my aid station strategy. From then on, at each aid station with pretzels, I take a handful, follow it with a half cup Powerade, and then a FULL cup of water. I never get a sloshy tummy or the feeling like I need to go to the bathroom even though my brain thinks this is WAY too much fluid compared to any half I've done.

Wind kicks up at mile 8 right into your face. Pace cars come up and the lead male runner for the marathon passes. I'm thinking this means a slower finish time than usual, but can't do the math to figure out what that means his pace at that point is or projected finish time.

Lots of people walking at this point. I am so drained at this point and have really stopped looking at my Garmin for my time although I'm about to explain why I am referring to its screen frequently still. I seem to be encountering a lot of first time half marathoners from miles 8 to 10 - and their brains have all turned to jello. I keep hearing "Are we at mile 8 or 9? 8, right? or maybe 9? 8?" I pipe with the correct rough mileage and get thanked a lot. Happens again before mile 10 with two girls who are together - in addition to telling them where they are at, I emphasize a couple times in an encouraging way that once we see that mile marker, they have a 5K left...they've done 5Ks...this is just another 5K.

I suffer through to the end. Amount of cheers at the finish line are awesome - so many people there. Have to learn how to "kick" at the end better because I continue my routine of getting outrageously nauseous within 20 feet of the finish and gagging badly. This time, I'm sure it will be in the finish picture. :-) 10 feet from the finish and I heard a huge surge of cheering from the crowd - now I know that's not for me! The overall women's winner of the marathon is approaching the finish line. I've never finished at the same finish line of someone so awesome, so cool moment. Wondering if I'm in the background of some news footage somewhere? :-)

Side note: crowd support at this race is wonderful. I had given some on the bus a heads up about this, and I hope they weren't disappointed. With the Memorial of the bombing being such a pulling together for this community, the town shuts down for this race and everyone turns out on corners of intersections and in front of their houses.

In the end, 2:55:26, I'm satisfied with it given the weather even though it's way worse than my recent PR, but it's a 13 minute improvement from my 3:08 finish at the same race last year.

I walk back to the hotel in my slow death march. I see a dad with approx 5 and 7 year old girls and a 1 year old unsteady little boy. The 5 year old wants the 1 year old to step onto the sidewalk but in the process accidentally pushes him a little and he smacks his face into the pavement. As he starts bawling and I quickly get closer to help, his dad realizes what has happened and scolds the daughter and scoops up the sobbing little boy and checks that his face is still intact. I walk on to the hotel, but I'm so close to crying now that I've seen two little kids hurt (refer to above at mile 5) in one morning. I get to my hotel room, grab my cell phone, call my husband, and, crying, I demand to talk to my daughter Marissa. He thinks it strange but complies. I tell her how much I miss her and love her and then explain to my husband what had happened and he completely understands... Then I tell him how the race went. What a good day and bad weather to reaffirm what's most important!

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