Friday, May 9, 2014

9 May 2014

Ran the inaugural Plantation Builder's half marathon Sunday morning. Set a PR with a time of 1:26:57... however the course may have been short. My garmin had the distance at 12.85 miles, though one of the fellow runners said their watch was losing satellite connection on the course sections in the woods. So perhaps I have an asterisk, or an adjusted PR of about 1:28:30+... which is still a minute below my previous best ran at Quintiles in 2010 of 1:29:35. Either way I'll take it.

I drove down to Leland and Brunswick Forrest at 6am, just before sunrise. Even on less than two hours sleep I still acutely felt a healthy dose of pre -race adrenaline. Race mornings (and to a bit of lesser extent race evenings the night before) are magical times when I feel most alive... a heightened sense of awareness... mixed with butterfly like anticipation of the race itself. When I arrived and met my Dad down from the start/ finish area it was a bit cool out (mid/ upper 50s), with no wind... near ideal race conditions as I told him. But once the sun came up the air warmed rapidly, accompanied by a bit of a warm breeze.

169 athletes finished the half marathon, so it wasn't that big of a crowd at the start line. Nonetheless those are the super magical butterfly in the stomach damn its great to be alive moments. I remember at track meets in high school, especially the bigger ones like the league and district meets... thinking just fire the gun. Lets go. The hardest part was that last few agonizing, drawn out moments waiting for the race to start. Standing just behind a white line... leaning slightly forward. Fire the gun man. Perhaps its not quite as harrowing now...plus most road races don't begin with someone firing a starter's pistol. But I've learned to cherish those fleeting moments.

We were off after I think the bellow of a horn blow... and as usual the overall pace went out too fast. Normally I guard a little better against this...but I found myself 1/4- 1/2 mile in running in the 6:50s. Wanted to run the first mile closer to mid 7s. I seem to do better when I lay up a little early in longer races. When I ran my only sub 1:30 1/2 in 2010 I went thru 4 miles in about 30 minutes. So I dialed my pace back a little... noting how there were a few dozen runners still in front of me... and also thinking I would likely pass most of them at some point. A little competitive ego in racing is not necessarily an amoral character trait.

The course snaked on roads throughout the community planned neigbborhoods, and around a small lake (where it felt like you were constantly turning). There was also a small section of an elevated boardwalk which curled thru the woods. I brought my pace down into the 6:40s/ 6:50s range miles 3 through 6... at which point I felt pretty good... though cognizant that I was working a fair amount to maintain. Plus the aforementioned warmth of the sun was becoming a detriment. Stayed about 100-200 meters behind a man and woman who I knew were good runners... was sort of gauging progress based on the gap. Which started to narrow considerably near mile 6 approaching the race turnaround point (pretty much a double loop). Decided to pass them early into the second loop, and to go by at a decent clip ... resulting in a 6:29 7th mile.

Ran the next 2 miles in the mid 6:30s before the late race bear started becoming a bit heavier on my back. At this point it became somewhat of a guts race... me mentally reminding myself to be strong... click it off a tenth off mile at a time. (Started a countdown at 9 miles, or 41 tenths to go). Knowing I was in PR range and solidly in the top 10 of the field... while simultaneously telling myself I hadn't don't shit yet. (invented this mental contraption a few months ago... essentially blocking or cutting off pre mature self congratulatory thoughts before the final task is completed.. i.e all 5 mile repeats have been run, or all 31 miles in the 50k have been completed).

Caught up to a guy back on the boardwalk in the blessed, cool woods just before mile 12. Exchanged a few mutual words of encouragement before the last straight shot on the warm asphalt and concrete (could also run on the sidewalks) to the finish. Several times I could here the whack whack thump thump of someone right behind me. This is a point where a runner either has the you're going to have to bleed it out of me to beat me mentality or doesn't... there is no middle ground. This is hell... make no mistake, as far as the physical toll one's body is enduring. The mind either cooperates and obviates the discomfort, or it crumbles. Its also that netherworld where one speaks about the running gods smiling on them... or abandoning them.

The last few tenths of a mile became an elongated death sprint... finally the sounds of voices, cheers etc... and the end suddenly is not quite so far away. I really kicked it in on the last stretch up the sidewalk... and was fairly certain the sound of footsteps from behind had abated... but left nothing to chance when I was within site of the finish chute and clock. Finished harder than I normally do in a longer race... someone draped a medal around my neck ...  after which I fell onto the grass and dry heaved... one very happy runner. Not every race, not every run can I or we as runners summon that extra gear, or that extra ability to withstand the torment...and push thru... which makes it all the more sweeter when we do. Talked afterwards to my fellow runner who finished just four seconds behind me in 6th place. He thanked me for pushing him at the end. Said thanks to him as well for pushing me. Helped me to my first  Masters win.

 Today the running Gods smiled.