Monday, November 23, 2009

Race report - Philadelphia Half Marathon

There isn't much in my life that I have given up on. I am a win or die trying type of girl. As much as I felt like I was going to die during the second half of the Hartford Marathon, I kept on going. I trodded along and after four hours and forty five odd minutes I crossed the finish line.

Sunday morning I woke up at 5:30 AM. I tiptoed out of the bedroom, already in my running shorts ( a race day tradition). Everything I could possibly need was packed into my race bag, and layed out on the table. I quickly got dressed, splashed water on my face and woke up the BF so he could quickly get ready. There is something magical about getting up before the sun. You act like it is mid morning, you go about your almost normal routine but there is something about being awake when no one else is that makes you feel just a little bit mischievous. I dressed in all my layers, including my ratty but lucky white sweatpants that I had made my sophomore year in college. BF and I made a quick stop at dunkin donuts so he could get some breakfast and coffee. I didn't feel so bad leaving him out in the cold knowing he had coffee in his system.
By the time we picked up H and D the car was toasty warm and there were some good tunes going on the radio. I was pretty excited. Even though I hadn't run a foot in almost two weeks. My last run had been an easy 8 miler on Saturday morning before boarding a plane to Sri Lanka. Ok that's not true. My last run had been just this Monday - I ran a mile on the treadmill.
We get to the city, and park a few blocks away from my first apartment. Check to make sure we have everything out of the car, and that we left anything not needed. We stopped at an apartment to pick up some friends of D's and then we made our way over the spring garden bridge to the start line. We weren't leaving much time to dally around, which was fine by me because the more I sit around the more nervous I get. I was wearing my favorite race day outfit. Black Nike shorts with the pink trim, green long sleeve tech tee, blue gloves, and of course my lucky pink bow. We shuffled our way into the corals and found a good spot not too far back and not to close up. I took off my layers, put them in my race bag and handed them off to BF, who is my official race photographer. Love him.
While we waited I tried to get us pumped up by telling H how ready for this race she was. I knew shew as really hoping to PR, especially because she had originally planned to run the full marathon and had to bring herself down to the half due to over scheduling. I wanted her to do so well, possibly because I knew I couldn't. This wasn't my race, it never was. It was always meant to be a race I would run to close out the year. something to do so I wouldn't feel like a complete failure. Funny, it kind of had the opposite effect. The hardest thing to deal with that morning in the corrals was trying to pump H full of positive energy only to have her turn to D and have him knock it down. Attitude means a lot to me at the beginning of a race. if there is anything I struggle with it is mental strength when running, so it crushed me to hear that D wasn't being as positive as he could.
And then it started. The wheelchairs were off, the elites started, the first wave of runners went, the second, the third, we were probably the fourth or so in line. When we crossed over the start mat I clicked my watch, and the race officially begun. The first mile is probably one of the loudest, most crowded, but most uplifting of the whole race. People fill the streets with signs, banners, and bells. They scream, clap, cheer and encourage. Part of me wonders why they come out in drove to cheer you on for your first mile when really you need it most at the end. I am very concerned with not starting too fast, so we stay to a conservative pace. I listen to people all around me talk, I watch as people start to loose layers. We ran by Mile 1 in just about 11 minutes. Ok for the first mile, but I knew H wanted to PR and her current PR was about 2:12. I started doing math in my head to pass the time and figured if we did 10mm the whole way we would cross the finish in 2:11. That would be cutting it awfully close so basically we'd have to run just under 10mm the whole way. and we were already a minute behind.
For the second mile I tried to pick up the pace slightly. I have to say I was feeling pretty good. We ran down Columbus and it was really nice to have the course open up a lot. Hit mile 2 at 10:30 pace. Felt Great.
Mile 3 we hit our first water stop. It was sticky and there were cups everywhere. I opted not to drink anything for at least mile six. Not sure if that was in my best interest or not.
I don't remember exactly where we passed mile 4, somewhere around South Street I suppose. We were finally on pace at 10mm and The miles were going by pretty fast, I still felt great and I was running slightly ahead of H and D. I don't know if it was just easier to pretend I was running on my own, but I also think that running behind them made me anxious. As long as I was in front I was in control, no matter how fast or slow I was going. But if I let them lead I would have to keep up and knowing I needed to keep up made me feel like I chasing instead of running. D had actually brought three dollars with him for a slice of Lorenzo's and he ran ahead of us for a minute or two but it was so early in the morning they weren't open yet.
As we made our way onto Chestnut Street I was starting to feel my breathing get tight. I scanned the crowds of people for any faces I might know as a distraction but the feeling wasn't getting any better. By somewhere around 22nd street I had to admit to myself that I wasn't going to be able to continue at this pace. I waved over to H&D and let them know I was ok but to let me go slow. The feeling that had taken over many of my long runs was haunting me through my race. I felt so out of breath and I had slowed down so much I was almost walking until the road started sloping uphill. If I was running slow now how was I going to run the 34th street hill? How would I run the hill at mile 9? How would I finish the race.
Without realizing it I had caught up to H&D, but we were reaching the top of a hill and I again slowed down to practically a walk. I knew that if I let my anxiety get the best of me I would be done for, but I also knew that right before mile 8 I would loop by Spring Garden Street and if I wanted to stop then would be the time. If I decided to keep going the only thing taking me home besides my feet would be the first aid car. I did NOT want that to be how I got to the finish to the race. But could I really give up? Did I have it in me to admit I was better off just stopping than to foolishly keep going and torture my body? My mind drifted off momentarily to the second half of the Hartford Marathon last fall. I had wanted to give up so many times due to shortness of breath but how would I ever get back? I thought maybe it didn't matter so I had kept going, every step and every second just wishing I could stop and rest and then maybe I could breathe.
By the time I got to 34th street I had pretty much made up my mind it was over at the top of this hill. I ran that hill with all the energy I could muster, and it helped a lot that there was a huge crowd lining both sides of the street. As I approached Spring Garden Street I had my eyes peeled for BF and when I found him I almost stopped right there on the spot. His face lit up with pride that I was doing a great job and as he snapped pictures of me and offered me words of encouragement it broke my heart to tell him I was done as I jogged in place. He urged me to continue, reminded me that I was already halfway done and I could do it, he knew I could do it. But I couldn't. My heart sank as the words fell out of my mouth and he started to notice how exhausted I looked. Realizing I wasn't giving in he let me stop. I immediately sat down on the sidewalk and started crying. I was so disappointed in myself, not for being slow, but for stopping. For giving up.
I searched my bag frantically for my phone. At times like these no matter how supportive BF was, I needed a mother's words of comfort. I dialed. It rang. And when she answered, and heard my voice on the other end she asked "Are you done? Did you finish?" The first thing I wanted to ask was "Are you crazy? It's only been about an hour and a half how fast do you think I am??" But I just said no, I didn't finish.
"That's ok," she answered. "I am sure you did great, I am proud of you for trying." Leave to my mom to always make me feel better. It was a temporary fix though, it would take the rest of the day and a little bit of the next week before I would stop feeling sorry for myself.

I guess part of my problem is that once I set myself to do something, and more importantly once I tell people I will do something, I feel like I owe it to myself and to them to follow through on my word. Otherwise I am just someone who talks a big talk. It was so hard to look at everyone the next day at work and explain to them why I did not finish my race. It had me pretty down. But as luck would have it I used my disappointment as motivation and that day picked a new race to sign up for. WIth a new goal ahead of me, there was no time to look back and dwell on the past. I had learned a new lesson. Sometimes you have to fall down, you have to fail, in order to make yourself get back up and fight twice as hard to go after what you want.

Keep moving forward friends.

xx Sara