Short version: 2:04:57 which improves my PR by 8:41. Not the 1:59 I wanted but who can complain about that level of improvement in a few months, especially on a chaotic day.
Brew a pot of coffee version:
Race morning was almost a disaster. We got a late start from the house which stressed me out. I tried to calm down because Saturday, we needed only 20 minutes to drive to the race start. Even with the late departure we should arrive 45 minutes before the race. Or not. Traffic was backed up from downtown onto the interstate. My "easy warmup" was a 10 minute dash to the starting line. 5 minutes to spare. They were playing the National Anthem as I exited the porto potties. We tried in vain to move towards the front of the pack.
There is nothing more frustrating than being caught far back in the pack on a crowded course. When we reached a narrow overpass, people started to WALK!!!
Mile 1 was 40 seconds slower than planned Mile 2 was 20 seconds off. As was mile 3. There was open space. Sprint to get around this pack. Immediately slam on the breaks as everyone crowds around the next turn. The crowd was so thick I missed several mile markers. Forget about most of the water stops. They were randomly placed in the middle of every other mile. No way to get over to them.
So I had a good sulk for about a mile. Fester, fester, fester, rot, rot, rot. Yes, the Garmin pushed me to stay under 10 minute miles but it cannot part the runners. 1:59 will have to wait for another day. The remaining question was: do I mail it in or do I race?
For all the talk about speed and potential donations if I broke 2 hours, the point of the race was to run as fast as I could. To see if I could push the pace over a long distance without backing down. Racing is a skill that must be practiced. Maybe the first 4 miles were doomed but there was still a lot to learn in the last 9.1 miles.
Around mile 6, the course moved out onto the wide and beautiful Bayshore Blvd. Finally some space! I can find a steady pace! No time to wonder if I can hold the pace for 9 miles. Ask only if I can hold it for one more mile. With room to run and a 3 mile straight path, surely I could make up some time. Nope. 9:26ish miles. Disappointing. It felt like I was running much faster. As always, the internal committee took the opportunity to remind me that I was failing so why bother.
Fortunately, mile 10 appeared. 5K was left on the course. Time check. 30 minutes won't cut it. Gonna have to be about 29 minutes if I want 2:05 (my initial goal). Ouch. The only thing I really remember about the last 5K is this guy with a thick accent yelling at his girlfriend. "Run faster, don't slow down, push through the pain. You want to cry? You want to go home? Well the only way home is that way." I was willing to trip the man in order to silence the piercing tirade. Eventually the yelling stopped. Maybe she threw him in the bay. The negative comments were was replaced by my gasping breath. Pure effort. My right hamstring started to quiver. This has to be a joke. Since when does my hamstring cramp? You.will.not.cramp.now. There's no time. Rounded the corner for the last 1/4 mile, thinking I'd be happy with 2:05:59. Happy until I glanced at my Garmin. Forget it. If I can find a little more speed from somewhere...2:04:57! 3 happy seconds!
Hindsight 20/20 Evaluation:
The weather was perfect. Cool but not cold. Manageable winds. My nutrition went well in the sense that I never ran out of energy, however, missing half the water stops will bite you in the butt. I cramped pretty badly after finishing the race and most of the way back to the car. Thank goodness I had set up a little recovery center in the back of the Element. Didn't have any problems with GI distress.
Pace: I did everything I wanted to do except break 2 hours. The Garmin was my enabler for the early miles where all the dodging made it hard for me to get a feel for my pace. During the mid-sections I used it like stopwatch. The nice part about the Garmin is that you get a lot more data than just time. Several runners commented that the course was long (13.4+) so I checked my data. Similar figure. Looking at the splits, most of extra mileage came during the straight sections so it's not a matter of dodging runners or missing the tangents. Doesn't really matter for the record books but, in the armchair quarterback version of the day it does explain why the mile splits disappointed me. Give me a less crowded race where I don't waste energy in the first 3 miles, 1:59 is there.
For future races:
Distracted. would be a good word for this race. All the pre-race confidence disappeared during the week, leaving me with one thought as I cheered the 15K finishers: what the hell happened to 2 hour girl? How can all the gusto disappear so quickly? Carrying the positive energy into race day is one of my challenges as an athlete.
It was very hard to hold the positive vibe with all the bustle of race weekend: packet pick up, sponsorship activities, transporting runners, orienteering class, getting everything together Joe's first running event, and general duties that go along with hosting a house full of guests. It was a fun weekend with friends but it definitely brought home the point that for big races, I need to limit my responsibilities to me, myself, and I.