Holy Cow, That’s a PR!
Last Saturday, as you know, I ran the Livermore Half Marathon. I hadn’t actually intended to run a half — I’m more of a once-a-year-in-October sort of girl. But after two months of running with my friend, Michelle, and realizing that I’d logged 11 miles in training, it seemed ridiculous not to get a race out of it.
It was a warm day in an unseasonably warm week, with high temperatures in the 80s (28 degrees C), and overnight lows in the 50s (10 degrees C). By the time we got to the starting line at 8:00, you could feel the heat of the day. This was a little ominous, since there’s little shade as you run through the vineyards.
We started out at a pace that felt much too fast for the conditions and distance, but apparently wasn’t that bad. My tweeted-for-me milestone results nailed my finish time within a minute from the 5k mark onward.
Of course, I knew none of this at the time. I track my runs with the Strava app, but that’s on my phone. I deliberately try not to check my phone as I go, because a) even if my pace is lousy, there’s no way to go back and fix it, and b) my hands are slippery from sweat and I’m paranoid about dropping my phone.
Michelle and I agreed pre-race that if either of us had a hero moment, go for it. No waiting for the other person. Around mile 6, I had to stop briefly to pull a poky piece of straw from my sock. When I looked up, she was gone. No sign of her. I tried to catch up for about a mile, but she was way ahead.
Having not looked at my app, I figured that I was now falling way behind as I trudged up the hill on Arroyo. I paused to play photographer for someone. I walked with someone else and offered words of encouragement. I high-fived little kids along the roadside. What did I have to lose?
The hardest mile for me is always Mile 8: too far in to quit, but so very far from the finish line. Fortunately, Mile 8 was part of our every-Saturday-morning route. I knew that I could walk this uphill and pick up time on that downhill because I’d done it 10 times before.
I got to the Mile 10 water stop and checked my watch. It wasn’t yet 10:00. I did a double take. Wait a minute: that meant that I was running sub-12:00 miles. This from someone who had never beaten a 12:32/mile pace. And that’s when the mind games started. I was convinced that I’d made a mental error, and we had actually started at 7:30. But no… I met Michelle at 7:45… what the hell was going on?
By the time the photographer took this picture, I was deep into Race Math Brain. Either I was running very slow from a 7:30 start (the only logical answer), or I could crawl my way to the finish line and still hit a PR (completely improbable).
By the time I was in the final mile, I knew how far ahead of my PR I was. I’ve never, ever been a fast runner, but since joining Team in Training in 2010, I’ve been consistent: basically around a 2:45 finish, with my best-ever PR in Nürnberg at 2:44, or a 12:32/mile pace.
Guys, I finished this thing in 2:34 with an 11:48/mile pace.
It may not sound fast, but this is the equivalent of strapping jet packs to my feet.
The race photographer captured my expression as I saw the race clock and burst out laughing.
Seriously, just look at my expression. That’s ridiculous. Also, is it me or am I literally twice as tall as the woman running next to me?
At the finish line, they handed out two prizes: the massive wine bottle coaster, which can be used as a weapon if necessary, and a stemless wine glass. My greatest fear was that my sweaty hands would drop one or both. The former would probably break a toe, while the latter would just shatter.
Michelle was waiting for me at the finish. Turns out that between the heat and the hills, she really struggled in the final miles and finished only a minute ahead of me.
Would I do it again? Absolutely from a convenience standpoint alone. It’s nice to be able to run a race that’s only 15 minutes from home, compared to driving all the way to San Francisco for an expo and race. I’ve be especially interested if they start it earlier next year. I’d much rather start at 7:00 and beat the heat.
And the weirdest part of all of this? I feel good. No aches, pains or need for Advil before bed. What has happened to me? Never mind, don’t answer. I’m not complaining.