…except for when it involves me almost dying while running 13.1 miles.
Yesterday I ran the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon. This race holds particular sentimental value to me because it was the first half-marathon I ever ran back in 2010. I was so nervous then… had no idea what to expect of the race itself – such a newbie. But yesterday was my third time running this particular race, so I knew what to expect, and I had a plan.
A lot of “the plan” had to do with stuff before the race even started, primarily: making sure I had done the mileage needed for a half-marathon, and knowing what sort of nutrition I needed before and during a race of this length. These are things that only come from experience. From getting out and hitting the pavement and figuring out that – true story – maybe spicy chicken curry the night before a long run is not such a good idea. (But… but… it has rice AND potatoes – double carbs! Still… no.)
Of course, better to find these things out when you can still find a bathroom or just head home rather than be on a course where the nearest porta-potty may be 2.5 miles away – with no guarantee of toilet paper.
(It’s sentences like that one that makes people swear they’ll never ever become a runner, I realize. Sorry.)
|Me after the VB R&R Half 2010 - my first half marathon|
Anyway, I had finished my training segment of my plan and yesterday morning moved into the pre-race plan segment. The race started at 7am, so I got up at 3:45am, got on my running clothes, and stuffed as much food as I could bear at that hour into my stomach (bagel, coffee cake & banana). I then drove down to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and got a great parking spot since it was 4:05am, and nobody in their right mind had gotten there for the event yet.
Then I proudly lay down in the back of my minivan and slept for another 2 ½ hours. When my alarm got me up at 6:30, I hopped out of the van, downed a Redbull, and walked the couple of blocks to the starting line.
It was a fabulous pre-race plan, if I do say so myself. It gave my food enough time to get into my system without feeling heavy, parking was a breeze instead of a battle, AND I got a couple of hours more sleep rather than sit around doing nothing in the wee hours of the morning. It is probably what I will do for all my races in this area. Hey, if you have to suffer the indignity of owning a minivan, you should at least get as much usefulness out of it as possible.
Of course there are some things even a great plan can’t account for like yesterday’s weather conditions. At 7am, it was in the high 80s with 90% humidity –definitely not optimal for running. I knew I was in trouble when I was already sweating while standing around doing nothing before the race and before the sun even came up. And yeah, it just got worse.
|2012 finisher's medal joins my 2010 & 2011|
My running plan, originally, was pretty simple: run as fast and hard as I could for 13.1 miles. (It wasn’t actually that simple. I was aiming for a pace of 10:00 minutes/mile for the first half of the race, then trying for a negative split: running the second half slightly faster than the first half). After about a hundred yards into the race – feeling like I was breathing through a snorkel , the air was so thick – I knew this plan was not going to work. Too hot. Too humid. Too likely to die by mile 10.
The running revamp involved changing to a 9 minute run/ 1 minute walk pattern. I forced myself to do that from the very first mile. That was hard because I felt pretty great the first four miles. But I knew if I pushed hard the first miles, I would have nothing left for the second half of the race – when it would be hotter and more humid. The run/walk plan enabled me to still be going strong even at miles 11, 12 and 13. A lot of people who passed me early in the race, I passed right back at the end.
Ultimately, even with the best of planning, it wasn’t a particularly fast race for me (2:22:34). Nowhere near my best time (2:09:45), but not my worst either. And in those conditions, I’ll take it and be happy. And start planning for my next race.