"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Champoeg Half-Marathon Recap

I woke up this morning and took a quick inventory of how I felt. In the resting position I didn't feel too bad at all. Excellent, I thought, I slept off the pain I went to bed with. Then I put my feet on the floor and took a step towards the bathroom. If not for the bed table stopping my fall, the floor would have done the job. It wasn't the pain felt yesterday that nearly put me on the ground (blisters on multiple toes, knees that felt like someone had dinged them with a hammer among other things), it was two extremely stiff calf muscles that apparently didn't get the wake up call this morning.

To briefly recap the race yesterday, my time, unofficially (times haven't been posted online yet) was 1:48:30 (8:17/mile). Right where I expected to be. Right where I hoped I would be. I am completely satisfied with it. I couldn't have run any harder for any longer than I did, at least on that day.

The weather forecast called for occasional showers throughout the morning and that's what we got. We arrived about 75 minutes before the race so my buddy could register. The field we parked and registered in was wet and it started raining as soon as we got there. By the time I was ready to put my shoes and socks on, my feet were already wet, so I had to quickly try to dry them.

30 minutes to race time, I wandered over to the restrooms for one last visit (one of many in the 24 hours leading up to race time). NOTE TO ALL RACE DIRECTORS: When you have more than 300 people show up to your event, all of whom have been guzzling various liquids for the past 24-48 hours and who will be running for the next 1.5-3 hours, please provide more than two restrooms. If the local farmer's market can bring in two dozen and drop them on a parking lot every week, I'm sure you can do the same. Make it happen. As it was, I was about 60th in line and just barely made it to the front of the line before we started gathering at the starting line.

The race director himself, a fine human being I'm sure, was a whole different story. We're all standing there, ready to hit play on our Ipods and start running and he starts giving us some instructions as far as the course was concerned. Very nice, thank you for telling us where the first turn is. I'm not kidding when I say that he then went on to describe every turn and landmark we would encounter over the next 13 miles. It seemed like it was a joke. Like we were all keeping track of it, writing or drawing his verbal map on our arms or something. After the first 30 seconds or so of this the crowd of eager runners had mostly tuned out and had either gone back to stretching, talking with those around them, or fiddling with their clothes, earphones, pacing gadgets, etc. when out of nowhere we here, "Go!" What, no Ready, Set?

The first few miles were pretty easy. We started on a road so there was plenty of room to work around people while paces were being set. I don't run well with others. I don't like their pace and I don't want to run at their pace. But I did have one lady who stay within my peripheral vision for the first three or four miles. It was unspoken, but it was a good pace. It was my pace. It would be great if she could keep this pace up, I thought. But alas, she made the turn soon thereafter to head back to the finish line (there was also 5-mile race for those not wanting to do the full 13.1).

At about the 4-mile mark we started gradually going uphill, culminating with a pretty good climb 1.5 miles later. After the climb there was a steep decent, covering about 1/2 mile. The rain had stopped before the race had started, but it was misting at this point. There wasn't any wind though so it wasn't too bad.

The turnaround point was at the 7.7 mile mark. I'm not sure how far out I was from that when I saw the race leader flying towards me, on his way back. I learned later that this guy finished in 1:07 (5:06/mile). To say he "ran" is an understatement. It looked more like he glided over the road, hardly taking the time to touch the ground on each step. A lady running next to me at the time commented on how fast he was going and I agreed, adding that it didn't even look like he was trying very hard. Simply amazing.

After the turnaround point I encountered a headwind. Luckily, after about 3/4 of a mile of this I turned and didn't have to deal with it the rest of the race. It did start to rain pretty hard at this point though and did so for about 3 miles.

By the time I reached the steep 1/2 mile climb going back (the steep 1/2 decent going out), I was feeling pain in my knees like I had never felt before. I made my way up the hill, knowing that going downhill the next 1.5 miles was probably going to hurt even more. I was right.

At the bottom of the hill there was about 3 miles left. 25 more minutes I thought to myself. I was just about there. I kept my pace up, though if it hadn't been for the 175 beat/minute Podrunner mix I was listening to this would have been impossible. I had noticed one guy and one lady who had been in view at varying lengths behind me since the turnaround point (10-50 yards?). I decided that I wasn't going to let them beat me. If others were going to show up out of nowhere (and a few did) and pass me, fine, but not these two.

I passed the 12 mile marker and buckled down again. One more mile I thought to myself. The last one is always the longest though, isn't it (especially when it's actually 1.1)? I made a couple of turns, ever aware of my two chasers behind me. The finish line must be right around that next corner I thought. Unfortunately I thought this about four times. Finally, I came around a turn and could see the finish line about 1/4 mile ahead. At this point, the lady had passed the guy and was closing in on me. No way I thought. Not this close to the finish. I kicked it up a half-notch (because I didn't have a full notch left in me) and gradually pulled away from her ever so slightly, crossing a few seconds ahead of her.

Finishing was a weird experience. There must be something about the experience your body has just gone through to cause you to not be able to think very clearly. After continuing in the same motion for almost two hours, all of the sudden so many things are happening. Run through the chute, look at your time (forgot to do this), turn off your own stopwatch (forgot to do this until a minute or so later), tear off your bib portion, get handed a medal, be given a bottle of water, be directed over to the food table, have various race personnel ask how you're feeling. It's difficult to comprehend it all at once.

So I did it. And I'm glad I did. I'll get into the post-race activities and how I felt another time but it was a good experience. More than anything else, I learned that I've got work to do if I expect to be able to run twice that distance in a full marathon. I'll take a couple of days off to recover and rest. I'm playing in golf tournament next Saturday so there won't be any long run this coming week. But after that it's back to work. Maybe I'll find a few races to run over the next few months. I'm not sure. I need to at least maintain where I'm at right now though, so I don't have to start from scratch in February/March of next year. I'm glad I got talked in to this though. It was a bit intimidating. And now, having done it, I think the next half-marathon will still be intimidating, but for different reasons.

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