Sunday, October 25, 2009

If two Halfs make a whole...

This morning I finished my second Half Marathon run, which by my calculations means I've completed a marathon now, right? No? Okay fine. I'm still pretty proud of the accomplishment.

Actually, the only real motivation I have to ever run a marathon is some self-imposed "peer pressure" because I have so many friends who run them. I have explained before my opinion that running 26.2 miles in one stretch seems a popular form of masochism, although my involvement in and thoughts about running in general have improved somewhat since that post. Even so, I still can't yet fathom that when I crossed the finish line today overcome with grateful relief, I would only be halfway finished, and required to essentially start all over from the beginning and repeat what I just completed. I realize that you don't run a marathon without training longer distances than I have yet to add to my regimen. Finding the time to accomplish those long runs is another big roadblock for me. Running 20+miles requires up to and beyond 4 hours, and because of my husband's work schedule, there is not a morning that I could accomplish a long training run without starting at 3:00 or 3:30am. No thank you. The other option is to sacrifice a large portion of our already limited family time by training in the evening or after dark. Again, the promised agony of a marathon is not worth that sacrifice. My sense of satisfaction is just as gratifying working to improve my 13.1--at least for now.

After running the Helvetia Half in June, I didn't share anything about my experience on this blog. So I thought I would do a little compare-and-contrast. Technically, the Run Like Hell Half Marathon in downtown Portland today was my third Half Marathon, because I walked the Champoeg race in September 2008, when I was just a novice runner. If you missed my three favorite stories from that event, I hope you'll check them out because I still laugh when I recall them.

I had two objectives for today's Halloween-themed race: 1) Cross the finish line feeling strong, rather than shaking and crying as I did at Helvetia. 2) Improve upon my Helvetia finish time.

My biggest concern was that these goals appeared to be in direct competition with one another, their outcomes proportionately, inversely related. Allow me to elaborate.

I raced out of the gates at Helvetia, running the first four miles at an average pace of 9:21 per mile. That might not sound too impressive, but it's faster than my last 5k. My pace then slowed between 10- to 11-minutes for most of the next five miles, but in the middle of mile 10 I had to walk for long stretch uphill. I was really running out of gas, but ran the last 3.1 miles at 11:06 average pace. Each of the friends who I left in the dust at the starting line passed me, one by mighty one, as I struggled to make it to the finish line. I felt awful at the end--and literally shed tears of joy that it was finally over. It wasn't until later that I figured out I had actually achieved my sort-of goal of finishing in 2:15 (and 25 seconds, to be exact). I had assumed that my long walking stretch and slow pace toward the end had abandoned that possibility, but my earlier speed had made up the difference.

I did not want to recreate that scenario today, but believed that I would slow toward the end of 13 miles either way, and thus worried that without having a few fast miles under my belt in the beginning, I would never beat my time from the last Half. Objective #1 took first position in the end, however, and I made the conscious decision to listen to my body better and focus on a strong race, even if that meant I would be slower.

I was disappointed to learn today that I can't use my iPod's "lap" feature in conjunction with the Nike+ sensor (perhaps I should include that in my review of it), so I wasn't able to track my average pace each mile. It would be interesting to compare how those stats affected my overall times for both races. I do know that I completed my first two miles today at around 10:30 and 10:15 pace, compared with 9:03 and 9:11 in June. The drawback of having the ability to view my pace throughout the race is that I could berate myself for that discrepancy or worry about my anticipated overall time. But I focused on the knowledge that after a 4-mile gradual climb, I would be running down hill for most of the following 3 miles. I knew I would be able to make up a lot of time then if I could reserve the energy to do it.

And I was successful! I finished today in 2 hours 11 minutes, over 4 minutes better than my Helvetia time. In spite of (actually, because of) starting slow and maintaining a more even exertion, I was able to shave 21 seconds from my average mile pace.

Oh, and I was definitely relieved to reach the finish line--exhausted and in a little bit of pain--but I did feel strong and proud. And instead of being the last of my friends in the race to finish, today I was the first. Overall I am very pleased with the experience, especially because the promised rain did not start until we were driving home (after finally finding my car, as nobody in my group could recall exactly on which street it was parked; so embarrassing).

Helvetia was a very hilly course; many elevation changes covering scenic farm land in North Plains, OR. Run Like Hell had us running through Portland's Pearl District and then up a long, gradual climb to OHSU where we were treated to beautiful city views among crisp autumn foliage. The 3+ miles downhill after the climb were cause for celebration, and I strongly believe made all the difference in the world for my experience today.

Helvetia Finish Line -- June 13, 2009

Run Like Hell -- October 25, 2009
This is the best picture I have from today's race so far--why do all photos of me running look so awkward? I don't even appear to be running! The butterfly wings on my back are kind of hard to see, but along with the knee-high pink tie-dyed socks they constituted my "costume" for this event. Lots of folks were all-out dressed up, which provided excellent distraction along the course.

I realize that posts like these may not be of interest to anybody but me. But consider that my blog is in part a form of journal for me, and hopefully it will correctly seem more documentation than self-indulgence. Thanks for reading it in any case!


Jennifer said...

I think you should feel very good about yourself! A half marathon is a huge accomplishment! Congrats for having such a great experience.

Oh and I definitely think wearing hot pink, knee-high socks would help anyone have a better running experience.

Sarah Rose Evans said...

Congrats! Sounds like a much more enjoyable run this time. And that's what's important, no? We're proud of you!


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