Mind over matter...Never give up

Monday, June 1, 2009

Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon, May 31, 2009

So this was it, the big event that I signed up for very early this year...the ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon. I was looking for a half marathon around May or June but didn't find any local ones that were planned that far in advance, so in January (I think) I decided it might be fun to do this one. My friend from college lives near there and we hadn't seen each other in about 4 yrs so we decided that I'd come there and she'd run the 10K and I'd run the half. It's a race focused on women, so the "theme" was kind of a girl's day out for the after race festivities. Originally I thought it would be a family trip but then we decided it was just too much of a challenge to bring the kids and we were taking them to NYC for the half marathon in August anyway. So Keith stayed home with the kiddlings and I drove to Annapolis, which for some reason I'd never bothered earlier in the year to check how long a drive it was. It's about 5.5 hrs, about 2.5 hrs beyond what I usually can comfortably drive without going crazy. Oh, well...too late now!

I got up pretty early and headed out on Saturday AM. Of course no matter what time you leave for some reason traffic in DC is always backed up so it was smooth sailing until DC. I was pretty tired when I got there but went right to my friend's house and joined them at the pool and for a ride on their boat. It's the perfect size, a 17 ft one, lots of fun. I really would love to have one someday (hint, hint...Keith) but they are a lot of work and you really need to commit to using it all the time which I guess we can't do right now.

After an early dinner (pasta, carb loading!) I headed back to the hotel. The Westin Annapolis was race HQ so I stayed there since it was less than 1 mi to the starting line. I was still feeling sniffly (allergies?) and tired and I was so busy at work that week I didn't run at all after Tuesday. So not really confidence inspiring. I went to bed around 9 or 10. And of course had the dream about completely missing the race. I dreamt that it was a marathon though and we got there and the clock say 5 hrs or something (so the race had been going on for 5 hrs and people were finishing). I woke up all stressed from that only to see the clock in my room said 5:10am. I never set the room clock because the sound of a loud alarm clock is too loud and stressful for me, so I usually set the alarm on my phone. That alarm hadn't gone off, so I jumped out of bed thinking I was already 10 minutes late. But then I realized someone had set the room clock 10 minutes fast. Uggh! I really hate that but won't dwell on it here since I am sure some people do find it helpful, but I am not one of them because I know I'd just say "oh, well the clock is fast anyway" so I'd just leave 10 minutes later. It's not like I'd forget I set it fast so it's not really helping me then is it? Ok, enough dwelling...

I took a quick shower since I still felt all sun-lotiony from the day before and ate a granola bar and went to the lobby to see if I could scrounge up a banana or coffee. They did have a table set up for the runners with complimentary stuff. I decided that AM to drive to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium instead of walk just so that I could have my stuff with me after the race (clothes, money, etc) and not have to carry it. Well, what a good call that was. Almost as good as putting the windows on my Jeep before having it valet parked the day before (yeah, no real free parking at the Westin, so that was an expense I wasn't expecting). No sooner did I say to a guy in the lobby (who was a REALLY great friend to some woman who was upstairs still getting ready since he was there ready to run the race in his pink ZOOMA race t-shirt and all) "hey, that's cool, so we know there will be at least one guy in the race. And it looks like the weather will be good for it", that it started to drizzle. Ok, drizzle, not to bad right? By the time the car was brought to the door, it started to rain harder. I knew they called for some light rain but wasn't expecting this.

I started the drive to the stadium and did my good deed for the day. As it started to pour, I saw a woman walking (as I had originally planned to do but was SOOO glad I didn't) from the hotel to the stadium. I offered her a ride and she asked if I was going to the race which was kind of funny. Once I assured her I was and that I don't usually pick up strangers we drove up to the stadium. The rain turned into thunder and a bit of lightening. By that time my friend met me there and we realized we were under dressed. I had a white singlet on, bad call. She had her pink race tshirt on but it was pretty cold and wet already. So I gave her my extra long sleeve shirt that I usually bring for after a run and I changed into my extra short sleeve running shirt and wore my light running jacket, which I intended to take off before the race.

Then it was off to the port a potty (again, I had already been once when I first got there). I know, another potty story, but this one is a significant part of the race story, I swear. When I first got there I commented to my friend how awesome it was that there were so many port a pottys. I forgot to consider the fact that this was mostly a women's race, so 1183 people in the half marathon alone, and 1103 were women. The 10K had 1266, and 1204 were women. That is a bathroom disaster no matter how many port a pottys you have. The line was the longest I'd ever seen and only 15 minutes before the start. I was getting so nervous that I'd miss the start. I was talking to a woman and her daughter in front of me. The woman flew in from New York the night before to run the 10K w. her daughter. They were definitely there just for fun, not to achieve a particular goal. She was very calm and said "hey, I get there when I get there and the chip on my shoe will log the actual time anyway". I knew of course she was right but the thought of being on the potty line while the gun went off was just driving me crazy. Seeing the look of stress on my face she let me go ahead of her.

If that nice woman (definitely karma I think for my good deed in driving the woman who was walking in the rain) had not done that, I would surely have missed the start. I was still in the potty when they announce 45 seconds to the start. AHHHH! I ran out of there and over to the starting line. Still had my jacket on, didn't have my headphones on yet, I didn't stretch, and I ran through a hugh puddle to get there so my feet were totally soaked. I got there and they started less than 10 seconds after that. So not the ideal start to the big race that I've been training for all year. Uggh.

Both the half and 10K started together, which I thought was unusual but kind of nice. However I never did find my friend at the start after the potty incident. I just hoped she had started on time and wasn't looking around for me! I started out pretty fast, my shoes sloshing from the start, while trying to put my headphones on. I got into a grove of running just over 7 min mile pace but felt good and figured I'd see how long I could keep that up. Not only were there people still on line for the potty as we left the stadium parking lot but as we looped around the other side I saw cars still coming in to park with runners in them! (In fact if you look at the results of chip vs. gun time you'll see some HUGE differences!). My shoe inserts ($7 at Harris Teeter) have been awesome to date and I have a pair of them in all my running shoes. However it seems that once they are soaking wet they move around A LOT. Didn't know that. They actually bunched up so much they felt like they were going to come out the side of the shoe. I stopped a few times to try to adjust them or tried scrunching them back into place by moving my toes and feet around. Between that and fidgeting with my jacket I certainly had something to focus on besides running.

The race took us over the Naval Academy Bridge just before mile 3 which was very cool. There were a few groups on the bridge cheering us on. Around 3 miles the rain subsided and I decided the jacket had to go but it's my favorite for running in bad weather so I couldn't ditch it so I tied it around my waist. I really hate running like that so I spent the next few miles considering where I could drop it off and come back and get it. Could I give it to a race volunteer or police officer along the course, maybe put it in someone's mailbox? Nope, decided I'd really never be able to get it back so I just sucked it up and kept going.

After about 4.5 miles the 10K and half marathon courses diverged. The 10K stayed on the road at a turnaround point and the half marathon turned onto the B&A trail, a paved multiuse trail. It was very peaceful out there, I could only see one woman in front of me, and no one beyond her, which if you've read my other blogs or know me, you know I much prefer rather than a big wide open space where I can see everyone running. It's much nicer to have at least some of the race be more secluded like this. I estimated that much of the pack had actually turn around for the 10K, so I wasn't sure how many really had gone on to the half marathon.

By this time my shoe inserts had straightened themselves out and I did forget about my jacket. I just focused on my pace on my Garmin. I usually set it to look at average pace but I could tell I was slowing down so I switched the view to current pace so I could try to maintain under a 7:30 pace, since my ideal goal for the race was 1:40 even though 1:45 would have been ok too. My worst case scenario was 2 hours but since I was doing well and it was over 5 miles I figured I'd continue aiming for the 1:40 goal. I wasn't trying to pass anyone this time, I was purely aiming for time. However in doing that I did manage to pass the woman in front of me maybe around mile 7. I just kept the pace under 7:30 as much as I could, often staying around the low 7's.

The B&A trail was really great to run on. They had plenty of water stops and gatorade but between stops there was no one really there, it was like running by myself which was pretty nice. The idea was to run out on the trail to about mile 9 or 10 and then there is a turn around to go back down the trail and eventually onto the road to re-join the 10K course. A few things about this that were good and bad...

1) The mile markers were posted for the out and back so you for example are passing the Mile 11 marker when you are only at mile 5 (how cruel!).
2) For some unknown reason, I kept thinking about getting to mile 10. That after mile 10 it would be just 2 miles from there. Well either I was delirious or just am bad at math because of course at mile 10 there are 3.1 miles to go, NOT 2. Duh! Which unfortunately I realized at mile 10 when I said "oh, crap, it's 3 miles left not 2!". Fortunately I was still feeling pretty ok so I got over it quickly.
3) While it was great to be in a larger group again to finish the race after running solo for a few miles (remember the half re-joins the 10K course and so there are still folks running the 10K as the faster half marathoners are coming off the B&A trail), it was a bit challenging to dodge in and around the 10K folks. By this time (well over an hour since the start, only 2 miles left to go in the half) there are a lot of 10K walkers and groups who are walking/running 3 or more across and chatting.

1) I could see how many runners were ahead (I didn't really count, just got a good feel for it) because they passed me when they turned around.
2) Once I turned around I could see how many runners I was ahead of. More and more runners were heading still towards the turn around. It went from a few here and there to a sea of people running towards me. It was really cool because some cheered me on saying "great job" and such. I haven't really experienced that because one, I am usually not that far ahead of the pack and two, the race courses don't usually loop around like that.
3) It was pretty cool to rejoin the 10K course because I am also never back that far so I got to see who was still out there and cheer some of them on as well. I also thanked a volunteer who was doing an impossible job of trying to collect all the used water cups from the side of the road...a big job!

Ok, enough of the B&A trail bad vs. good...since I had passed the 12 mile mark early in the race at mile 3 or so, I knew where it was (for those trying to do the math here, the start and finish weren't in the same place...I know it sounds weird to say I passed the 12 mile mark at mile 3 and only had 1.1 miles left to run!). Once I passed it I knew I was going to be ok despite the pretty hilly road and running around the 10K walkers and joggers. When I passed mile 13 I could see one woman ahead of me but she was definitely too far to catch. Still I sped up as much as I could and was thankful that the last 100 yds or so were a down hill into a local park.

I felt great crossing the finish line even though I was sore. I did remember to stop my watch. I hadn't really looked at the actual total time during the race, only the average and current pace, except for somewhere between 12 and 12.5 miles. I saw it was around 1 hr 30 minutes at that point, so I knew I was going to hit my 1:40 goal. I always forget to look at the official clock while finishing, but my watch said 1:36 (doesn't show the seconds on that setting but the chip time was actually 1:36:07). I was pretty happy about that and would have been even if the race didn't start as it had....pouring rain, potty incident, soaked sloshing shoes and inserts, annoying jacket. So given all that it was even better. And it was a PR by far...the one prior was in 1999 and was 1:52 (granted a much hillier course in the heat of August in NYC). By this time the sun was shining and I found my friend after looking only a few minutes. We boarded the shuttle bus (a school bus...boy those poor kids if they didn't clean out that bus before using it on Monday...sweaty seats everywhere!) back to the stadium.

We got changed, had our free boxed lunch, bought some ZOOMA t shirts (one for me and a little one for Grace), and watched a band play. They were a great cover band and my friend who is a nurse actually delivered the baby of one of the guys in the band over a year ago. My friend then left to go to church and I stuck around for a few more minutes until the half marathon results were posted and to partake in a few sips of the free wine being served. I came in second in my age group, the first woman in that group came in 2 or 3 minutes ahead of me, so that wasn't close enough where I felt I could have run harder and gotten first. No awards for age group finishers though, which was kind of a bummer. And they only announced the name of the first in each age group. While I didn't care too much since no one I knew was there by then anyway, I still think it's nice to announce names and give a little something (even socks!) to all who place in their age group. Oh well. After looking at the results on line later that day I found I was 13th overall of the 1183. Of course again only 80 men ran, but still of the women I was 9th of the 1103. I'll take that!

After leaving the race I went back to the hotel, showered and put on my newly purchased ZOOMA t-shirt and took a short nap. But it was too nice of a day by this time to sleep too long. I had spotted an Indian restaurant across from the hotel so I headed over there hoping they served lunch on Sundays. They did so I ate lunch outside with a nice glass of sauvignon blanc and relaxed (ok, actually played around on FB on my iPhone...I never actually can sit and just relax). Then I headed back over to my friend's place and hung at the pool, had dinner and we walked around Annapolis which was nice. I got a few t-shirts for the family (a Navy Hockey one for Owen, Navy Cross Country for me and an Annapolis one for Keith). I was actually still hungry when I got back to the hotel so I treated myself to a snack in the lobby restaurant/bar (chicken tacos, which were awesome) and a glass of cabernet while I again played on my iPhone. Then it was off to bed. I planned to sleep in but who am I kidding, I really can't do that so I got up very early and headed home to beat the DC rush hour traffic, which I did.

A fun weekend and a great race!