I ran my final half-marathon for 2015 last Saturday, phew. That’s 9 for the year and I’m gonna stick a fork in those suckers and call them d-o-n-e DONE.
Santa Runs Tacoma Half-Marathon
December 12, 2015
Knowing this would be my last half-marathon of the year, I went in hoping I could PR and close out 2015 on a high note.
With a race called “Santa Runs Tacoma” I knew it was going to be a festive good time. I donned my Santa hat and headed out for the 1.5 hour drive to the start line. There wasn’t really an address per se, and I’m terrible with directions, so I texted my friend Adam who lives in the area to find out if there was a Starbucks nearby that I could map to.
I mean, come on. With an SBX on every corner, there was sure to be one walking distance to this race.
Sure enough, there was, and I found my way with plenty of time to spare (which translates to arriving at 8:10am for an 8:30am start time).
Here we have an I-told-you-so moment by Mom, if my mom was that kind of parent to drop a random I-told-you-so bomb (hi, Mom). Luckily my maternal gal isn’t one to do that, but she HAS reminded me a time or 2,000 to always carry cash.
Because sometimes you get to a city and need to park in a pay lot but all of the pay lots are CASH ONLY and you barely know where you’re going and the race starts in 20 minutes.
So anyway, I drove around Tacoma for awhile.
I eventually did find a parking garage that would take a credit card but by this time it was 8:25. I was really close to the start of the race, though. Never mind the fact that I hadn’t:
- gotten my race bib yet or
- gone to the bathroom or
- had any water or
- any food except a few bites of a banana
and the race was starting in 4 minutes – 8:30 – SHARP.
I was wildly ill-prepared and really thirsty plus I had to pee, but I already had my mind set on getting a PR for this one so I had to sort of pretend that I was totally ready and in “the zone” that they talk about.
This race had pacers – kind souls who volunteer to run races at a set pace, holding a stick with the various goal times on it – and I was dead-set on attaching myself to the 2-hour pacer and not leaving his side. I knew that if I could hang on to the 2-hour guy that maybe (maybe?) I could surge ahead of him at the end and break that golden 2-hour mark.
It’s purely psychological, if we’re being honest, because my previous PR for the half-marathon was a 2:01. So sure, I only needed to shave like one minute plus a few seconds off my time to get into the 1:xx zone, but still, a challenge is a challenge and I was up for it.
So the gun went off and away we went. I was glued to the friendly 2:00 pacer and I wasn’t letting go. I was thirsty as h-e-double-hockey-sticks, but I figured there’d be an aid station at mile 2-ish so I didn’t worry too much.
But then mile 2 came and it was a big cluster of other thirsty runners and I completely missed the entire thing. The aid station came and the aid station went. And the 2:00 pacer kept on going and I *WAS NOT* going to let go of that dude.
So, water would have to wait. Le thirsty sigh.
At mile 4-ish I finally got some fluid in, and the pacer slowed down to let everyone get a quick drink, and on we went.
Tacoma puts on a great race, let’s just cover that for a second. It is a friendly, hospitable, lovely city and their courses are fantastic. I have never had a bad race in this town. It did start raining but, meh. Pacific NorthWET in December, per the usual.
So I kept after 2:00, even though it was feeling hard.
I do this mental thing every mile or really, every minute. I am constantly checking in on myself to find out what’s what.
Am I hurt?
Is anything bothering me?
Am I tired?
Let’s keep it real: usually, I just want to stop. Mentally, I am like “oh, hell no.” My mind just thinks this whole idea is terrible. I have to play some positive noise on a constant loop to convince myself that I don’t just get to stop right then and there, in the middle of the road. Sometimes I repeat I-can-do-this-I-can-do-this-I-know-that-I-can-do-this over and over and over like a mantra to help push the negative thoughts out.
Sometimes I ask myself questions like, “Are you hurting or are you just uncomfortable?”
If I answer “uncomfortable” then my mind is like, “suck it up, buttercup – we all have to feel uncomfortable sometimes.”
But I’ll tell you that there is a wildly big difference between trying to catch up to someone and being a part of a larger energy force moving forward.
For many many miles, I was trying to catch that 2:00 pacer. He was never out of sight, but he was often up ahead.
It was like there was this invisible rope attached to him that I was just pulling, pulling on trying to catch up and be up there, part of the group that had fallen in-line around him, but I often struggled to just keep him in view.
Finally, around mile 9-ish, I was able to pull myself up to him and the rest of the 2:00 crew and settle in. Technically, I was now running at a faster clip because I had gained enough speed to be WITH the group instead of trying to catch up from a ways back, but it somehow felt … easier. There is just an unexplainable force/power of the mob that just is.
I was just out there trying to go with the flow, baby.
So anyway, I was also feeling a little panicky. The deal is that I’m not used to maintaining 9:00 minute miles, and certainly not over the course of 13.1 miles, no sir. But panic is the best way to describe it: my mind was like, “ACK. This is not normal and are we 100% positive we can sustain this nonsense until the finish? What if we crash and burn? What if we don’t have it in us? What if, what if?”
It is so easy to get lost in our own heads, you guys.
My heart was racing and I was having trouble getting a full breath, these are true things. But something else that was true is that I was still doing it and I wasn’t dying or collapsing on the spot. I was embracing the discomfort and fear and uncertainty and I wasn’t injured or really in pain (only partially true) so I may as well try for this thing, yes?
And then, the finish line.
There it was! I looked at my watch and was like, “Hell yeah. Let’s do this.”
So I did it. I kicked my fears in the teeth and I got my sub-2:00.
Sure, it was 1:59 and change. Barely below the 2:00 surface but do I care? Not one single bit. I had this goal and a Santa hat and no time to go to the bathroom and I did it.
And I feel great about it. My mini-Christmas miracle.
What’s making you feel great today? I’d love to hear about it.
Run on, friends!