Sunday, October 3, 2010

San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon - 10/3/10

I did not have the magic in me. Far from it. Actually, I'm so angry about this race, I don't even want to write it about it. So I'm going to make this short (well, compared to most of my posts), and I'm not going to post any stupid pictures. OK, well maybe just a pic of my t-shirt, but no more! This was supposed to be a great day. I was going to set a PR, and then I was going to celebrate with beers afterward with my friends. None of this happened. A number of things that could go wrong did. It was a total disaster. The race itself was well done. Organization was good, shirts were cute and green, and the bands and cheerleaders were entertaining. But not even they could help my race performance.

I felt my PR slipping away as I lie in bed wide awake at 1:30a still unable to fall asleep. I think I ended up managing to get a little under four hours of sleep. The night before, which is supposed to be the most important one, wasn't much better. Flying business class to/from Australia did nothing to help me get over the jet lag. When my alarm woke me up at 5:15a, I could barely peel my eyes open. After finally deciding what shorts and shoes to wear after a long internal debate, I left to pick up Bellamy and her two friends, Brant and his boyfriend Mark, for the drive down to San Jose.

We got there just in time for a bathroom trip and to check our gear bags before heading to our assigned corrals. As I exited the bathroom it dawned on me that I'd forgotten the preprinted name tag that I was supposed to attach to the bag we were given at the expo for our stuff. Without it, my bag looked just like everyone else's, just with no way to identify the owner. I knew that wasn't going to work and I only had 20 minutes until the start of the race. That wasn't enough time to find gear check and ask the people working it if there was another option, and if there wasn't, make it back to my car to drop it. So after losing 5 minutes trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the corral that was blocked off by gates, off I ran to my car.

I knew I had to run. I only had 15 minutes to cover the distance and I knew it was somewhat far. I later measured it using my GPS watch and it was three quarters of a mile. So before the race even started, I had run, at not a leisurely pace, the 1.5 miles roundtrip to drop off my bag in the car. I could hear the national anthem being sung as I sprinted to the corrals knowing we were about to start. As I stood there, before the race even started, I already had sweat dripping off me. What was worse was that my GPS watch that I'd turned on back at my car was still trying to locate a satellite. As I stared at it, willing it to find a damn satellite (something I'd bitched to the Garmin reps at the expo about), the gun went off. Now I was running with a useless watch on my wrist.

Some may think not having a watch isn't a big deal, but I'm not one of those people. I depend on it heavily. It's like my security blanket. With it, I know how far I've run, I know my current pace, and I know my cumulative pace. Without it, I feel like I'm running blind. And that I did for the next five miles until it finally got a satellite, but by that point, I really didn't care. I knew my PR wasn't going to happen.

Within the first three miles of the race, while my pace was on PR track, I knew I wasn't going to be sustaining it. I can't remember the last time I'd felt that sluggish on a run. I had absolutely ZERO energy and was fizzling fast. I was also apparently very dehydrated as I polished off the cytomax in my 20 oz water bottle before I'd even finished mile three. In half marathons, I usually don't even take my first sip of water until mile six, but not this time. I couldn't get enough of it, every aid station I'd take 2-3 cup fulls. This of course led to awful side stitches for the entire race, something I rarely get, and even if I do, only for a couple of minutes at a time.

By mile six, I was actually still on track to PR despite the fact that I'd been bent over on the side of the road twice already choking back all the liquid that I was about to vomit up. That was a first, and second, and even later, once again, a third for me. It's something I don't want to experience ever again either. After mile six, things continued to go downhill. My legs were so tight, they felt like concrete pillars that I was dragging along behind me. I wanted to quit. I didn't care anymore, I felt horrible. I've cried during a race before. It was during the last 0.2 miles of my first full marathon, because I was so happy and proud that I was going to finish. Here however, I was extremely close to tears out of pure frustration and disappointment.

I've never had to walk as much as I did during a road half marathon (or training run) as I did at this one. I ended up finishing in 2:03:53. That's 14 minutes off my 1:49 PR. It was the second slowest half marathon I've ever run, but by far the most disappointing. The other was the SF half marathon in July, but that I'd expected being I'd just returned from overuse injuries and basically had hardly run in eight weeks.

At one point in the race, while I was walking after having my last vomit scare around mile 10, I heard someone say "you'll make it to the finish". I'm not sure he was talking to me or the person he was running with, but given my mental state, I of course assumed he was talking to me. I kept thinking, "I know your trying to be nice, but I KNOW I'M GOING TO FINISH THIS STUPID RACE!" And I did, even though it wasn't pretty.

The entire race I was baffled. What was happening? I was very well trained for it. I was convinced I'd set a PR. I'd been running religiously and was doing 8 minute miles for the last two and half weeks of my training. I even thought there was a chance I could break an eight minute mile overall pace. I was nowhere close, it was a struggle just finishing the 13.1 miles, something I'd done countless times in races and training. After thinking about it more, it was probably a combination of a lot of things. Maybe I was training too hard to close to the race, surely the jetlag and lack of sleep took a huge toll, obviously I was dehydrated and then drank too many fluids too fast, and I hadn't been eating very much the last two days. Given all that, my body probably just wasn't in a good state to race.

After the race, all I wanted was a beer and to forget about the whole thing. Since I had to leave my stuff in my car, I had to walk all the way back to get my ID and also my phone to contact everyone. The finish was farther away from the start, so I'm pretty positive I'd walked at least two miles round trip. Bellamy met her dad and got a ride home from him, but I knew Montina and Odi would be up for a drink. When I met them at the MGD tent back at the finish, shortly after, I realized I'd forgotten my ID in the car. They weren't serving you no matter how old you looked if you didn't have an ID. That was the last straw. I excused myself and made the one mile journey back to my car yet again, and headed home feeling defeated.

My friends did well. Montina set a PR beating her last one by 11 minutes! Odi also set a PR, and Bellamy came in just under 1:57 for her very first half marathon which is pretty incredible. I was happy for all of them, especially Bellamy, there's nothing like a first half, in particular when you do it in a great time.

This has definitely been a learning experience. Something I've always known, just never really experienced to this degree, is that if you run a lot of races, you're bound to have a bad one. It's going to happen. It happens to everybody. I need to realize and be OK with the fact that along with the highs of setting a PR, will inevitably come the lows of a bad race. Sometimes you just can't make your body do what it doesn't want to do. Not every race is going to be a good race, and the bad races are part of what makes the good ones so good.

I sit here now, a few hours after the race. I'm sore, I'm exhausted, but I feel better having written this, and having learned another benefit of keeping a blog of my races. I'm also thankful for my friends and family for helping me to remember that finishing a half marathon is an accomplishment in itself, no matter what time you finish in. I guess a 210th place finish out of 1120 people in your division isn't that shabby after all.

And now, I think it's time for me to sleep.

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