Monday, May 6, 2013

That Time I Raced Naked

No Garmin. No iPod. Just a race bib, an "I <3 St. Jude" tattoo, and Mizuno WaveRider16s.

And the excitement from the evening before!
Truth: when I get excited, I act like a giddy 5 year-old--
antsy on my feet and clap-happy.

Okay, okay, there were running clothes involved too. But the point is I ran sans technology. I ran 13.1 miles sans technology. And I LOVED it! It was purely unintentional--my friend Megan, her friends Kim and Stephanie, and I all ventured to Pittsburgh for the half marathon sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods. This was the climax of my fundraising efforts for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital these past several months. Being that parking prices in our hotel were crazy jacked-up expensive, Stephanie and Megan dropped Kim and I off at the hotel and found a cheap parking spot about 10 minutes walking-distance away. And in an oversight, guess what I forgot to bring into the hotel? Yup, Garmin and Shuffle. It wasn't until race day morning that I noticed, and I certainly didn't have time to run to the car to get it, being that I had to meet up with the St. Jude Heroes group at 6:15am for pre-race group photos. So I sucked it up and rolled with it.

Best. Decision. Ever.

As 6:55 neared, a couple of the other St. Jude Heroes, Laura and Brittany, and I headed to our starting corral, Corral E. Only problem--practically EVERY other Corral E runner was already there. In fact, there were so many that there were about 3 or 4 "Corral Es." We got stuck in the last one. No matter, because we had fun chatting and it took my mind off the 13.1 miles ahead of me and the fact that I had not exactly adequately trained for this race. The longest "long run" I had done in the past couple months was maybe 7 miles. Maybe.

Should have paid more attention to the Corral E on this thing!

So being that we were at a disadvantage being all the way in the back, it was at least a good 20 minutes after the starting gun that we actually crossed the starting line. For Brittany and Laura, it was their first half marathon (Congrats, girls!) so they were eager to just be able to finish. For me, I wanted to get sub-2:00--a modest goal since all my other halves have been sub-2:00 and I really did not know what to expect. So as we crossed the starting line, we immediately split off--or I should say I immediately split off, with them calling "good luck" after me. My goal at this point? Pass as many people as possible and get to a less-crowded area of the course while maintaining a comfortable pace. I had heard that the course was hilly, so I did not want to chance going out too fast and not being able to maintain pace for the second half of the race.

Things to keep in mind when you are stuck in the back of the pack and trying to make up for it: stay on the outside. Run on curbs and sidewalks as necessary. That early on in the race, the center tends to get really crowded. It wasn't until well after the first water station (about 5k in) that it cleared a bit in the center of the course. And I really only mean a bit. I had to run behind the first water station with a few other runners in order to make up time and get a more advantageous position. I learned after that one that the subsequent water stations would have people moving from the center to the outer edges, so I for the following stations I would snake my way to the less-crowded area. Strategy was key.

What not to eat pre-race the night before. (Not my food/idea!)

Now, I've only run two half marathons before (does that mean I've run a full marathon?!), so I don't have too much to compare the Pittsburgh half to, but I LOVED this course! Like I said before, I was told the course was hilly, so I was expecting terrain like that of Charlottesville--steep inclines, drawn out inclines, a LOT of elevation gain. The course was certainly NOT that! The "hills" that were referred to were the bridges. I think we crossed 3 total, and it was pretty fun to run over them. I'm not one of those spectator runners--I don't pay too much attention to the scenery--but the course never got boring. In fact, it wasn't until Mile 7 that I even realized what mile I was at.

At that point, it was easy to do a self-assessment of how I felt--one of the perks of running without music. People say time and time again how they run without music because it let's them "listen to their body." I'm not saying that at all, but without that distraction, I was able to pay attention to how my body was handling the pace I was putting out, the terrain, the weather. Speaking of which, could NOT have asked for a better morning! It was a balmy day, probably low- to mid-60s, with a light breeze, which was more prominent in the open stretches of road. Not to mention the crowd support was A-Mazing! So much so that I only mostly partially wished that I had someone there cheering on me personally.

But back to Mile 7. At this point, I knew I was past the physically taxing part of the race. I was over halfway done, my body felt fine, pace was holding (if not increasing), and I was having a blast! I was still passing people left and right, and my only thought was if/when I would no longer be passing people but instead be running with people at my pace. That never happened.

Around mile 9, I remembered the laundry I left sitting on top of the dryer. It was washed, but not dried due to my landlord's clothes still being in the dryer when I had left on Friday. Were my sheets still sitting up there? Had he taken his clothes out and placed my sheets in, noticing they were still wet? I would have to wait about 12 hours to figure that one out. And yes, clearly my mind was racing a different race.

And then it began. When would I hit mile 10? At that point, I would only have 3.1 miles left. A 5K. Easy breezy. Mile 10, where are you?? There's the relay exchange...Mile 10 has to be close, right? Okay, now it DEFINITELY seems like I've run a mile since M9. 10... 10... 10?! YES! TEN! That was the only mentally taxing part. I've certainly run my share of 5Ks before, so it was all downhill from here (not literally).

At 11, I started picking up the pace--2.1 to go, so it was certainly within my ability to kick it in. Mile 12--slight diversion around a medical team, but reaching race pace. Less than 1 to go and it was an all-out sprint at this point. But why did I feel like I was the only one sprinting? Um, because I was. Pretty sure those that start back-of-the-pack are running less for time and more for the accomplishment. Quite alright with me--to each their own. As I crossed the finish line, the gun time clock read 2:09... Clearly it had taken me a while to get to the start line initially. I knew I was well under my 2:00 goal (chip time), but wasn't sure just how far under. That wouldn't be determined until later, no thanks to the results table only printing the gun time finish. Pointless.

At the end of the course, I chugged two Dixie cups of gatorade, grabbed some sustenance (which I didn't break into until later), and took multiple finish line pics. Aka the sports photographers they had there took them. And yes, I flexed posed. And then posed again. I was a little bummed that I was the odd man out from my group and flew solo at the finish line, so I made my own fun. I made my way over to the St. Jude Heroes tent and chatted with the event coordinator for a bit. I cannot reiterate enough what a FUN group those gals were! Unfortunately due to time restraints (getting back to Cville at a reasonable hour), I was unable to attend the post-run celebration with the other Heroes later that afternoon, but I was there in spirit.

Shameless, grainy selfie.

Final tally? Took a bit of digging since the results were still coming in, but I finally found it. And when I did, it was much better than I hoped for.

1:43:13 finish = 7:52 min/mile pace

If I could do it again--raise money for St. Jude, commit to a half marathon, the whole nine yards--would I? In a heartbeat! I would find a better way to fundraise, stick to my initial goals (monetary and run distance), and have a blast doing so. Next up? More halves! A trail half is coming up in Charlottesville this weekend--remember the Bedrock Half Marathon last year that I signed up for on a whim? Saturday is Round 2 of that.

And I really am contemplating a full marathon... Fall 2013??

PS. Race/post-race photos are not available yet. Expect a photo explosion as soon as they are!

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