Monday, April 4, 2011

How to Succeed in (Racing)

Title explanation: I heard a great review of Broadway's latest iteration of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" featuring Daniel "Harry Potter" Radcliffe on my way to my race yesterday. I've never seen the show but I know some of its music and it is awesome and... it seemed fitting for this post.

Me, Megan & Mandy

Now, I wouldn't say I 'succeeded' in yesterday's Half Marathon 'without really trying'. In fact, I didn't succeed in a lot of the traditional senses.

  • Did I PR (meaning did I run the 13.1 miles faster than I've ever run 13.1 miles in a race)? No, I did not.
  • Did I break into the top ten of my age group? No, I did not.
  • Did I have any major mental, physical or emotional breakthroughs? No, I did not.
  • Did I meet my goal, which was running a negative split... meaning running the second half of the race faster than the first half? I have no idea.

The "I have no idea" is actually the key to my feeling like it was a success. HUH?!

I wasn't sure what to expect of myself for this race. Yeah, I have been running. I've even mostly been following a training plan for a half marathon. And I have been getting some cross training (okay, mostly just yoga and a few tips from Runner's World) in during nap time for the daycare kiddos. But, it's still really winter here and there's just no way to push yourself the same way on a scary o'clock run in the dark with several layers on and your head lamp over top your wool hat and your yaktrax on and... Well, anyway, you can't get in the same quality training runs in the winter as when you are free from the bonds of winter gear/weather/darkness.

So a couple of days ahead of the race I was not willing to utter a goal time. I knew that my runs have not been speedy... but I also know that I always surprise myself on race day with what I put out there. I don't FEEL like I'm a competitive person, but my actions on race day beg to differ. My PR is 1:45 from last May. That's a 8:00 pace and was TRULY shocking since the weather was completely foul (fierce rain), I was over dressed and the hills were ridiculous. But, there it was. I couldn't (wouldn't?) really revel in the PR because it was my first "go for it" half marathon and although I was pleased I had nothing to compare it to.

I decided on the "negative split" goal because I know that's a real problem area for me. At last fall's marathon I ran the first 13.1 in 1:46... yeah, only 1 MINUTE slower than my all-out time. Granted, the course was flat/down hill by and large, but that's a ridiculous time. Given that, I SHOULD have run a 3:30-ish marathon. I, in fact, ran a 3:44. I need to control my speed early on so that I have something left in the end.

Great goal! Takes the pressure off going for a PR! I'm so damn clever. Except...

I left my watch at home. Really, Elliott took it out of my bag and was looking at it. I told him to put it away. He, instead, put it DOWN. So, much to my surprise when I arrived at the race: NO WATCH. I freaked out a little. (But not as much as I would have figured). This was my "sign from the Universe" to just run my race. Run what feels good.

Just before the start I saw a crop of pacers (people who literally run at [almost] an exact pace to help runners who are shooting for a particular time). I found the guy who was pacing 8:30 miles (for a 1:52 finish) and I decided to stick with him. Which I did. For a mile or two. And then there was this beautiful downhill. I felt the need to let gravity do it's thing and I pulled ahead of the group. I figured I would see them again shortly. But I never did.

Now, this race course is really lovely. Beautiful back roads, a bit of it even dirt, gorgeous homes and lakes and horse farms (though only 1 big whiff of manure). And it was almost always either going up hill or down hill. There were only a handful of knock me on my ass hills... but it was a constant change in altitude for sure.

I was a pretty conspicuous racer, too. I was wearing my pink "badass mother runner" hat, pink compression (knee) socks, a pink running skirt, and my shirt was covered in pink "decorations" like my old faithful "Fight Like a Girl" boxing gloves, "I Love Polly" breast cancer ribbon, and brand new "fight like a girl" - complete with glitter! - decoration made by ever-talented and uber-motivating Megan Rohrbacher. Add to that my, errr, tendency to chat, and you can say I got noticed. Now, I didn't hold any lengthy conversations with strangers. But, if something occurred to me ("Holy crap! That small girl in green loves these hills. Look at her go!") I felt compelled to share it.

There were a few musicians on the course, too. I, of course, thanked them and did a lame dance move or two as I went by to show my appreciation. One of them was on a pretty brutal hill and I KNOW that extra arm energy total messed with my strength up the hill, but I so did not care. I was having fun.

Another great thing (for me) about this race is the last 3 miles are out and back. As I was heading into mile 10 the speedsters were plugging toward mile 13 heading the other way. This was SO awesome for me. I was cheering them all on, particularly the women, and telling them how much they rocked. When I started back up the course and saw others behind me chugging along, I hollered for them, too. They were doing something awesome, so why wouldn't I? One guy who ran by me on a hill at this point said "Psyching yourself up, huh?" and I wasn't sure if he was criticizing me or not... But I didn't care! I said "Those hills are a bitch and they are just amazing." I got a few responses from people who were running. Mostly a guttural "you, too" or "thanks". I don't know if I annoyed people or not. I tend to think if you get annoyed when you are running by another runner cheering you on, you are an idiot and deserve to be annoyed.

The only time that the race really really sucked was between mile 12 and 13 when there was a short hill that was pretty steep. The energy gel that I had eaten was not sitting great and I felt a rare bit of passing nausea. (Puking from excessive exercise? Never done it.) I passed a women who I had been back and forth with the whole race and just said "Thissucksthissucksthissucksthissucks" and she said "Yes, it really does but we're almost done."

And we were. I got up that hill and then ANOTHER one that was just as miserable and then we were in town and heading to the DOWNHILL finish. I felt awesome. I had no idea what my time was going to be. I knew I was hurting, but not in a medical tent way, and I was pretty sure I broke 2 hours and beyond that I didn't really care. I raised my arms like the dork that I am as I went past my friends and as I crossed the finish line. It was AWESOME.

Note: dork arms

My time was 1:49:18. Not a PR. Probably not a negative split. But... (And I know the payoff for reading this entire post has been a long time coming).... When I went back to high five and congratulate the woman who I moaned and groaned through those last hills with she said:

"You totally made this race for me."

And THAT, friends, is how you succeed in racing without even... meaning to! My work here is done.


  1. That sounds like an amazing race! I am so happy for you - maybe you did really need to run a race without the added pressure from your watch. However you look at it, this is a great post, and I am so happy you did it!

    Go have a glass of wine!


  2. That is awesome Phoebe! I ran with my friends father the whole way and it was great to have someone helping to push you further. The fact that you could help push not only yourself but a total stranger is amazing. You are amazing! Congratulations Phoebe! Great job. I will get there soon. : )

  3. this post describes all the reasons we all looked up to you for all those years (and still do!) you rock!

  4. oh that anonymous comment is me....