Sunday, May 20, 2012

Conquering Cap City 5.5.2012

On May 5, I ran my fastest half marathon to date, smashing my goal of 2:25 with a 2:23:11 finish. I am, of course, deliriously happy with my results :) I'm in awe of what my body and (perhaps more importantly) my mind can do. Last summer's marathon training helped me to stretch and grow as a person ... and this spring's training helped me to grow as a runner.

A little back story:

I completed my first marathon on October 17. On October 18, I spent the day on the couch wondering
Will my muscles ever recover?
"What's next?

In the infinite wisdom (Smile; Sigh. Head pat to younger self.) of my early 20's, I had penciled out a "Baby Bucket List" (i.e.: things do do before my husband and I decided to start having babies), containing items such as "Visit Europe" (Stay tuned!), "Keep a garden" (meh.), and ..."Run a marathon". Running a marathon had always been on my radar of things to do.... but the emphasis was on A marathon. ... Just one would be good enough...

...And then I started thinking about it. Maybe, just maybe I had another marathon in me. ...I thought about it for a couple of days, and finally, when the idea just wouldn't lessen its hold on my heart, I ran it (pun intended) by my sounding board and best running friend, Heather. Her response, a cheerful "Sure!" ...And there it was :)

Our next course of action was to pick a goal race for the spring season. There are about "a bazillion + 2" great options for spring races (Glass City, Flying Pig, Pittsburgh, and Cap City, to name a few) but for me there was only ever 1 choice: the Cap City Half Marathon, in good old Columbus. 3 years ago, before I got married, I registered for Cap City as my first half marathon. My goal was to run the half, and meet up with my parents (who would be walking the 5k) at the finish line. ...And then life intervened. Between juggling a new job, planning a wedding, living in the same city as Jon for the first time in years, and just generally trying to settle into post-college life, half marathon training just didn't happen. At the packet pick-up I swallowed my pride and asked to switch to the 5k.

 ...So, Cap City & I have a history, you could say. And I knew 2012 was my year to go back and prove to myself that I could do it.

Starting in January, I put my heart into training; logging weekday morning miles, and, eventually adding Wednesday night speed-work into the mix. To my absolute shock, I LOVE speed work ( fine. I don't love all of it. I prefer the shorter repeats: Yasso 800's and ladder workouts. 2 mile repeats intimidate the pants off of me...) I love pushing myself and seeing what my body is really capable of. I love hitting that magical 'comfortably hard' cadence where your body just settles into this higher tier of effort.

It's magical.

And ... it worked. Slowly but surely Heather & I watched our Saturday morning long run splits tick down. ... 10 seconds here, 10 seconds there. We set our sights on a 2:30 half marathon.

 As the weeks passed and our long runs continues to go well, I began to wonder: could I run faster than 2:30? My (actual) first half marathon time (and, to this point, my PR) was 2:27:05. I was feeling cautiously optimistic, as, during a 13 mile training run, Heather and decided to go ahead and do a 13.1 mile "benchmark run"... and (pushing the pace a little) I finished with a garmin time of 2:30. Heather and I had registered for the Earth Day Challenge 1/2 Marathon on April 22, and I decided to let that "training run" decide my next steps. Earth Day was, in fact, a challenge with a long hill 1/2 a mile into the course and rolling hills for the 4 miles after that ... but the weather was perfect (a crisp 50ish)... and I banged out a 2:28:11.

The morning of Cap City found me bouncing out of bed (and bee-lining downstairs to the coffee pot) with the following race goals:
  • A: 2:25 
  • B: Under 2:27:05 
  • C: Finish upright :) 

 Friends ... the stars just aligned right for me that Saturday. I got the race morning that I was hoping for on the day of my marathon (remember my timing snafu & me racing to the start line with Tracy?!) Jon & I arrived downtown around 6:30 and met up with MiT in the hotel around 6:35. I got to use a *real bathroom*, with *real toilet paper*, and walk through downtown Columbus with at least a hundred of my "friends"... the people I had trained with for weeks. I got to hug Jon goodbye & use the bathroom (nerves) one last time before I smooshed myself into corral D and prepared for the start.

And after that, it's kind of a blur. I remember starting fast, because I knew I needed to in order to run my best race. I remember chatting with various friends as I ran bits & pieces of the race with different people. I remember feeling a bit panicked and exhausted (& out of breath!) at mile 2. (Hah, wish I was kidding on that last bit ;) ... But as soon as I caught up with the 2:25 pace team at mile 8 (2:25's were in corral C!), it was all worth it. I knew I had it. ... And if I could bottle up that feeling, I think it could keep me going for the rest of my life. From there on out it was just a matter of hanging on.

And hang on I did. I was so excited & proud those last 5 miles. ... I practically boo-hooed my way to the finish (I didn't, for the sake of conserving energy!) I remember running down the final stretch & seeing Jon, shouting, "I think I've got it!!" ... And then, after the final effort, raising my hands in victory as I crossed the finish line.

Not every run is a good one ... and not every race is your best. We take the hard races and file them away in our experience banks, taking comfort in the fact that we are still standing, still moving forward... there is hope for the future. And the good races: they empower us. They make all the hard work...the sweat, the tears, the hard days ... worth it.