Sunday, June 24, 2007

Um, Yay!

I just ran a half marathon, and you know what? I loved it. I ran for 21km with a smile on my face.

There's a scene in What the Bleep that I love, in which the lead actress, having spent some time standing in front of a mirror telling herself that she is ugly and stupid, and that she hates herself, begins instead to paint beautiful designs and symbols of love on her skin. My mind did something like that to me today. In previous events a little voice inside kept up a continual running dialogue about how unpleasant this was, how unfit I was, and how I should just stop and go home. I never seemed to be able to control it.

Today the voice had only nice things to say. It told me how fit I was, how well I was doing, and it kept emphasising how good I felt. It kept me bouyant through the whole race. I just went into a kind of trance, a strange and new headspace. I'm not sure what happened, although I know I've trained very differently this time around, and that I was very prepared both mentally and physically. However I was taken aback by just how well it all came together. And I'm totally happy with myself.

That's the short summation of today. A longer race report now follows for those who can endure it!

I thought I might have blown it last night. I'd made up a lovely big pot of Moosewood Minestrone for lunch, with a big of chilli in it and some pastrami. After Hamish left for his Foxton party, leaving me to eat dinner on my own, I lost enthusiasm for the lamb chops I'd bought and instead had a second bowl of Minestrone. I don't know whether there were some subconscious nerves happening, or whether the small amount of chilli for once didn't agree with me, but my stomach seriously did not approve. Then, despite the pastrami and lentils in the soup, I started worrying I hadn't had enough protein.

In the end I slapped myself around a bit, and by 9.30 I was in bed reading, and by 10.30 I was dropping off to sleep. I had a surprisingly good night's sleep, waking up when Hamish got home from his party at around 6.15a.m, and getting out of bed just before 7. I followed my plan, having laid everything out the night before. All I had to do was dress, eat and go. Breakfast was porridge, and the bottle of sports drink went with me in the car.

This year the queue to get into the car park was minimal, and I sat around in the warmth for a while before leaving my gear in my car and meeting up with the other girls at the stadium entrance. It was bitterly cold and the Northerlies were blowing, so things were looking interesting. However it was also a beautifully clear morning. In the end I gambled on warming up and wore my polyprop over the top of my t-shirt. Allie, Sarah and I assembled near the two hour pace runner and her green balloons. The increased number of entrants was obvious in the crush at the start line and the congestion over the first couple of kilometres. It's unusual in Wellington for an event to be large enough for seeding to become an issue, but some of the slower runners who'd positioned themselves near the front must have got a shock as they were pushed past early on.

The first fifteen minutes or so were pretty chaotic, with my main aim being to keep the green balloons within sight. The polyprop was gone early on in the piece. The frigid temperatures at the stadium were definitely a red herring, and things were pretty mild the whole way. At around the 20 minute mark I started to feel a little uncomfortable with the two hour pace and dropped back a little. There were too many variables for me to push myself too hard at this point. I didn't know whether I could keep up a two hour pace, I didn't know whether I was going to wind up nauseaus or if I would run out of fuel. So I just focused on the technique that has worked well for me in the past. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, got comfortable, and let my mind settle into the experience of running in Wellington on this particular morning.

The winds didn't seem to provide that much of an advantage on the way out. There was a brief lift during the usual sprint down the straight on the Southern side of Pt Jerningham, and that was about it. I missed the first drink stop, which was pretty chaotic with people swerving all over the footpath, but wasn't too worried. It became more and more clear that running a course that I was familiar with was indeed an advantage. By the time we turned onto Cobham Drive I knew I was doing well. It didn't seem that much further to the second roundabout, and then it was only a few minutes more to reach the turnaround point. This was a nice part of the run, with the road closed. And then it was time to run back.

Now I had the fun of looking out for people I knew, and that kept me occupied for most of the way back. I knew that I'd slowed down a little, but I was still feeling strong. The wind definitely ate into my times, particularly around the infamous Pt Jerningham, where I was reduced to a crawl. I saw someone's race number go flying through the air, and ran with one hand over mine to prevent the same fate.

At some point I caught up with Jo, and then all of a sudden I looked up and realised that there was a blue bandanna in front of me. Speedy Smurf! Sarah, by all accounts, did not have a good run. I got in front of her when she stopped at at Balaena Bay to fill her camelbak. Sometimes it's just not your day. Today was mine.

I have to give some credit to Sarah for my success. As I was running around the Bays for the last 8km or so I kept muttering to myself "Mad Dog, Mad Dog, Mad Dog". I guess I found my mantra... A grim determination really did set in. Well, actually there was nothing grim about it. The last 5km were supposed to be horrific, but I was in party mode.

I got into a good group of women all running at around the same speed, and chatted to a girl I knew from Les Mills who was running her first marathon. I kept ticking off each kilometre, and all too soon I was running up the ramp to the concourse. Checking my watch I realised I could still make it across the finish line in the same time as my friend Deb. I picked up the pace, and the last 100 metres or so paced quickly. I ran past Duck and some of the other girls, waving and smiling, then it was over the line.

So the time? 2.07. Well off 2.00, but I lost a good couple of minutes with the headwinds. In the end it took me longer than my wildest hopes, but well under the 2.10 I thought I'd probably do it in. The positives were that I felt good the whole way, and that I had no problems with nausea or feeling that the tank was empty. In the end the time really isn't important. Some time later (after a slow stagger to the Terrace) Sarah and I were finishing off our showers at Les Mills, and I realised that all this fussing over times had obscured the basic fact that, after all these years, I'd finally done it. I'd finally run a half marathon.

As if the day couldn't get any better I even managed to win a spot prize - a year's subscription to Runner's World magazine! I must have smiled nicely at the girl holding the winner's tickets. I didn't win any Addidas gear, any of the Nano's, any of the Holiday Inn prizes, the mountain bike or either of the trips to London for the marathon, but I'm pretty stoked with my well-gotten gains.

As soon as prize giving was over I jumped in my car to drive out to Tawa to collect the painting I picked up on Trademe yesterday as a reward. This afternoon has turned into one of those Wellington-on-a-good-day afternoons. Hamish is currently messing around in the lounge running cables under the house so that the LCD screen can finally take up its proper place in the corner of the room. The sun is going down and the mountains behind me are a most attractive shade of pink.

My torn abductor isn't very fond of me right now, and a few of us will be hobbling into work tomorrow. Allie completely blitzed us all, coming in at 2.02. Kate finished her marathon in around 3.54. Another of our colleagues, Chris, ran his first marathon today. Clare, the Body Balance instructor, walked the 10km event, and Catherine the half marathon. Caroline knocked over quarter of an hour off her Wairarapa Country time. Deonne apparently battled intestinal issues, but still put in a good time. Duck came in at around the same time as the Wairarapa event, having reaggravated her injuries. Walker Ingrid did a personal best.

Already I'm thinking about what's next. There are a couple of halfs in August and I'll keep running 10km events to keep my hand in. Right now though I'm going to finish off my bottle of cider and enjoy some lovely Tortellini with a pesto sauce for dinner.

Yay for finally having a good event! Go the mad dog...


Kate said...

Nice work! 2:07's a great first half time. I love the half marathon- so fun!

I find the wind worse in shorter races- slightly counterintuitive, but in a half or a marathon, everything is a bit slower and generally hurts more, so the added horrors of wind and hills are part of the whole painful experience. In 5 or 10k races, I'm a lot more frustrated when I can't do what I want! But yes- like all Wellingtonians, I've run in worse :-)

Sass said...

Go the Mad Dog! I so need to get you a t-shirt with Mad dogliness on it - your birthday's already been hasn't it? Maybe christmas;p

I am proud of/pleased for you on this day of your First Half Marathon!