After more than a year of running, I think I've finally crossed the threshold that separates the people who enjoy running as a general fitness activity and the crazies who view it as a sort of religious community.
On Saturday, I woke up at 3AM, made coffee, jammed an almond butter protein bar in my mouth and drove nearly 40 minutes on a deserted freeway from my home in Phoenix to the race site in Mesa.
I arrived at the parking lot so quickly that I was able to board the first bus to the starting line, which was both a blessing and a curse: awesome because I was just a five-minute walk from my car when I crossed the finish line, but terrible because I had the privilege of huddling under umbrella furnaces for two hours with a small group of other runners. There wasn't much in the way of pre-race entertaininment, even though the emails the race organizers sent out hinted at "can't miss" festivities.
That's how long it took me to run 13.1 miles. It's not a great time by any means, and, unlike during my 10K, I found myself overtaken later in the race by runners who still had gas left in their tanks. Clearly, the free Garmin training program left me woefully underprepared. Some lessons:
1. Go for miles, not minutes. While I appreciated knowing exactly how long a prescribed workout would take, I felt that I never really had a handle on how many miles I was supposed to run in a given week. For the next cycle, I'm switching over to Hal Higdon's Half Marathon Intermediate plan.
2. Cross train. I've been neglecting this for far too long. I'm lucky that the knee pain that stopped me dead in my tracks a month ago didn't resurface during the race. Every time I saw a fellow racer bomb out due to an injury (and there were many), I counted my blessings.
3. Gear up. I had a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes, but I'm thinking, at the bare minimum, I need some running shades and a belt to carry water — especially given the impending onslaught of the miserable Phoenix summer.
4. Run by feel. Those last three miles were a doozy. While there was a lovely downhill portion during the final mile that helped me through to the finish, there was a point where I thought I wouldn't make it. Part of the problem was that I spent the first half of the race trying to sprint and distance myself from the pack. This backfired in the second half when many of those same people caught up to me. Next race, I'll try pack running.
5. Eat like a runner. I need to carb up the day before a race. I run on empty normally, but I found myself stopping for every single packet of GU and every last available slice of orange. Pausing for fuel made it that much harder to get back up to pace. Better, I think, to fuel up beforehand.