Sunday, December 2, 2012

Running in a fog

This weekend brought me to Annapolis for a half marathon. I signed up for this race a while ago, but recently got an email from ObiJen about the timing of the race and my upcoming season. The big concern was the mileage buildup required for the race and running too hard this time of year. The priority is the downtime to rest myself for next season. So I agreed to just run 13.1 miles and not race it.

Race morning arrived and the Wingman and I walked to the race start. Our hotel was close to the start/finish so we didn't have to mess with driving/parking. It was pretty cold in the morning, but I knew  once I got running I would warm up. The great debate is what do I wear. I have to say I nailed my clothing perfectly for this race.  The only change I thought about during the race was maybe a short sleeves and arm warmers so I can make adjustments on the fly.

I waited until the last minute to strip down to my race clothing. Right after that we made our way to the starting line so I can be in the crowd to keep warm. The race started very unceremoniously. I didn't even realize the horn went off. I saw the crowd start moving so I wished the Wingman good luck and was on my way. It's an odd start to the race as you run through the parking lot of the Navy-Marine Memorial Football Stadium. After that they turn you out onto the streets of Annapolis. It was pretty overcast and foggy so I left my sunglasses on top of my hat as I ran. I figured as the sun was coming up I would put them on, but that morning, the sun never came out. The entire race was run in a fog.......

Within the 1st two miles there were a few short inclines in the road. I remember looking at the elevation profile and thinking the hills didn't come into play until much later, but here I was less than 1 mile in and there was a small hill. I took it easy going up knowing that if I spent too much energy too soon, I would blow up later. This was going to be a long run and I had to pace myself carefully. But being true to my jackass nature, I bolted down the hill. I would repeat this pattern all race long: easy up, jackass down.

By mile 3 we were in downtown Annapolis running towards the waterfront. I would love to tell you the view was nice, but as I mentioned before, it was foggy and I couldn't see far in front. We circled around the dock and then over past the Naval Academy. Over the 1st 4 miles the course was rolling. I had my Garmin watch on, but kept it under my sleeve and did not look at it. Since I was just supposed to 'run', I wasn't worried about what my mile splits were. What also helped was there were no clocks on the course at the mile markers to distract me. I just kept it comfortable........well, as comfortable as I could on the rollers.

I kept cruising along and around mile 5 1/2 is the bridge that runs over the Severn River. It seemed like it went up forever. The fog kept the top hidden, which I guess is a blessing so I couldn't see how far I had to go. For all I knew, Brigadoon would appear when I got to the top.

After a long haul up, I crested the hill and 'jackassed' my way down. With the dense fog, I had no idea how long it was until I reached the bottom. But as soon as I reached the bottom, there was another small hill to run up. This begins a long out/back section that I knew at some point I would see the Wingman on the course. At the far end of this section is a turnaround with an aid station. I grabbed a cup of water and sipped a little and prepared myself mentally for the final few miles of the race. I knew I had to get back up the hill to Brigadoon. I did see the Wingman and we high-fived as we passed. He was looking good so far. I wished him luck and made my way towards the bridge.

The fog was still thick so once again, I had no idea how high up I had to run. I kept my head down and feet moving. It was tough, but I made it up the hill and, you guessed it, 'jackassed' my way down. I felt in control at this point, but the fatigue of the hills was getting to me. I only had ~2 miles to go now.

The last two miles were clear as day to me. The first thought I had was that I was glad my foot was holding up so far. I avoided any rough sections of pavement to spare me from any pain. The second thought was how well I was doing by only drinking to thirst. My water consumption has been cut down a bit and I can feel it in the longer runs. I don't feel quite so bloated in my hands and legs. I'm no longer worried about any formula for how much I need to drink and when. It's just a matter of I grab a cup if I need it and drink as much/little as I feel is needed. For the Army 10 Miler, my training runs, and now this race it is working well for me.

Just before the mile 12 marker was the last water station. I wanted to grab a cup, but was slowed to a walk in order to get a cup. It was a small station that was undermanned so I had to wait a split second for a cup. I looked up a noticed that the station was right at the bottom of a small incline. I opted to walk the 50 feet up and then start running. When I saw the mile 12 marker, I decided to look at my watch. I was incredibly surprised at the time I was making. I knew that unless I completely walked the last mile, I would break a soft time goal I had set since I wasn't 'racing'.

I knew I wanted a strong finish so I picked up my pace a little over the last mile. And then, the foot haunted me. There was a short out/back on  College Road and the turn around was over cobble stones. It was the most nerve-wracking 6 feet on the entire course for me. I slowed down so I can place each foot strike directly on a stone, not the edge. It's like walking through a mine field. And of course I missed the last stone and caught an edge of a stone. It sent shockwaves up my leg for a moment. I made it 12 3/4 mile and to almost get stopped in my tracks by a stupid stone.

I shook it off and wanted to find the finish line. The course winds back through the parking lot of the stadium to the finish line. After crossing the line, I stopped my watch and hurried to find the people with the mylar. Now I was freezing. The post race swag was nice - a running hat and finisher's medal. I grabbed them and then made a bee-line to the baggage drop off to get my clothes. Once I got dressed I had to find some food. I was getting hungry.

After I ate, I waited for the Wingman to finish. After he came across, we repeated the clothing and food pickup, then began the walk back to the hotel. Once we were safe in the room, I took the longest hot shower of my life. If I could have taken a nap in there, I would have.

Later in the day I checked the final results. I knew I set a PR, but wanted the official race time. It's been 6 years since I've run my fastest half marathon, and in this race I crushed that time. Looking back, this was the easiest I have ever run 13.1 miles before. By no means was this an easy race, but I never had that feeling that I went out too hard and paid for it dearly on the back end. It wasn't a perfect run, but I felt like it was a solid day out there.

I feel good about where I am at with my fitness. The next few weeks will be easy for me. No crazy training, just some work to keep my fitness. The real work begins soon enough, but for now I will enjoy this coming month. Bring on the offseason!!

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