Sunday, September 21, 2008

All women and one lucky guy

That was, of course, today's Maine Coast Half Marathon (get your minds out of the gutter, people).

The guy was luckier than me, that's for sure, because he passed me at the 10-mile mark and although I hung in there for a few minutes, he finally pulled ahead and I never saw him again (along with all the others who finished under two hours). (That's a bit of foreshadowing there.) I can see how he passed me, since mile 9 was my second slowest mile (second only to mile 12) and those last few miles were abysmal altogether, except for mile 13 when I finally made a comeback (too late though).

Okay, here it is. My final chip (and Garmin) time was 2:01:19. That's a 9:15 average pace for 13.1 miles. (Garmin, which measured my total distance as 13.19 miles, gave me a 9:12 average for that distance.) As you can imagine, I have spent much time agonizing over this, wondering what happened, especially after I ran the 15K last weekend at well under a 9 minute per mile pace.

(Repeat after me: It doesn't matter, it's okay, that's still a good time!)

Perhaps ironically, I wouldn't be so disturbed about the total time and the 9:15 or 9:12 average if it weren't for the Garmin showing me the shocking progression. Here it is....

Mile 1 — 8:58 (good)
Mile 2 — 8:49 (good)
Mile 3 — 8:42 (good)
Mile 4 — 9:05 (good)
Mile 5 — 9:08 (fine)
Mile 6 — 9:10 (still fine)
Mile 7 — 9:21 (a little concerning perhaps, but this mile included what may have been the steepest hill in the face)
Mile 8 — 9:16 (seemed to be getting back on track)
Mile 9 — 9:37 (hmmm... now that's disturbing)
Mile 10 — 9:21 (not so pleasing)
Mile 11 — 9:24 (less pleasing)
Mile 12 — 9:44 (WTFFFF?)
Mile 13 — 9:09 (clearly have been shocked into a comeback, although too little, too late)
Mile 14 — .19 mile at 1:36 (8:30 pace)

So there you have it. Sheer deterioration on the race course. I honestly can't understand what happened in Mile 12, because that is so out of character from the other splits, even the slowest ones! The course was, I must say, quite hilly, although primarily in a moderate incline and decline fashion. Normally that type of road is okay for me, as I maintain on the uphills and pick up the pace on the downhills. There were a few uphills that were steep enough to feel myself noticeably slowing, and I guess it's possible that I didn't let myself go enough on the downhills, except for the first three miles, which did have some nice downhill stretches as I recall.

Let me say that I do not believe that I went out too fast in the beginning, or that going slower then would have affected my later pace. I felt really good and really comfortable in those first three miles. In the next three miles I thought I was settling into a good pace of just over 9 minutes (which is how things went in Anacortes in July).

A couple of things may have influenced my pace. First, the big hill in Mile 7. Even though I did relatively okay in that lap, I suppose it might have taken enough out of me that I had a hard time recovering.

The second possible factor is more nebulous and that is the Garmin factor. I am not referring to the mile splits, but rather the pace calculator. I try to avoid looking at that because it is notoriously inaccurate. However, in the first few miles it was showing 8:30 to 9 minute paces, which seemed accurate, so I got into glancing at it too much. In the second half of the run it kept showing 10 minutes, 11 minutes, 13 minute paces, and although I didn't really believe it, it was a bit demoralizing. Obviously none of my splits, even the slowest, was over 10 minutes, so it was wrong wrong wrong! But I wonder if seeing those slow times so consistently took a little of the spring out of my step.

I've said before that my speed seems to be mostly regulated by my breathing. Heavy breathing I'm going fast, easy breathing I'm running easy. Well, today it was all about the legs. I definitely felt that my legs were in charge of my mind and body, and pretty much nothing I could think or do was going to control them!

There's one other possible factor that teases at my mind, and that is the Alfredo factor. Yes, I am referring to the triple threat of cream, butter, and parmesan cheese that I consumed last night in the name of carb loading (and the opportunity to eat another delicious lobster dish). Now I think that's probably unlikely (it's not like I was channeling Michael from The Office,* and surely it must have been digested by this morning), but still, the thought is there! I have not touched the leftovers.
Before the race I was praying quietly, "Let it be okay, let it be okay." And it was okay. Maybe I should have prayed "Let it be great!"

I won't try give a mile by mile description of the race, because as usual, much of it is a blur. Other than the noxious hills, the course was quite lovely, especially the parts that paralleled the water. The website has a great course video which shows all the ins and outs. I'm not sure, however, whether the video was from last year or if it is this year's course, which apparently changed somewhat (less elevation gain, so they said!).

As usual, there were a few runners I ended up running near for most of the race, taking turns passing and falling behind each other. I remember specifically, the tall girl in purple—I think she may have pulled forward to finish ahead of me at the end. Also nearby for many miles were "pink shirt" and "green shirt." I'm pretty sure, though, that I passed them at the last water stop and finished a bit ahead.

I did my best to push it in the last mile, improving my pace to closer to 9 minutes. Then in the final bit I put on as much speed as I could (which wasn't too much, apparently just an 8:30 pace), but I saw the clock at 2:00 and knew I hadn't made it under the wire. I was really torn between disappointment and the feeling that I did okay anyway, but I think I felt so drained physically that disappointment won out for a while, at least until I got myself back together again.

(This picture could obviously use some croppping, but I don't have that capability with this computer. I'm the one in the center above all that grey pavement.)

Who knows how long I would have wallowed in mild disappointment, had I not been startled by a young woman coming towards me and asking if I was Kristin. It was Terri, Middle of the Pack Girl, and she had looked up my number and been looking for me so we could meet! I was so excited and pleased to meet her. This was really a highlight of the race, and completely wiped out my doldrums. It was a little bit like being a celebrity, being recognized from my blog—and of course, I read her blog too, so we were both celebrities together! (At least to one another.) Here's a picture of us!
I stuck around to listen to the awards, even though I obviously didn't have a prayer of winning anything.** In addition to all the age group awards (in five-year increments), there was a special award for the oldest participant (didn't hear age, probably in 70's) and the youngest (12) (both of which also won their age group by default). I am please to say that I beat both of them!

Then we left, deciding to drive north on 1A along the scenic waterfront route (which was also part of our race course). From the road you can see the Cape Neddick lighthouse (which I believe decorates our race shirts and medals) in the distance.

I would have been happy to go back to the cottage and take a nap, but we had lobsters to pick up at 3:00. So really there was only enough time to take a leisurely shower and get changed. But before than, there was still one important race ritual—the post-race cinnamon roll. But cinnamon rolls seemed a little elusive... and after my second stop at a bakery without cinnamon rolls, I made a geographically appropriate substitution—whoopie pies! The pure of heart will shudder because these are essentially cakey cookies filled sandwich style with a huge glob of frosting-like goo. About 650 calories each, I understand (through research), and I ate 3/4 of one, so... it's a lucky thing that I ran a half-marathon today! (Although I'm sure a cinnamon roll would be just as bad anyway.)

After picking up a huge bag 0f four large freshly-boiled lobsters (the extra was for lobster rolls) and some groceries to complete a dinner, we were a little too tired and weak and full of whoopie pies to eat right away. It was still just late afternoon, anyway. So we took a walk around the Dunes, down to the water, where there is a dock.

I decided to take the opportunity to try out a spontaneous quasi-ice bath.

And it felt really good! I didn't really have the time or desire to sit there for 15 minutes, though I almost wish I could have; and for that matter, perhaps I should have just submerged my legs entirely! I am getting closer and closer to actually trying a real ice bath. Maybe just starting with cold water, sans ice.

Here's the cottage that has been our home for the last several days.

And here's our fabulous lobster feast! (I am too tired, I have run out of words. Just pictures.)

*I didn't include a link because I couldn't find a good clip or picture. But this is the one where Michael arranges an office fun run, and his race prep (which ultimately lead to him finishing last, or did he DNF?) included scarfing down vast quantities of fettucine just before the run in an attempt at carbo-loading.

**The day before my mother commented, after looking at the list of entrants, that there were a lot of entrants in my age category, "and they all seem to be women!" "That's because it's an all-women's race, Mother."


Lisa said...

You KNOW I can totally relate to your disappointment. That silly two hour mark is the downfall of many half marathoner's post race moods. As a friend of mine reminded me when I was bumming at my 2:04... TWO HOURS IS AN ARBITRARY NUMBER. If 2:02 was the time to beat, you'd be GOLD. *wink*

Your splits sound great. You know, maybe we should think about running together in Las Vegas. Our pace is very similar.

Your trip looks lovely. I have never been to the East Coast and I really need to make a point to do it.

Running Knitter said...

Congrats on a great race! Though you might be a little disappointed about your time, it's still a great accomplishment!

Oh, and aren't Maine lobsters the best? :)

Terri said...

Kristin, you totally kicked my butt, and like you said there were more hills than you expected. I knew that there was one mid-way, and believe me there were a lot of women around me who stopped and walked that one. I kept going, but I must have looked a little strange, half-running/walking it. And mile 9 for me was the worst too - you are not alone!

So glad I could make your race better - it was really great to meet you too!

Kristin said...

Hi everyone, I'm rushing to respond to all as we are leaving Ogunquit and I don't know when I'll get my next internet connection. Thanks for all the kind words. I hope I didn't sound too crushed about the time--I was processing all day yesterday and feel much better today. Lisa, I thought of you and I should say the same to myself as I did to you (which was something positive and encouraging, I'm sure. :) Las Vegas sounds like a good plan! Running Knitter, thanks, you're always so encouraging! Terri, I can't say again how thrilled I was to meet you. I am so impressed that you are taking on a marathon soon. You're a braver girl than me! And yes, LOBSTERS ROCK! Although I must say I was tired enough last night that I questioned whether the effort was worth it... :) Thanks to you all, and I am moving on to further adventures in New England. I am sure I will write at length about them when I get the chance!

Michelle J said...

Kristen, you did amazing in my book!!! Don't obsess over your pace please!! Your fast!!

I'm jealous of all the lobsters you are getting to consume!!!