Race 2: Half Moon Bay Half Marathon

I highly recommend you do the following before reading this race recap:

  • Get your favorite coffee of choice. I recommend a pumpkin spice latte.
  • Find a comfortable spot to curl up, uninterrupted because this is a long one.
  • You might want a box of tissues and perhaps you would like to play “Chariots of Fire” in the background because this will inspire you.

Okay…I couldn’t even type that last one with a straight face. No joke. I actually just laughed out loud. Not LOL but literally laughed out loud.

This is not an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity and struggle but it is a lengthy homage to quite possibly the best race of my life.

I wish all races felt like this one.

Now…where to start?

Oh yes, the beginning.

Back in the summer of 1979 my mother finally went into labor after three failed attempts at induction…Oh wait. That’s too far back.

Let’s go back to last Saturday morning after Race 1 of Race Week 2012. I hugged the dogs good bye, gave my mom final instructions for their care, jumped into Roberta (my minivan) with the boy and we set out on what would be the longest and most painful drive EVER to Half Moon Bay. It was really only painful and long because I was so worried about making it to packet pick up by 4 PM and we kept hitting traffic in really strange places along the drive.

It probably didn’t help that I had a number of caffeinated beverages on the drive down which pretty much fueled my pre-race jitters.

And then I received a fabulous tweet from @halfmoonbayim which said simply, “I’ll wait for you!”

Drive, people, DRIVE!

As it turned out, I walked into packet pick up at 3:59 PM to find hoards of stragglers also getting in under the wire. But how many of them walked in and had one of the coordinators immediately say, “Liz from Run Fat Chick Run, right?! Can I get your picture?” Seriously. That happened. See?

I’m a celebrity now. Woot woot! I might have literally hugged a few volunteers for waiting if by maybe you mean absolutely did.

Oh, and did I mention that someone had a bib all his own to pick up?

The boy with his 5K bib! Go, boy, go!

With bib in hand, I was suddenly blissfully calm and focused on one thing: pasta. Glorious pasta. Totally cliché pasta. Let’s be honest though: There is nothing so delicious as artichoke ravioli with a delicate bechamel sauce with a few bottles of pre-race hydration water down at the beach the night before a race.

After a delicious dinner, I set about laying out everything I would need in the morning.

This probably looks like I am getting ready for some sort of trail 50 miler. I am being eco-friendly, folks, by carrying all my own stuff.

Then I set about laying out everything the boy would need for the morning.

This shirt always makes me giggle.

And then when I was all done, I set about laying out everything I would need for after the race in the morning.

Everything I need to survive post race.

And as if all this wasn’t a wee bit excessive and over the top, I proceeded to arrange our shoes and bibs in varying arrangements to take their photos because well who doesn’t think dirty, stinky running and walking shoes are cute with bright orange D-tags?

Yes, I did spend about twenty minutes meticulously making sure my bib was pinned evenly.

Testing, testing…1, 2, 3. Yup. Bib is aligned. I think.

And yes, I also took the time to carefully line up the holes on my D-tag to ensure it was properly round and D shaped.

For some weird reason I had my Journal Jog bib from last week with me and happened to notice that 680-580 is 100.  Ooooh.  Ahhh.  Now if my first Tahoe bib is 780 I will KNOW there is some sort of bib conspiracy.

I might have some issues. I’m betting you knew that already.

By 8 PM I was unconscious.

By 11 PM I was dreaming of oversleeping the two wake up calls and two cell phone alarms.

By 12 AM I was dreaming of missing the half marathon turn around point and continuing on to the marathon turn around point.

By 2 AM I thought the dogs were barking. Apparently I could hear them 4 hours away. Go figure.

By 5 AM I was soundly sleeping when every alarm known to man went off in the room: phones were ringing, sirens were sounded and somewhere an old fashioned wind up clock was clanging away. Apparently I wasn’t the only runner in the hotel terrified of oversleeping.

Breakfast Champion

I showered, did my hair, brushed my teeth, sucked down the healthy high protein pre-race smoothie I had made for the occasion and chased it town with whole wheat bread stuffed with peanut butter then promptly had to brush my teeth again because the roof of my mouth was sticky.

Taped and ready to go. Check out those beat up feet. Beautiful, right?

I taped up my feet (accidental dog bite to the left, preemptive ankle tendon to the right), put on my fresh new Thorlo Experias followed by my now tie dyed Brooks Adrenalines and realized I felt ready. Not just ready. READY.

Sure, I had the typical pre-race nerves but as I strapped myself into my eco friendly hydration pack one last time to ensure I had applied copious amounts of Body Glide in the correct locations I had an overwhelming feeling of confidence that I had this.

With a final battery check of the Garmin I turned to the boy and signaled the “Alright, I’m ready. Let’s go run a race.”

Our hotel was conveniently located ten minutes away. And as luck or meticulous planning (let’s try the latter people) we arrived plenty early to get one of the highly coveted close parking spots without incident. Within twenty minutes, three parking lots were overflowing with cars and people were starting to park across the freeway and dash through traffic in the dark.

See, boy? This is why I always want to be a little extra early. He appreciated it. Actually, I think he appreciated the fact that I told him that I was 100% fine with him staying in the car until his race started a half hour aftermine. And I meant it. I am such a nervous wreck before races there is no point in hanging out with me. I won’t talk and if I do, it will only be about porta potties, blisters, stampedes and sheer terror. I am not exactly Mary Sunshine pre-race. I admit it.

We mutually offered encouragement as I crept out of the car into the cold wet fog at 6:30. Thirty minutes left. I made my way in the dark to a rather long line at a single porta potty where I promptly consumed my first packet of GU. Espresso Love. It was delicious, if you can consider GU delicious. I chatted with the other runners anxiously awaiting their turn in the green plastic throne room. We all seemed to know there were other porta potities but shared a mutual fear that should we leave this line in pursuit of the mythical porta potties without lines down at the start line we would never actually make it into a porta potty at all. And while we had all been reassured that there were a plethora of restrooms (both portable and permanent) available on the course THIS shared bathroom experience was of the utmost concern to all of us.

I will just hang out in the back here.

With ten minutes to spare, I at last made it through the line. Feeling much relieved in several ways, I trotted down to the start line-passing those magical porta potties which did, indeed, have no line. Whatever. Mine was probably cleaner. At the very least the seat was warmer. Ewwww.

All that aside, I simply hung out listening to music and powered through another GU. I was immensely greatful for the crowd, which alternated between group bouncing or group huddling for warmth. Let me pause here to describe the weather: It’s not exactly that it was cold. Okay, at 48 degrees it was a little chilly especially when you’ve been complaining about 90 degree plus weather all summer. But it was foggy-that low hanging, damp sort of fog that creeps into tense muscles and joints and just sort of chills you.

See the fog? Ooooh.

I love this sort of weather…around mile one. Up until that point I am cursing myself for not wearing my jacket. Of course, I had carefully chosen NOT to bring my jacket because I knew I would be too hot.

This internal debate is akin to the porta potty debate: Do I wear the jacket? Don’t I wear the jacket? I mean, it wasn’t exactly worth a drop bag for ONLY my jacket and I didn’t really want to stuff my jacket in my hydration pack. What if I was cold? What if I was hot.

You get the idea. I’m sure you’ve been there. I went without my jacket. I don’t regret it. At all.

As previously noted, I had already decided to start out near the back of the second wave despite the fact that my bib essentially “won” me a spot in the first wave. The waves were not only scheduled to start two minutes apart they actually DID start two minutes apart because these people seriously had their act together. It was a good call to be in the back. The first wave took off like a shot. The second wave? We were more like a slow rolling tide on a calm sea, fingers poised on our Garmins for that magic moment we hit the timing pad. (How’s that for tying into our ocean themed run?)

Wave 2 in motion.

I set out at a nice comfortable pace, steadily moving to the right and generally keeping out of the way of runners who either were must faster than I or thought they were much faster than I. In either case, I kept out of the race, passing the occasional runner but all the while settling into this really comfortable, really easy pace.

I listened to the music. I controlled my breathing. I shook out my shoulders. Most of all, I stared at the waves crashing on the beach beside us beneath a rosy pink layer of cotton candy like fog. The view was breathtaking. And my legs just moved: easy and light like I was out for a walk in the park.

With views like this, how can you complain? (Sorry for the blurriness. I refused to slow my roll for photos.)

I think all mile markers should look like this, even on my trail runs. Let’s get on that people.

When I came up to the first mile marker, I looked down at my watch and had the realization that this comfortable pace was a full 90 seconds faster than my target of 14:00 minutes I spent the next mile and a half arguing with myself about what I should do about that. Did I assume I would get slower later on and that the average would right itself by the end? Should I ease up now and focus running even miles?

Or how about option 3? Just run.

This is exactly what I did because when I hit that magic moment around mile three where everything felt perfect I knew exactly what I needed and wanted to do: run happy.

The stunning views from the course certainly lent to my happiness. The sound of the surf and sea birds along with my own calm, even breath became my soundtrack. I thanked volunteers. I thanked the spectators who cheered us on. I thanked my legs. I can honestly say for six miles all I could think of was how absolutely perfect this day was.

Need that tissue yet? I thought you might. And if you don’t, don’t worry. I didn’t need it either. Nope. I was overcome by this ridiculous giddiness that resulted in my smiling like an idiot as we crossed from paved trail to single track because suddenly IT WAS ON. Heck, I was smiling like an idiot when the first 10K and half marathon runners came back. There was a time that I would have been devastated by the reinforcement of my slothlike racing tendencies. Not today. I greeted them all with “Nice job, Runner! You got this!” Because I was certain they did.

You know what’s fun? Pirates serving Cliff Shots and Gatorade.

And no. I’m not kidding. I actually said, “Oh hell yeah!” loud enough when we hit single track that at least three women in front of me turned around to see what crazy woman was excited about difficult footing and even more difficult passing. I’m very sorry if I interrupted your racing reverie. I really am. But I was just so excited because how much fun is dashing over cliff sides where parts of the trail have washed out, roots abound and there are trees hanging low overhead? In another life, I must have been a trail runner because nothing makes me more happy than challenging footing.

This was the easy, wide section of the single track where there was lots of room for everyone. Of course, the heaviest traffic passing area was on a super narrow 12″ wide section on the edge of a cliff. And no, we did not walk up hill to school both ways in the snow without shoes. I’m serious.

I did have a little mental breakdown just after the flag for mile six.

Do you see the flag? I don’t see the flag. Where the hell is the flag?

Now, this is going to sound silly-particularly since I am a numbers person who uses calculus on a regular basis-but I apparently had it stuck in my mind that when I hit the 10K marker, I should hit the turnaround.

Basic math people: 6.2 miles + 6.2 miles = 12.4 miles

A half marathon is 13.1 miles. That means the turnaround point is at 6.55 miles

I literally spent an entire quarter mile freaking out that I had missed the turnaround despite the fact that half marathoners were still running out ahead of me then coming back from some point in the distance. At one point, I convinced myself that this was really a 14 mile race and we were going to turn around at mile seven. Add to it that the footing suddenly became very treacherous and the runners coming back at us would not give up the trail to those of us going out including a guy with a double wide stroller baring two screaming toddlers, pushing us off the trail and into the scrub brush entirely and you had one freaked out fat chick.

Damn you stroller guy! You held me back in the beginning and ran me off the trail at the half way point with your kids screaming like rabbits being slaughtered. Didn’t you get the “no strollers” memo because they were PRETTY clear about that.

It all went away when I saw the cone. I danced around it with my hands in the air and thanked the running gods for helping me find it.

Reinvigorated, I began the long and failed process of trying to tweet the following to my adoring followers:

If this were a 10K I’d be on my second beer by now but then I wouldn’t have this view.

What actually came out was:

Mmmm….cupcakes. Thanks for planting THAT seed, Jacqueline. I ended up visiting Kara’s Cupcakes on Monday to cure that.

A friend of mine calls this rexting: running + texting. It doesn’t work well. It also slows you down. I peaked down at my Garmin after hitting send to find my mile pace had dropped to 13:30 and I had exactly .3 miles to fix that.

By fix I mean I suddenly found it absolutely incomprehensible to have one mile over 13 minutes.

Yes, if you ever find yourself on single track in a race and you see that ONE mile time that just completely ruins your day even though you are already running faster than you though you would you should TOTALLY kick it up a notch and go all Scottish Hill Runner on the trail’s ass. Somewhere there is a photographer with a photo of me leaping off a small rock on a small ditch like I am freaking Evil Knieval jumping over the Grand Canyon. (Last words as I ran past the photographer, “That is going to be a great one.” Don’t let me down, photog!)

The result? Mile 8: 12:59 And that is even after some guy’s crazy dog tried to trip me then nipped my arm. The dog trainer came out in me and suddenly I was running with my hand in the collar of this dog while telling the owner in my best breathy runner’s voice, “Your dog is over stimulated. Please put her on a leash so she doesn’t get hurt” and handed her off without missing a step. From texting to ridgeback wrangling it was a busy mile.

The next two miles were completely easy and fast…for me. I settled back down, focused in on what I kept lovingly referred to as the last 5K and just enjoyed the run. Okay…I did take a break to text the boy that I would be early to the finish line because at this point, unless a great white shark came out of the ocean and ate me, I was going to be rolling across the finish way earlier than I had planned.  Oops.

And then at 12.85 miles it happened…I was overcome by hot heat in my right pinkie toe. And then that hot heat became a miserably hot, throbbing wet mess with white lightning shooting through my foot. I actually caught myself hitching. I knew something horrible had happened: Blister, amputation, spontaneous combustion… But with less than a quarter mile to go, my friends and the boy waiting for me along with race photographers, I sucked it up and ran like there was absolutely nothing wrong.

Within seconds and I mean SECONDS of crossing the last timing mat, I received a tweet with my results. How freaking awesome is that?

Even better, notice anything strange about this time? I’ll give you a hint… My previous PR was just over 2:45 which means not only did I blow the target 3:15 out of the water by 30 minutes but I knocked about 1:35 off my best time.

Look at this! It’s the picture of consistency!  I also think I deserve bonus points for my Garmin time being so close to my actual time.  Less than 20 seconds.  That like a miracle right?

Yup, I’ll take that. You know what else I will take? A space blanket, bagel, Cliff bar and banana. Oh, and my medal. But please…no pictures. Dammit.

I will show you my medal but I will NOT put down the Cliff bar.

After doing a few happy dances of joy with my new pretty PR and then doing even more happy dances at the boy’s strong 5K performance we headed back to the hotel for well deserved showers before meeting up with my bestie and her mom for what was quite possibly the most delicious lunch ever. That could have been the miles talking but I really think the polenta burger with tempura zucchini chips was about the most amazing lunch ever. There aren’t even pictures for you because it was THAT good.

We’ve been friends since we were two years old. Everyone should be lucky to have a friend like this!

The bestie is a running widow like the boy. She is also into the odd 5K here and there but like the boy, she tends to think her hubby and I are pretty nuts for all this crazy running (and in his case triathaloning) stuff. But she loves me anyway.

After a delicious lunch, I took a delicious nap. And after the delicious nap, I had delicious pizza and delicious wine down on the beach with the boy. We had a great time relaxing and rehashing our victorious races. And then I went to bed because frankly, I was tired after all that eating and drinking.

Heaven is post race pizza and wine on the beach.  Back OFF, seagull.

Whew!  Are you exhausted after reading that as I was living it?  Yeah, I thought you might be.  And I know you totally feel inspired to go out and run some miles…or at least drink wine and eat pizza.  Either way, stay tuned for tomorrow because I have fun tales from the boy’s 5K as well as Monday’s exploits, including a fabulous run with Cat from My Heart’s Content and the debut of the brightest pink running outfit you will EVER see.  No joke.  Cat can tell you all about.  Seriously, it’s epic.

Final conclusion on the race:  If there is only one race I run in 2013 it will be this one.  It was well organized, fun and the course was absolutely gorgeous.

Final conclusion on my performance:  I was ready for this race and I felt as good on 13.1 miles this week as I did on 5 miles the week before.  My toe is not cooperating very well but I think I have a solution to the problem.  But other than the blister from hell, I still feel great and more than ready for the Trifecta.  I wish every race could feel as good as this one did!

Mileage to Date: 16.2 miles

Mileage Remaining:  39.3 miles

Next up: Emerald Bay Half Marathon