Tuesday, May 15, 2012

i never meta analysis i didn't like

"Stay on pace & don't try to keep up with the youngsters." ~ derek s.

that's good advice, generally.

it's particularly good when you're running your first half marathon.

it's advice i had no trouble taking this past weekend, mostly because i felt like i had no choice. i mean, i had never run a half marathon before, distance-wise, let alone race-wise. the farthest i'd gone previously was a 10.5-mile training run the weekend before...so, i didn't know what to expect, how 13.1 miles would feel, or if i'd even be able to finish.

i thought i could...but (this will shock you, i know): there's often a significant difference between thinking about something and actually doing it.

the good news: the weather was perfect. not a cloud in the sky, start-time temperature about 55 degrees. this is seattle, after all...the chance of cold, dreary and wet any given day is about 90%.

also, mrs. spaceneedl got out of bed at 5:45 a.m. to drive to kirkland with me. on mother's day! crazy. and incredibly endearing.

the bad news? there was no bad news.

lining up in the starting corral (why do they call it a corral? are we animals? moo.), i relegated myself to the section marked, "8-12 minutes/mile expected time." there were a lot of very fit-looking people congregating around me, so however fast or slow i ended up running, i felt like i was in pretty good company. but my goal was to stay closer to the 8 than the 12, and...hey, we're moving!

mile 1: the start was slow. and crowded. there were runners ahead of me as far as i could see...which wasn't far, because there was a hill and a right turn not too far ahead. passing people was not really an option, because the was nowhere to pass to. the upside: not many people were passing me. ha!

mile 2: more hills, heading up. i thought this was going to be kind of a flat course. this is not flat. at all. where's the flatness? or some downness to go along with all the upness? the good news: the pack was thinning, stringing out, as people slowed on the hills. conveniently, i did a lot of hill training over the past few months. the bad news: still no bad news.

mile 3: i don't remember much about mile 3, other than it seemed a lot like miles 1 and 2. with slightly less upness, maybe, and a little more downness.

mile 4: took a first look at my watch. whoa. about five minutes behind my target pace. not entirely good news. but in the big scheme of things, not really bad, either. the better news: the pack stretching out significantly. plus, some flatness.

mile 5: took another look at my watch. still behind, but making up time. an even distribution of upness and downness. interesting self-diagnostic: i'm actually better on the uphills than the downhills. i pass a lot more people on the up. and the down...hurts. wtf?

mile 6: i have no memory of mile 6. or mile 7, for that matter. i know i ran them, because i never left the course. aside from that? i got nothin'.

mile 8: i remember the mile 8 marker. i remember thinking, "eight miles already? huh. that went by quick." and then, "holy sh*t, there's still five miles to go..."

mile 9: i remember very little about mile 9.

mile 10: it was here i began to worry, a little. as mentioned earlier, my longest run previously was 10.5 miles. we would soon be entering tiger country. (note: no actual tigers in kirkland, as far as i know. then again, maybe they're eating the people who would report on such things. it's possible.)

mile 11: i remember mile 11. the highlight was a steep hill complete with a doubling-back hairpin turn. this was followed by a long, gradual ascent on a stretch of severely crowned road. which meant one foot was constantly, uncomfortably landing lower than the other. or higher than the other, as the case may be. either way, it sucked. additionally, the cones were set up to herd people into a narrow band on the side of the road, where the slope was even more pronounced. most people ignored the cones, getting as close to the middle flatness as possible. yeah, mile 11. not my favorite mile. except when compared to...

mile 12: remember the extreme uphill of mile 11? it was followed immediately and not coincidently by a comparable downhill stretch in mile 12. as unpleasant as mile 11 may have been, mile 12 was more so. my quads are feeling mile 12 today, every time i walk down the stairs. ow ow ow.

mile 13.1: as noted in mile 5, i had considerable time to make up if i was going to hew to derek's advice. and so, the last eight point one miles were an exercise in time management (not to mention an exercise in exercise). the good news: i was feeling surprisingly strong. my pace was quickening, my form felt sound, and there were some youngsters just ahead of me to keep up with. or (raising an eyebrow) ...to pass.

another look at my watch told me i had a good chance of making my target time, if i didn't fall down or otherwise handicap myself. some kind of strong emotion subroutine was running in the background of my brain, but i ignored it. "stay on pace and don't pay attention to subroutines," i didn't really say to myself.

i passed a couple of young women who had been ahead of me for the last two miles or so, leaving one thirty-ish guy to catch.

he seemed stubbornly disinclined to be caught, staying about ten yards in front of me. suddenly, a vision of derek s. appeared. "you don't need to pass this youngster," his voice echoed in my brain. "stick to your plan." 

"i don't need to pass this youngster," i agreed, hypnotically. "i just need to stick to my plan."

plans are good. passing the thirty-something youngster with about a hundred yards to go was better. finishing a minute and a half ahead of my goal? better still.

i left the course, looking for the missus in the crowd. there she was, walking toward me, saying something about not getting the photo when i crossed the finish line. i was oblivious, mostly, because i was busy hugging her and crying.

"what's wrong?" she asked.
"i don't know," i snorfled.
"are you okay?"
"yes...i feel great."

the good news: the crying thing lasted just a few moments. and then i smiled.

a lot.

the bad news: there was no bad news.


# 794
Michael Miller
division: M 50-59
overall finish: 157/946
division place: 8/43
time: 1:48:30
pace: 8:18


dilliwag said...

Fantastic race, Michael! If you're feeling good toward the end, you go for it. Passing the youngsters is a bonus. 8:18 is a terrific pace for a half marathon. If I can manage the tendinitis in my knee, I'm hoping to run a 1/2 at the end of August. I'd love to crack 1:30 but I'm thinking those days are probably behind me. I'm 44 but feel feel like I'm 26 (mentally).

spaceneedl said...

thanks, derek. it felt great. i was actually training for the seattle rock & roll half, which is next month. but i felt ready, so i signed up for kirkland.

sr&r is six weeks away. come run it with me...i'll do my best to keep up. :-)

christyelaurel said...

I can't tell what I'm more impressed by: your lightning-fast half marathon debut, or your jocular, self-aware, voice-driven prose. Bravo to both, Mr. Miller! Look forward to seeing you out on the pavement again sometime soon.

spaceneedl said...

thanks, christye. very kind. i look forward to trying to keep up with you!