My 2010 fitness goal includes completing three half marathons and two sprint triathlons. With yesterday’s Women’s Half Marathon in the books, I’m 4/5 of the way to goal. So how did things go yesterday?
(Gentlemen, if you don’t like reading or thinking about female issues, stop reading now. You have been warned.)
When my alarm screamed at 4 a.m. I woke up with the worst case of cramps in the history of womanhood. I had a raging headache and my left jaw muscle felt tight from ongoing TMJ issues. It was going to be a long day. Fortunately, this summer I trained throughout the Nashville heat and humidity regardless of how I felt physically. I was ready to participate while in pain.
I arrived at the race location earlier than needed, but I got a great parking spot about 100 yards from the start line. That NEVER happens to me. I had some time to stretch and chill out in the nearby Hilton Hotel lobby. My friend Lynn and I connected and we hung out together until the race’s start. She runs faster than I do (as do most people) and I wanted her to go at her pace. I had my Ipod to keep me company.
Prior to the race start, I had a little bit of nervous energy, but nothing like what I experienced during my first half marathon two years ago. In fact, I slept like a baby the night before. Lynn believes my new found calm comes from knowing I can finish the event. I think she’s right.
This was the first time I’ve done a half marathon without first driving the course a day or so prior to the event. Note to self: always drive the course first. I’d heard people talk about how hilly the course would be, but I didn’t really pay attention. In fact, I looked at the course map for about two minutes on Friday, but didn’t consider how hilly it would be.
While I didn’t feel great physically, I was in a great place mentally. Other than a slight attack of nausea at mile three, I delighted with every mile that passed. I focused on what I’d done rather than how many miles were left. I enjoyed the people who came out to watch and support us. The race bibs had the participants’ names on them, so complete strangers were yelling “Go, Pam!” as I passed. I thanked every police officer and volunteer within earshot. I enjoyed seeing parts of my home town I’ve never traveled on foot. It you really want to get to know a location get out of the car and walk, run or cycle. It will change your perspective and you’ll notice things that you’d otherwise miss.
I saw “champagne man” along the path. I’ve seen pictures of him but have never actually seen him on the course. “Champagne man” is a fixture at Nashville’s endurance events. Both the Country Music Marathon/Half Marathon and the Women’s Half Marathon courses pass his home. He dresses in old-school Southern gentleman attire: a searsucker suit and a hat. He sets up a little table with a bottle of champagne and a champagne flute. He sips as we go by.
The course had a wonderful downhill stretch as we went down Broadway, heading toward the Cumberland River. At the end of that down hill stood a group of friends. I was not expecting to see them until after the race (more on that in a minute). But there they were, cameras in hand. I immediately changed my focus from running to sucking in my gut for the photos. As soon as I passed them the course made a left turn and there before me stood one heck of a hill…
During the first 11 miles I was on schedule to beat my best half marathon time by two or three minutes. I would describe the hills as rolling and every up hill was followed by a downhill. Not bad at all. But mile 11 sent us up, up up Second Avenue. I checked my Garmin and my pace was slowing to a crawl. And sadly, it wasn’t the last hill. The course took us across the Cumberland River into the Tennessee Titans’ football stadium. If I had studied the course map (or even better, if I had driven the course), it would have dawned on me that getting from Titans’ Stadium to the finish would involved running up a bridge. The bridge appeared after the 12-mile marker. That’s just cruel. By this time I was tired, the temperature was warming up and my head still hurt. I was again moving at a crawl and my hopes of beating my best time were dashed. I decided to suck it up, keep moving, and be grateful to finish…two minutes slower than my best half marathon and two minutes faster than my worst. I’ll take it.
When I crossed the finish line, members of the armed forces were there handing out medals. They were the most beautiful site I’d ever seen (the servicemen and the medals). Then it was time to connect with the friends I didn’t expect to see along the course. Two friends own a 45-foot house boat which they’d docked at the Riverfront for the weekend. They invited Lynn and me to the boat for a post-race breakfast. We were joined by another couple who are members of my weekend cycling group. We enjoyed great food and even better conversation. Great times.
I have one more half-marathon to go in order to accomplish my goal. That event is a month away. Compared to the schedule I just completed, having a month to focus on one event feels like a luxury (I’ve just come off a schedule that included an August 14th triathlon, another tri on September 4 and yesterday’s half-marathon). My plan is to put some effort into core strengthening (Pilates and other abdominal work) and add weekly hill repeats. I don’t know what kind of improvements can be made in a month, but I’m going to find out.
My hat is off to the good folks involved with the Women’s Half Marathon. The course was the most challenging I’ve ever experienced, the volunteers were fantastic (and there were plenty of them), and I’m proud of my fair city for accommodating the event. I’m proud of all of the women who dedicated months to training. I overheard countless ladies mention that this was their first half marathon. I hope it won’t be their last.