Friday, November 25, 2011

Enjoying the half marathon

I finally ran the Big Sur Half Marathon after several years of watching from the sidelines. I feel like Quin, who usually throws his arms up and yells, “I did it!” after scoring a basket or eating a cracker in one bite. Usually I am against racing while I am training for a marathon for one simply reason — they never go well. I have always found it hard to get psyched up when it’s not THE race. I have also discovered, the legs just don’t want to go. Strangely, I run faster in practice.

But this year my coach and I decided it was stupid to not run the race since it was so close to home. It was also eight weeks out from the Olympic Marathon Trials in January, so it would help break up my training and give me some variety. I would have had to do a similar workout the day before anyway, so it made sense to use the race for some preparation.

My early enthusiasm started to wane two weeks ago when I began getting sick. If my coach had his way, I would not have run, but he also knew that I wanted to run in front of the hometown crowd. I finished a round of antibiotics the day before the race. It's never fun to try and train through an illness. But when race day came, I was really happy with how I felt, although I wasn't 100 percent.

The race started out as I figured with my Olympic teammate Magdalena Lewy-Boulet and me running a 5-minute, 30-second first mile. Although we slowed, I pulled ahead after mile 2 and ran in the lead until just after mile 12 when Magdalena made a final surge to the finish and won by 19 seconds. I was bummed to lose the win so close to the end, but considering how bad I have felt training the past two weeks, it could have been much worse. I warmed down by running another 5 miles after the race which gave me an even 100 miles for the week.

I got back from warming down to the pier where the elite athletes go to collect our clothes, and found my husband Jon waiting for me. I asked him where Quin was, and he replied, “Don’t be mad.” That is never a good sign. He pointed around the corner where Quin was running back and forth through a giant puddle and was soaked up to the waist. Quin looked up with a big grin and said, “I run through puddle, Mama.” Oh well, so much for going out to breakfast. I am just relieved the rain held off long enough for most of the runners to make it to the finish line.

Thanks to the Big Sur staff and volunteers and all the DLI volunteers for making it a wonderful and special race. The course, which runs along the Monterey Bay, is probably the most scenic half marathon in the country. Seeing that I run those roads almost every day, it made for a mentally easy race because I knew the race course so well.

There was also some excitement at the fourth water stop as a pregnant runner seemed to be experiencing labor pains. Although the baby didn't arrive that day, maybe the Big Sur race director should get naming rights? I propose “Suri” if it was a girl. I truly appreciate all the great cheers from all of the runners I passed on may way to the finish on the out-and-back course. I wish I had had the energy to cheer for each and every one of you. Next time I am on the sidelines I promise to reciprocate.

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