Last weekend I had the very good fortune to run my second half marathon in as many months. My friend Jenny convinced me to sign up as she, her husband, and friend all run this one together. I appreciated having a new training goal, which kept me motivated to maintain my fitness from the SF Marathon, and, before I knew it, race weekend was upon me.
Now, when I was younger (read five years ago), I was very nervous before the starts of races. I would collect race reports of the event months in advance, study the course, the whole nine yards. Now, in my defense, at that point I ran events that were almost exclusively marathon distance or longer and I would say they warrented some extra prep. However, in contrast, I've felt like the races I've done lately have certainly been approached with less thought than I feel like they necessarily deserve.
Which is why, until the day before, I had no idea exactly where the race began, no idea what time it started, and no idea where the race went. I had vague recollections of completing the race 5 years prior, and figured I'd just go off of that for the most part.
Ed and I headed to the expo on Saturday morning after catching a soccer game that a few of my students played in (wow, watching soccer is fun! I so hope when we have kids they play soccer. Of course, I seemed to be doing more cheering than the real parents were - not sure if that's a good thing!). On our way to downtown San Jose, both Ed and I realized that we hadn't really checked on the expo location. Good thing it hasn't changed in 5 years.
By happenstance, our friends Bill and Jenny were also picking up their bibs at the same time, so we were able to meet up in the expo and then went out to a pre-race lunch together. It seemed like we all had a pretty laid back feeling about the race.
That night, Ed fixed me a delicious pre-race meal - spaghetti bolognese with plenty of parmesean, and a very good bottle of beer to help me relax :).
It was perfect, and I went to bed ready to run the next morning. I met up with our group a bit after 7 (traffic was apparently pretty bad for them). I decided to sneak into their much faster corral and try to stick with them during the race - a decision that I was glad I ended up making!
After the traditional anthem, the gun fired and we were off. From the get go, we were really running, hitting a 10:30 pace, which worried me a little. After all, my best runs had me going an 11:12 pace, and that was when I felt fast! Luckily, after the first two miles, we settled into a somewhat more managable pace for me as we ran through the streets.
Having never done a road race with friends before this year, I found it a lot of fun to have constant chatter to keep me company. Bill was full of energy, after taking a "Rocktane" gu (caffeine), and was literally zigzagging across the course, rocking out to the bands.
At mile 4, I had a very welcome sight - Ed on the sidelines! I ran over to the side, got a kiss, and then jumped back in the race.
Bill commented on how huge my smile was after I saw Ed. What can I say, I'm a girl very much in love.
With that great boost, I was feeling pretty good, though I was still slightly worried about the wheels coming off of my run. I mentally prepared myself for having to ditch my group and slow down, but figure I'd wait until I absolutely had to.
A little while later, we got to a stretch where you could see the other runners heading back the other direction, and we saw Bill's "twin" Meb - the record holder and eventual winner of the race. We also got to see Deena Kastor fly by. Seeing such amazing athletes added some energy to our steps.
About 6 miles in, I had the funny surprise of running into Elise, a friend from my SF training group. We had done some of our training runs together, as we run a pretty similar pace. We stayed pretty close for a lot of the rest of the run and had fun chatting a bit. She's also signed up for the Oakland Marathon, so we might do some training runs together.
By the time we got to mile 10, I was definitely feeling it, as was Bill. Amy and Jenny seemed stronger, and started pushing the pace a bit, and I struggled to hang on. At one point, around 12, they really picked it up, and I knew I couldn't hang onto that pace. Luckily, they slowed down enough. Still, our last miles were fast. From Mile 6 onward, they were all sub 11, excepting one that had a bathroom stop, and our last mile was a 9:33!
As we headed into the final stretch, we all kicked it into high gear, and I felt very happy to be running with such a strong group that pushed me so much. I felt a little woosy as I tried to hold onto the pace and, finally, we all crossed the finish line.
While out of breath, we all felt great having completed this very fun race. Using a random nice person's phone, we were able to help Ed find us. We ended up being so much faster than I told him, he missed the finish, but seeing him at mile 4 was so great, I didn't mind.
My next race planned race is the Oakland Marathon. We'll see if these legs have that distance still in them!