Subtitle: When running, dating, pride, and hills come together, it hurts. :-)
So, a few months back I started dating a guy runner. Yes, I don't know what is more shocking, me actually dating someone or finding someone with the same crazy hobby. Stop laughing and just read on. On date 2 he told me about this half marathon in New Brunswick that he and all his buddies were running in April and I totally had to do it too. I was in the late stages of training for the Gasparilla 15K in Florida and was feeling pretty invincible. I added the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon to my training schedule and, more importantly, wrote it on my calendar. Once something appears on my desk calendar, oh, it's happening.
I am, apparently, the most un-call-back-able girl ever because things between guy runner and I fell apart. His loss. April hit and I flipped that calendar to see "RUTGERS" written in big red letters on April 18. Oh crap. Well, now I had to run it! First, it was on the calendar. Second, I said I would and if I didn't it would be like I didn't go because of him. And, like I'm going to stand for that. Third, I was inadvertently training for it anyway.
So, I really wanted to do but I could not under any circumstances show up at that race alone. That would be the ninja loser move of the month. I needed a running buddy. And since there was not enough time for me to get super hot and fast(and will probably never be enough time), I needed a super hot and fast friend. Enter Bonnie.
Bonnie is a wonderful friend of mine that I met through my former roommate. Bonnie was a great source of advice and inspiration during my 2009 Broad Street Run training resolution. She and I ran 2009 BSR together until mile 7. Love me some Bonnie. She does BSR every year and goes to the gym everyday. Seriously, this girl is insane fit. Like 3% body fat fit. Did I mention she has two kids? I conned Bonnie into it. It wasn't hard. Since she's already super hot and fast and in shape, I gave her all of a week's notice. Hey, I needed some sort of advantage aside from experience. This would be Bonnie's first half.
The night before the race, Bonnie lets me send runner guy who doesn't know what he's missing a friendly "good luck tomorrow" text. I get a quick "gl 2 u, have fun.'" He was never one for full words, punctuation, grammar, or rules. It would have never worked.
It was cold on race day. The spring season is always tricky in the Northeast and that weekend was chilly! I mean, chilly! Like mid-forties/fifties. But, thanks to running outside all winter, I was fine. (Foreshadowing for the 2010 Broad Street Run two weeks later were the temperature at the start of the race was already 85.) Bonnie and I had a typical race day breakfast of english muffins and peanut butter, coffee and water. Bonnie is super hot, fast, in shape and smart than me because she also got a breakfast sandwich at Dunkin' Donuts on the way up there. This will matter later.
Rutgers University opened it's campus for this race. The event itself was small with probably only 4,000-5,000 runners. The vibe at the start of the race was great though with lots of hungover, though helpful, student volunteers.
A small start means no corrals or anything like that. They say go, we go. Less than half a mile into the course, we encounter the first hill. Bonnie and I run the same pace and were having a good time talking and joking as we started out. That hill was like nothing. Mile 1, down. We saw the marker for mile one, but no timer. The course wasn't super. There were pot holes and uneven pavement. Mile 2 through 5 flew past but damn if it wasn't one hill followed by another. Now, this is New Jersey so HILL is a bit subjective. I mean a slow, gradual incline that you wouldn't notice in a car. You legs do notice though.
Sidenote: Not even done mile 1 yet and there were boys peeing on the side. How? Why? 10 minutes prior and they could have used a porta-potty like everyone else? It was less than a mile into a 13 mile race! Thing # 938849 I don't understand about men.
There were no timers along the course! Anywhere! The distance was marked well enough and water stations were always well prepared. However, when one is trying to pace themselves, those times help. A lot. It wasn't until the turn around at mile 7 when the 9 minute-mile group passed us that Bonnie and I realized we had been doing a sub 10 minute pace. For these short tree trunk legs, thats awesome. I was feeling good. It was cold but runners love the cold. (This one does at least.) Also at that turn around, we passed he-who-is-running-out-regret-from-not-calling me.
Bonnie is like the energizer bunny, she just goes. We passed through another turn around at mile 9 and I thought to myself, "this is going really quickly." Again, the 9 minute group was ahead of us and the 10 minute pace group was behind us. We have fun running together, we cheer on the people who are cheering for us. We tell hot guys that the race rules say men go shirtless at mile 11. Women at mile 14.
Around mile 10 and hill #456, my stomach so wonderfully reminded me that I had only eaten about 600 calories at 5:30 am and it was now about 10 am and it had burned 1000 calories since. As in, I was hungry. When you're running and you have nothing in your stomach, it lets you know. I started to get the "oh no-s". An Oh-No is that feeling you get right before you hurl. SOme call it nausea, but I find that too hard to spell. I stiffed the oh-nos and forced myself to keep up with Bonnie, but another hill was coming. I signaled her to go on and that hot butt just kept going like it was the first mile. I, on the other hand, spent the next two miles strategically searching for places to puke. I walked. I wanted to cry.
Imagine a car running out of gas. It sputters, it stalls, it whines. That was me.
Only, I'm not a car. I'm a runner, dammit. And a runner with a guy I dated on this course, there was no way I'd surrender. I reached deep inside and fought the oh-nos. I quit running about every 500 ft. I figured that if I puked and kept going, my hard-core runner status would skyrocket. I really did feel like I was running on E. I thought about the progress I'd made since my first half in September. I got to mile 11 without walking. this was my third half in less than a year! I could barely finish the BSR last year and now I'm coming up on mile 12 of a half marathon! Whats a little walking when you've run so far this year? Walking made me upset and sick to my stomach but running at that point only made it worse.
I heard a guy yell "You're at mile 11! Two more miles and you're under 2 hours."
WHAT? Despite being exhausted and sick, I was going to PR! (PR is runner lingo for personal record or best time ever!) Huh, imagine that. That was great encouragement for me.
Hey, Rutgers, who puts a HILL- a real hill- at mile 12? That was rude. Bad racing form, bad form. I powered up that hill. I wish I could say that. No, I staggered up the hill. And then, my friends, the finish line! The remarkable wonderful finish line that would mean I could stop running! Yay! Oh sweet finish line, I might just vomit on you with happiness. As I powered through the final sprint (I did power that time!) I noticed my time was.......2:09. Holy crap.
My first Half Marathon was 2:21. My second was 2:18 and now I just did 2:09! I smiled and waved to the cameras, crossed the line, grabbed my medal, gave the lady a hug and quickly found Bonnie. That super fast, hot, in shape, Energizer Bunny of a runner finished her FIRST half in 2:03. Incredible. SO proud.
The Oh-Nos turned to OHDearGod Get Me Out of Here really quickly. There were all kinds of festivities at the finish fine but our car was at the starting line, about a mile away. Fan-freezing-cold-tastic. Who do I see staring at my shivering but faster than last time butt? Mr. Oh, What have I done himself! By all means, don't say hi. Please.
Overall, this course was challenging because of the hills, but not laid out well. I think they tried to squeeze too much race on to too small an area. Not having timers was a big oversight. Also, one porta-potty station at mile 7 was effective but could have been done better. Everything else was well-organized and professional. Though we complained about the cold and distance on the walk back to the car, shuttles were offered and all the literature totally warned us of that. Oops.
I PR-ed but am still unhappy about my burn out. I learned to eat more the day of a race and will train with GUs or those ChompShots things for next one. I had a great time with Bonnie and really liked having a running buddy for the majority of the race. Mixing dating and running was a great motivator and distracter for me.
I'll (someday) write a post about mood swings you go through during a race. There is elation, excitement, annoyance, anger, anxiety, grief, acceptance, joy, accomplishment, pride. Stay tuned for 2010 BlueCross Broad Street Run Recap, aka my one-year Runner-Versary! :-)