Friday, October 26, 2012

Amelie's Race Recap: Amsterdam Mizuno Halve Marathon

Last Sunday, Ed and I ran in the Amsterdam Mizuno Half Marathon.  This would be my seventh time running the half distance, and Ed's second.  Our race didn't start until 1:30 PM (another something different; we're used to morning races), so we were able to watch the marathon leaders fly down the street, about 200m into the final 5k of a pretty windy race.

Here come the frontrunners!

The push for 2:06!

Blurry Wilson Chebet due to his elite speed, not to photographer sloppiness.  Those buildings are fast, too.

Here come the laaaaaadiiiiiiies!

Meseret Hailu and Eunice Kirwa duking it out... nice and cozy.

The quarter-mile jog down the street did not make us thrilled to race in the wind.  The leaders looked cold and, yes, a bit tired.  Being busy with the double-move (Chicago-to-Colfax, Colfax-to-Amsterdam) in the past month, my training had been a far cry from either organized or adequate, and I honestly didn't have high expectations for my own performance.  I hoped for a slight PR, if things went my way.

A slight PR?  Isn't that something?  Well, yes and no.  About a year ago, I made a very squishy goal of running sub-1:30 before I turn 30 (I've got three years).  I chose 1:30 because, to that point, I'd chipped slowly from my 2004 first half time of 1:54, to 1:51, to 1:45, to 1:42, to 1:39.  1:30 seemed like an attainable-with-some-focus goal.  I knew from a couple of runs with "the fast kids" in Chicago's bRUNch club that 8-10 miles at 7:30-7:45 almost killed me.  I was wholly resigned to a long year or two of battling through the 1:30s.  I slogged through a hilly trail half marathon one month ago in Idaho in what I felt was a "meh" 1:41-something.

So, when I pranced merrily along to a 1:31.00 on Sunday, I felt almost guilty.  It took a couple of days to come to terms with my conscience.  I felt like I had been playing Super Mario Bros. 3 (original NES, of course), found all the magic flutes, and flute-ported over the Ice Level, the Maze Level, the Water Level, and all the other levels I suck at and don't want to bother with.  For 3:15 of your life, you can have both the reference and some extreme childhood nostalgia here.  Because I didn't really train.  I ate pastries and Gouda and drank wine all week.  I haven't done CrossFit in over a month.  I rode 30+ miles into a stiff headwind four days before the race.  So:  What-The-What Just Happened?  Closely followed by:  How Do I Make the Most of This Awesome Gift?

I just got a free pass though most of the 1:30s!  I have no idea what to do next. I do know that for the next year of racing, it's likely that I will be very nervous about eating anything other than dates and oatmeal and peanut butter for breakfast, drinking anything other than green tea and water with my breakfast, and racing in anything other than my shiniest blue spandex from high school that used to reach all the way to my ankles but now only reach my mid-calf. 

You should check out  I hear they have nice pictures.

Apart from superstitions, I would like to recap the things that I strongly feel Made A Difference for me during this race.

1.  I did not drink coffee.  I notice that caffeine makes me nervous and my circulation go to pot (heh, little Amsterdam joke...).  Being jumpy and tense during a long run kills my rhythm, makes me use my accessory breathing muscles too soon, and kills my form.  Anything under 5 miles, a-okay.

2.  For the first time ever:  I did not partake in the mass "duck-and-dodge" game that usually ensues after runners in a large race cross the start line.  In past large races, I was continually jumping up on curbs and medians and side-stepping every ten paces to pass slower runners in the first three miles.  Not so this time.  This was a pretty straight course with few turns, and I wanted to capitalize on that and not add any extra distance with lateral movement.  So I waited behind people for a space to open, then moved through it.  There was a good 10mph wind from the NE in our faces during parts of the race, so in those stretches I made an especial effort to get behind a taller runner or three.

3.  The race was not marked in miles, or, as they are known here, "English Miles."  Since I can barely count to ten when fatigued, let alone 21 kilometers, I only paid attention to the 5k points.  Usually I try to keep all 13 miles straight, and fail miserably.  Ed calculated my 5k/10k/15k splits for a 1:35 goal time, and I memorized them (22.37, 45.10, 1:07.45).  The 15k mark is always my "dig-in-and-go" place, so I looked at the map and figured out that 15k would be landmarked by crossing the Amstel River.  My final splits were 21.46, 43.21 (21.35), and 1:04.54 (21.33) were my official 5k, 10k, and 15k splits.  At each 5k mark, I thought, "Gee, I should probably slow down."  By the time I hit 15k, the "anything goes" point, I still had a reserve, negative splits and all.

4.  I'm not working as a nurse, or in school, or in the middle of packing to move internationally or cross-country.  Golly, this was a stress-free run.  Instead of trying to run just ahead of the present, to escape my head and reclaim sanity, I was able to run in the present, enjoy my stride and breathing and those around me, and had a great time.

That was officially the most baffling race I've ever run, and the best I've ever felt (breathing, shoulders, hips, back esp.) during a half.   The six months of CrossFit was a good decision:  I feel strong, strong, strong.  Thanks to Ed for twisting my arm...

Speaking of Ed, he has something called "a job," which means he hasn't yet finished his own race recap.  I will leave you waiting in breathless anticipation... because he also PR'd by over eight minutes!  He's kind of a big deal.

I leave you with a dynamic stretching video.  Try this at home, kids!

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