95 minutes. Got my goal time and a new best in the half marathon.
This race had some gnarly hills, narrow paths, crowded packs of runners, the sun and trees along the course creating a strobe light in my peripheral vision, there were actually times I wasn’t enjoying it unlike my first race. Coming over kilometer 17 feeling really defeated and worn down (more on that in the story below) I thought I didn’t really want to do this more than once a year but then that moment when you see the clock over the finish line and it’s under -but just under and moving fast – under your goal time and you start sprinting and people are cheering and your body goes numb and your mind starts cheering for you and you get your time, you get congratulated over a loud speaker and everybody cheers and it’s all high fives and someone puts a medal around your neck and the most exciting bottle of water you’ve ever had and how good it feels to just not be running anymore and it clicks over into being excited to do it again.
The story of the race though would have be called Never Trust A Pace Bunny.
I did good off the starting line, started at the front of the pack so I didn’t have to weave through the slow people and stayed ahead of my pace bunny.
For those who don’t know or if the colloquialism is different in your scene: Races have volunteers running at specific paces so we runners can get a sense of how we’re doing. For example in my first race there was a pace bunny (with bunny ears and a tail) with a sign that said 1:50 so I knew I just had to stay well ahead of her. And yeah, I saw her at the start and then never again.
This latest race had a fastest pacer (Patrick, with gold star balloons this time yet still called pace bunnies) of 1:35 – my realistic goal time – so that’s perfect. I pulled ahead of him at the start and he caught up a few times but I never let him get ahead of me.
In fact I hadn’t seen him so long and my pace was so comfortable I was envisioning getting 90 minutes or sub. Then the turn-around…
The course was down a path and back so the people ahead of me ran passed me on my left a few minutes before I ran passed the people behind me on my right. And at one point someone, to be encouraging, said You’re catching up to the 1:35 bunny, and I though that can’t be right because he never passed me – not only did I know he was behind me, I’d hadn’t seen him at the turn-around either. But it turns out he never went to the turn around. He must have stopped at a check point and waited and started back to make sure he was on pace, maybe even to correct his pace. So I went from thinking I’m killing it, to reassuring myself I’m killing it, to coming into a straight-away and seeing this son-a-bitch bunny way out a ahead of me.
So I try to turn on the jets a little. I’m telling myself I just gotta catch this son of a bitch, and I’m watching the k markers go by and I’m thinking I’ve got 4k left to catch this son of a bitch ass son of bitch. And I’m already telling myself the story of how I didn’t get my time, and never trust a pace bunny, and I need to be better, and I shouldn’t have drank so much yesterday or had so much cake and cigars, and I’m gonna get 1:40 and let everybody down…
And then I had to keep stopping myself and telling myself not to tell myself negative stories in the middle of things happening. So I just thought about music, primarily Hatebreed – my mantra became Now Is The Time For Me To Rise.
But having run 16ish kilometers no amount of trying to get stoked is gonna back off the fatigue.
Also, the 10k race was designed to finish along the same course and time as the 21k so I found myself weaving through slow people as a hundred 10kers merged into the nice stretched out group of us leading the 21k pack.
So then the moment of darkness, passing the 19 and 20 k markers, passing slow people, just hurting, struggling, after really burning myself trying to catch my pace bunny I was watching him recede further and further ahead of me til he was around a final corner. I was just going to get an okay time, I was going to be humbled. And that’s for the best, I thought, that’s what I need. I’d be disappointed and a disappointment and I’d have to mourn; then I’d have to come back stronger. One of the 10kers had a good pace and good form and I raced her to the home stretch (because all you do when running is pick someone ahead of you, race them and only them, beat them, then pick someone ahead of you again and repeat) and that’s when I saw the clock.
I could see that it was 1:3something, I got excited, I could see that it was 1:34, I was gonna do it. I got my numb white ecstatic tunnel. Patrick the Pace Bunny was standing at the line and was the first to high five me. I felt like he was sincerely joyfully proud of me. Which is a illusion but everything you think during a race is a kind of illusion and you have to focus on the ones you like.