The night before the race I could not sleep. I never can. I always get pre race jitters. This particular race was different. Oh, this race carried weight and a serious level of accountability. I was chasing a PR. The record I was chasing I set back in 2013. I ran the Morgan Hill Half Marathon, 1:49:19. A complete anomaly.
I had something to prove today. I was racing. My competitor wasn’t the thousands of others running today. Oh no. It was much more personal. It was me. I was racing that ghost of my 2013 self. If I was going to do it properly, I would have went back to Morgan Hill. This was the best I could do right now. I was going to beat that damn PR. The vision of that PR mocked me. Daring me to beat it. I had also promoted my challenge on social media for all to see. There was no turning back. There was no failure.
The stakes were high. I couldn’t sleep. Tossed and turned all night. Thoughts of running this damn race haunted me all night. Could I beat this stupid record? Had I trained enough? Had I trained right? I had spent the last few months building an aerobic engine. No speed work. No strength work. Compared to last year I had lost 30 pounds.
I woke up before my alarm. Once up, I ate my ‘overnight oats.’ Packed my gear and left for the race. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit out. Listening to David Goggins’ Book Can’t Hurt Me Inspired me as I drove downtown. Once I parked, I walked quickly to the hotel, the unofficial staging point for all runners escaping the cold before the race. Starbucks. Warm, clean bathrooms welcomed me. I got a small cup of coffee (airport prices.) Took my ritualistic morning dump. After I adjusted my shoelaces I made my way over to corral B.
Walking over to the corral I realized I had not lubed up in the normal chafing areas. I was hoping that being so cold I wouldn’t have to worry about it. (And, I wouldn’t, well, until afterwards.) That’s another story.
Standing in the corral I waited for our turn to approach the line. The horn sounded. We were off. A slow walk, I set me Nike+ app, Strava app, continued to a stroll, a jog, and then a run. I was off. At mile one I was running an 8:05 pace. Wow. I was feeling good. I was zipping past people. Focused a few feet ahead of my my special playlist, hold fast and run like you own it played on Spotify. A special blend of fast music. Each song inspirational to me to drive me forward.
As the miles ticked by I kept my pace. I was shocked. “I can’t believe I’m holding this.” I thought. This effort wasn’t too bad. It didn’t hurt. But was challenging. “Could I sustain this?” I relaxed my body and dug in. I was running faster than normal. Too fast to breathe exclusively through my nose. So I inhaled through my nose (Darth Vader technique referenced in John Douillard’s Body, Mind Sport,) exhaling through my mouth. I had been practicing breathing exclusively through my nose on my long runs.Last year when I ran this race I weighed 233 pounds., an emotional mess. This time around I weighed 205 pounds, eating a proper diet, and trained, well, kind of. No speed training, only aerobic, distance training.
I knew where my wall was on this route. For the five years I’ve run this route The last two miles which included the final stretch on Memorial Park Drive was an emotional killer killer for me. I was running, fast, smooth, focused, and efficient. I would slow down occasionally to conserve energy in the bank for later when I hit that wall. I had started out fast. I could afford to do this. The miles kept ticking by. Holding the 8 mile per hour pace I paid no attention to anyone around me. Eyes down, hold fast, run. This felt good, yet challenging. This PR was mine. My 2013 ghost taunted me. Mocked me. “You can’t do this. You’re weak.” I ignored the voice. This was my day. No one was going to taking this from me. My feet were fine. The stupid foot wart was fine. Legs solid. My lungs? Good but challenged by the pace.
I approached ‘the wall.’ The last two miles. I ran down Memorial Park Drive leading us back into the city. I moved through it, focused. I was working. The final mile. The crowds became more dense. The cheering louder as the world silenced around me. I could see the end. I crossed the line. My Nike+ app said “Congratulations! You reached your goal of 13.1 miles, time 1:45:02.
Fuck ya! I knew I was going to do this! My official chip time was 1:47:12. I beat my record by one minute and some change. I was practically in tears of joy and accomplishment. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I claimed my medal. There was no soreness, no pain. I didn’t hurt. I felt fucking good. My training was paying dividends, as my brother would say. I got food, sat down and cried tears of happiness silently to myself. I had accomplished something I didn’t think I would ever do.