Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Battling the Heat Miser- A Pikermi RR

When I signed up for the Ventura Shoreline Half Marathon months ago, I had a great plan. I would be getting into marathon shape by then, and could knock out a fast half to see how training was going. I could get that sub 1:40 that the hills at Flying Pig wouldn't let me get. Maybe I could get close to my times from two years ago (sub 1:35) to prove I was ready to go for a BQ this Fall.

I didn't really consider the July date. It's the beach, how hot can it get? Well, hot enough to mess with your plans, I can tell you!

Coming into the race I felt I could definitely do sub-1:40, probably do sub-1:38, and maybe go under 1:36. But all that was based on cool temps. I almost never race in heat, so I didn't really consider it. But it has been warm lately, and a hot training run should have told me that I really need to re-think the plan. But, no. I am kind of stubborn. Or deluded.

Forecast called for high's in the 80's and sunny, although it was about 68 at the start, and probably low 70's during the race. Yeah, not THAT hot for you all, but the sun was out and there was not much shade.

There were about 550 people in the race, but not a lot of serious runners. The sub-8 "corral" was nearly empty as we got ready to start. One guy who looked just like William H Macy started chatting with me, asked my goal, and then said "I did 1:35, 1:36 and 1:37 this year so far". Oh, that's nice. He ended up winning the 60-69 AG with a 1:37.

The course was mostly along the coast. Two loops, and looked like this.

I can't complain too much when I get to run here.
Off we went, and I tried to relax, but everyone was passing me, and yet my pace was 7:15. I managed to slow down and get around 7:30 (goal pace). But it felt like work. First miles of halves are not supposed to feel this hard. 7:31

Mile 2 I felt like I was just hanging on. I was hot, and breathing too hard, and it felt like I was racing a 10K. There was no way I could keep this up. 7:36

So I tried to relax and the pace slowed. I started pacing with a woman that was about my speed. We ended up running near each other for the next 8 miles, back and forth, but never spoke. Having her to key off of helped take my mind off the misery. Mile 3 was a long incline of moderate slope, but then mile 4 started with a steep hill of about 50' that was back-breaking. 7:52 and 8:19. Ugh.

By now I didn't care about goals. I just wanted to be done. I was contemplating dropping at the end of the first loop (of two). I was wondering how much longer I could go without walking. I couldn't imagine keeping this up for another hour. Actually, I already stopped to walk through the water stop on the hill, making sure to get all the fluids down. I also started pouring water over my head, which I did for the rest of the race, and it really saved me. But I really, REALLY wanted to quit. Why do I do this to myself?

But after the hill, we caught a nice long flat section in some shade, and then got to go down the hill. I was still hating life, but I was hanging on to my "running buddy". We got back to the beach and headed back toward the start/finish line. I was just trying to hold on. "Just get to the start where people will be cheering. Then maybe you can take a walk break..."  Miles 5-6: 7:40, 7:53

I plugged along. At some point the slower pace became more bearable. I delayed that "walk break". I was dowsing my head at least every mile, and only one person had passed me in the last few miles. So I guess I was doing OK. I started the 2nd loop with less suicidal thoughts, and had achieved a kind of equilibrium, even perhaps some momentum.
(OK, the guy with the dog wasn't in the race. The path was open to the public)

I stopped to walk through several more water stops, and it really helped keep me mentally fresh. My buddy would go ahead as I walked, but then I would catch her and pass her afterward. Cold water on the head and a short breather really gave me a jolt of adrenaline. After ten miles I left her behind for good. Miles 7-9: 7:51, 8:18, 8:07.

I was on track to stay under 1:45 at least, so that was my new goal. In miles 10-11, we went up that hill again, but I was actually feeling better! Passed two people on the hill. Then I knew it was downhill to the finish and apparently I wasn't going to leave a corpse on the road after all. 8:17, 8:20

I saw the 1:45 pacer guy (alone!) not too far behind me as I headed down. I wasn't going to let him catch me. I locked in on a guy ahead of me who looked like he might be in my AG and tried to catch him. With two miles to go, I started "racing" again, instead of just "surviving". Mile 12 was 7:54. The guy ahead stubbornly would not come back to me. But in mile 13, I really stepped it up. And found I had another gear. Suddenly I was reeling him in, and leaving him behind. Now I just had to finish it off, and I pushed hard all the way to the finish. Mile 13 was 7:16! And the last little bit was 6:04 pace!

1:43:11, 32nd place, 2nd in AG

So, it was slow, but it felt like a victory. I really felt awful the first 6 miles and thought it would be a disaster. But I regrouped into survival mode, didn't quit, maintained my position, and finished strong. So that's going to have to be good enough.

The awards were a bit lame, as there was no medal or ribbon. Instead I "won" a drawstring bag, like the kind they hand out at the expo. Whatever. I saw the woman I had been running near for most of the race, said "Good race" and put my hand up for a high five, and she ignored me and left me hanging. Whatever. I stuck my feet in the ocean and then drove home happy, down the Ventura highway. In the sunshine.

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