“It’s race day. I’m not feeling it.”
These were the first thoughts that went through my head when I woke up this morning. Usualy when I wake up, I am revving to go. Not today. I feel mentally and physically exhausted. I have thoughts in my head that are completely unrelated to racing. Missy is still unwell (albeit getting better). I have self-inflicted stresses in my personal and professional life. My heart is tense. My body is tense. My mind is tense.
I lazily woke up and got dressed for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon today. It went through my morning routine without any conviction; meditate (without concentration), stretch (without flexibility), visualize the course (as my mind wandered) and get dressed.
5:30AM: I left the house to the Apache-101 Light Rail station. The plan was to catch the 6:02 train to Tempe. Right on queue, the train showed up and away I went. I reached Mill Ave at around 6:20 and met up with the LLS group at 6:50AM. I only spent a few minutes with them before walking over to the starting line.
7:30AM: It was a cold morning. I decided to run in shorts, a long sleeve shirt under my purple LLS shirt, a running glove on my left hand only (leaving the right hand gloveless for dexterity), my Boston Marathon visor, prescription sunglasses, Zensah calf sleeves and my Zoot tri shoes. I checked in the rest of the gear and headed towards corral 2. In spite of tens of thousands of runners and an electric atmosphere, I still wasn’t feeling it. Some days are like that.
My race plan was to run the first 5k at a pace slightly slower than 8-minute mile, the second 5k at a comfortable 8-minute pace, the third 5k (mostly uphill) at an even slower pace and then pick it up in the final 5k. I expected my overall time to come somewhere around 1:44.
7:50AM: I ate a stinger waffle and saved a Gatorade Endurance gelpack in my back pocket for the race. After someone sang the national anthem, the elites took off. I ended up starting in corral 3 a few minutes later. The start felt comfortable. There were tons of slower runners and walkers. Instead of weaving my way around them, I was patient and courteous. The first 5k was slow and comfortable as expected. Dozens of faster runners passed me and I passed hundreds of slower ones. The slower ones obviously were cheating corrals and starting too far in front (I fail to understand why runners do this). At the 2-mile mark, I saw the 1:45 pace group up ahead in the distance. I was slowly catching up to them. Very slowly.
8:20AM: After the first 5k, I noticed that my heartrate was touching (and sometimes exceeding) level 3 (150 bpm). This is perfectly fine in a half marathon. The second 10k was as non-exciting as the first. My mind was just not into today’s race. Surprisingly, my pace was spot on with my plan. I was running just above 8-minute pace and most of it had been uphill! At the 10k mark, I was running with the 1:45 pace group.
8:45AM: I started to feel some fatigue at the 10k mark. That’s what happens when you have a weak mind! Last year, there was a gel station at the halfway point. I hadn’t seen the course closely enough but I fully expected there to be one this year too. There wasn’t. I debated eating the gels in my pocket but expected to see a gel station any moment. I didn’t. Finally, an hour into the race (10 minutes too late), I cracked open the gels and devoured them heartily. My mind continued to wander. I was running with the 1:45 group but wanted to stop. I did abruptly, turned on my iPhone, launched the Snapathon app and clicked a few pictures. I let the pace group go. Today, I didn’t care!
9:10AM: As we climbed up Papago hill at the 9-minute mark, plenty of runners were walking. They had gone out too fast. This is where I finally found the gel station. This year GLUKOS was sponsoring it and handing out small package of the delish sugary drink. I climbed the hill with a comfortable jog. It was a gorgeous setting with buttes on both sides. I knew that after I was done with this steep hill, it was all downhill. As I reached the summit, I noticed that in spite of my mind all over the place, my pace was respectable at just above 8-minute miles. The 1:45 pace group was long gone though. On my way downhill on the Papago hill, I stopped again to take a few Snapathon pictures. As I rounded the corner to Galvin Parkway, I grabbed a GLUKOS and ate (drank) it heartily. I had 5k to go. I finally decided to pick up the pace.
9:30PM: All through the race, I hadn’t zeroed in on any particular runner. I didn’t care enough today to concentrate on the race. As I took the left turn on Mill Ave with a couple of miles to go, I felt a gust of wind against me. I stopped for the final time to take a few more Snapathon pictures. It was still a little downhill, but it felt uncomfortable. It was time to start drafting for the first time. “Find a key,” I told myself. I found one in a gray shirt. He was running briskly at a 7:30 pace. Perfect! I stayed a couple of feet behind him passing dozens and dozens of runners. With a mile to go, I kept up my pace. The crowds thickened. I entered the final bridge. Our pace quickened. For the only time in the day, I forgot about my stresses and concentrated on the finish. At the finish line I saw the 1:45 pacer again! I caught up to the group as I finished. As you can see from the pace-chart (left), my last mile was my fastest mile.
I finished with an official time of 1:44:31; not bad for a lackadaisical race.
I didn’t linger around at the finish line. I picked up my race gear, made a quick pitstop to the LLS booth, took the train back to the car and drove home. I was home by 10:45AM. I wanted to be with Missy and Binita. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to get away from the crowds. I wanted to be home!
I will reflect on the race over the next few days. I lost the mind-battle today, but my finish time was not bad. In the end though, nobody cares but me. If you have read this entire race report word-for-word, I commend you for your patience. You must either be a running junkie, a good friend or a member of my family!