24 hours later, and I’m still on a runner’s high. I didn’t even race the NYC Marathon. All I did yesterday was stand in Central Park at the 400m to go mark and cheer on a bunch of goal-crushing strangers for 3 hours. 10/10 would cheer again.
SO… before I mentally hype myself any further ahead into what my 2019 racing season is going to look like, it’s time to wrap up 2018 with the second part of my SeaWheeze Half Marathon race recap. SeaWheeze and all the training leading up to it is the what has allowed me to feel the of ups and downs of long distance running. Without #SeaKatyWheeze, there is no way I’d have been able to relate to and take so much joy in witnessing others crush a 26.2-mile goal in New York yesterday.
SeaWheeze 2018: Race Day Recap – 9/22/18
It was a bit unbelievable, but the day I’d been yammering about for 8 months finally showed up on the calendar. We all knew for days that the forecast didn’t look all that promising, but you always hold out hope for a little bit of SeaWheeze magic that will bring you clear skies and fresh air.
In 2017, there was heavy smoke in the air due to wildfires, to the point that you could barely see across the harbor two days out. It magically cleared (somewhat) in time for the race. As far as race weather magic went, lightning did not strike twice.
Weather: 56°F (13°C), steady drizzle for the first half of the race, clouds throughout
Course Type: Road
Why I Chose This Race: BECAUSE LULULEMON RUNCATION FUN TIME WOO
Outfit & Footwear: Lululemon Fast & Free Crop, Sculpt Tank II, Work the Circuit Bra (aka the lining I hacked out of the WTC Tank). Feet – Brooks Ravenna 9, Smartwool PhD socks, plenty of Foot Glide & preventative bandaids 🙂
Accessories: Garmin Forerunner 235, Jaybird X3, FlipBelt, iPhone X
Hydration & Fuel Strategy: Carried Amphipod 20oz HH of water & ProBar Strawberry Lemonade Energy Chews, Nuun on course at aid stations approx every 2 miles.
Saturday morning I woke up and thought to myself… “Uh oh.” Weather wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t cooperating.
You see, I may have accidentally walked/run 25,000+ steps on Friday. After coming home and training like a normal athlete for a week, I don’t think my body was prepared to handle the final surge in volume. On Saturday morning, the second I opened my eyes, I felt my legs. They felt like sandbags. They were NOT supposed to feel like that.
Rain was coming down steadily, and Krystle and I felt no motivation to leave the hotel any earlier than we had to, seeing that there was no real opportunity to warm up outdoors. We were NOT the only ones that felt that way. After a 6:20a walk down to the VCC clad in full rain gear and plastic bags on my feet (literally), the bag check line was 10x longer than I’d ever seen it around 6:40a.
The race start was actually held off by 15 minutes, because the backup at bag check was so significant. We made it outside, got the pre-race nervous pee out of the way (no wait between Hastings & Cordova, I’m telling you!), and headed off to the corrals around 6:52.
Thankfully, the rain paused for 20min. Given the extra time standing around in the corrals, I was grateful for the temporary respite.
As our wave started to make our way toward the start line, the raindrops began to fall again. Okay, I secretly loved it. Did I want wet feet? No. But, I’m that athlete who could never get enough of muddy soccer practice, and still loves to envision herself in some sort of badass highlight reel when it comes to pulling off athletic feats in sh*t weather.
Mile by Mile
Mile 1: It was pretty crowded at the start line, and the 2:10 group was much farther back than it was last year. (I’m thinking the cooler fall weather had a lot of people on the 2:00 bubble thinking they could hack it.) So, I started a little farther back from the Pace Beavers than I would have liked, thinking oh okay this will thin out after a mile or so, and I’ll be right up and next to them NBD.
In addition to the early race course crowding that’s typical everywhere, there was an additional Mario Kart level of puddle dodging. I couldn’t see ahead of myself (because you know, a bunch of people in front of me) until the very last second, and I would have to do a f*cking ninja move in order to not land my foot in the middle of a splash fest. OMG SO FUN. Not.
Mile 2: Those of you who have followed along my #SeaKatyWheeze training adventures have likely figured out that I’m a head case. So, I vowed not to run this race dwelling on whatever numbers the Garmin was throwing in my face. I was going to place my trust in the Pace Beavers.
My watch vibrates every mile, but I’ve found this summer that if I’m not expecting it, I sometimes can zone out to the point where I don’t notice it at all. So, I missed the first buzz. I checked in for the first time at 1.34 for a quick glance on distance only. I continued on trusting the Pace Beavers, who promised an even keel pace of 9:55. (SPOILER ALERT: that did not happen.)
I did my best to make my way up to keep even with the 2:10 pacers, and was able to catch up around that 1.5mi mark.
Mile 3: The crowd still hadn’t thinned out, and people were pushy and unpredictable. I felt no solidarity. People would abruptly stop at aid stations, and cut others off. It was more than a few times that I found myself muttering out loud “um, really?” to people who were being all around pushy and rude on the course.
Mile 4: I’ll admit it, I don’t usually buy into the notion of good or bad vibes, but it just didn’t feel right on Saturday morning.
Mile 5: UGHHHH that uphill right turn towards the bridge felt significantly more difficult than it did last year. After it was all “SURPRISE, ROOKIE” in 2016, it felt like cake in 2017. In 2018, it went back to being tough. Note to self: don’t ever call a hill ‘easy’ again.
After that, I did my best to focus on the fact that the course began to double back on itself. I wanted (and needed) a high five from Joanna. I was feeling more taxed than I expected to feel less than halfway in.
Mile 6: Because I didn’t check in with my pace on my watch, I had no idea until it was too late that the pace kept for the first 6 miles wasn’t a 9:55, but a 9:41/mi. Never did I once pass the Pace Beavers. Almost 15 seconds per mile means that the pacing group went out 3 MINUTES too hot in the first 6mi of the race.
As I passed Joanna on my first bridge crossing, the only words I could get out to her were “I’m staying”… meaning, I wasn’t going to follow through on our plan for me to break away from the group.
Between the turnaround and starting my second trip over the bridge, my mind and body decided they were ready to SHUT DOWN. I didn’t need a watch to tell me that the Pace Beavers were going at a clip I couldn’t sustain. I slowly let them get ahead of me as I headed from Kitsilano toward the Seawall.
As I passed lulu HQ and approached the bridge for the second time, I wanted to cry. I wanted to walk. I wanted to quit.
Halfway through my second trip over the bridge, I slowed it to a walk. I needed 100m to get my mind and body back on the same page. I already know I can finish a half marathon without walking, so it wasn’t like that was going to ruin my day.
*Cue introspective montage of everything I went through to find myself on the Burrard Street Bridge on a rainy Saturday morning*
Mile 7: Heading into the race, my plan was to break away from the 2:10 Pace Beavers after I’d cleared the bridge. As I headed toward it for the first time, I knew in my gut that I’d be extremely lucky to even hold even with them for the rest of the race. With both Plan A and Plan B out of reach, I had to refocus on Plan C.
Forget the pacers, it was time to finish this race all by my damn self.
Over 17 weeks, more than half of it was spent in hotels and running in unfamiliar places. There were failed tempo runs, and SO MANY long runs in 95-degree heat. I PUT IN THE WORK and I wasn’t about to let 6 wonky miles sabotage the feeling of accomplishment I wanted to feel at the finish line.
Miles 8-12: Pace no longer mattered, but effort did. From there on out, I made a vow to myself to run a bunch of miles that I’d be proud of no matter what the clock said at the finish.
So, I did just that. My pace slowed from a 9:40 to a 10:22 for miles 8-11. My only two turtle miles were the Mile 7 breakdown and again at that hill on 12 to make sure I could keep my composure for the last push to the finish.
Around 9-10mi, I realized that if I sped the F up I may still actually be able to come within reach of a PR. But, I was starting to run out of gas. I’ve now done this enough times to better recognize how my body is feeling and be aware of how it translates into athletic performance. After 2 years, I’d mentally prepared myself for how long the Seawall truly was, and albeit slow on the clock, I mentally got through it much quicker this year.
Mile 13: After the hill at Lumberman’s Arch, it was time to empty the tank. Ha! Legs informed brain that joke’s on me b/c I couldn’t find it within my energy reserves to spend anything extra until I rounded the last corner by that tilty shack on stilts. Then, I sprinted across the finish line with whatever willpower I had left in me. I was so out of breath at the finish that one of the medical staff stopped to ask if I was going to be ok.
Official Finish: 2:14:43
Unofficial Garmin: 13.36mi in 2:14:43, 13.1mi in 2:12:24.
Last year, I ran the tangents on the course a bit more strategically and the Garmin said 13.1mi as I crossed the finish. Going by the 2:12:24, I missed a PR (2:10:08) by 2:16. Scrapping my two ‘walking’ miles, I averaged a 9:56… which is exactly the sub-10 pace I was gunning for.
The finishers hats returned (yay!) but brunch and massage lines were super long, so Krystle and I dipped out and decided that warm showers and margaritas were in our immediate future instead. I put on my post-race best (camo and reflective lizard duh) and off we went out to have a delicious amount of fun at Cactus Club.
After being cold and wet all morning, the weather brightened up and dried a little. We decided if the rain stopped, then maybe we’d hit up the Sunset Festival… if wet, no dice. It seemed to brighten up, so we decided to hop on the bus, get in for an obligatory beer and then GTFO again.
Joke ended up being on us. As soon as we got through the gates to the Sunset Festival, the rain started back up again. We were tired and unamused. Not to mention the beer tent said they were having technical difficulties, rendering them a cash-only operation. Super fun when all I had was American dollars in my wallet.
The Sunset Festival was turning out to be the Dud of the weekend. It was spitting when we arrived, and the rain increased steadily so that about 20 minutes after we got in, people were being handed ponchos as they entered. We were not so lucky. The short Hunter boots that I debated even packing made a solid case for MVP over the course of the weekend.
So, I don’t really have too much to say about the Sunset Festival. After we finished that one beer, we decided we had enough of sitting around at a picnic table in the rain and that Bella Gelateria was a better idea.
I saw on social media that eventually the rain cleared up (after we left, of course) so it did end up being a good time for those who stuck around. Good for everyone who did stay around for the show, because the fun is always where you make it. Some of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to were in terrible weather.
So I didn’t break 2:10. I didn’t reach my goal. But, I was just as happy upon crossing the finish line as I was just a year ago, but for very different reasons.
You see, homegirl has a headcase history of falling apart when things don’t go her way. I plan too hard and get flustered very easily when things don’t follow said plan. Here’s the thing that I’m slowly figuring out in my 33-year-old wisdom: you don’t get better at things when they’re too easy.
Two years prior on this same race course, I was undertrained and overconfident. The distance got the best of me. Halfway through the race I’d mentally thrown in the towel and finished off with a time 20 minutes slower than any other half marathon I’d ever run to this date because I simply gave up. I took walk breaks, stopped to snap pictures and text, and was annoyed by how long 13.1 miles insisted on being.
When I hit that same point this year, I had a choice. Would I repeat 2016 because I was tired and conditions weren’t perfect, or would I do it differently? Would I honor all the time and effort that not only I had put in this summer, but how much Joanna put in too? She’s not only my coach, but a friend who has been nothing but supportive in my roller coaster-like endeavor to become a better runner for the last two years. My family, friends and colleagues listened to me jabber constantly, and while I’m sure they were grateful for me to cross the finish line and shut the f*ck up, they still wanted me to succeed.
I chose the latter.
I pulled it together and I continued to push. This race was a PR on the mental level. As I run more half marathons, they never get easier. Once you get the physical challenge down to a point where it’s a casual Saturday, the challenge then moves up into your head. It’s too long for a “fly & die” strategy of a 5K, so it forces you to get in touch with what’s going on inside you. It’s a constant journey toward finding the right physical and mental balance that will get you across the finish line feeling like you could not have done anything more that day.
When you leave it all out on the course, all it takes is all you’ve got. So I gave what I had, and the race rewarded me with not only a sweet finisher’s medal, but the affirmation that I’ve got more grit inside of me than I thought there ever was.