Today was a beautiful day for a half marathon: clear skies, 60 degrees at the gun and no breeze at all in San Jose, CA. By 10am, I'd completed my longest run ever, beaten my goal of two hours by a comfortable margin and had my first ever medal around my neck for finishing a race.
I woke up before my alarm, was out of bed and dressed by 6am in time to gulp down a chocolate Ensure, a banana and half a PowerBar. Since my last few races have all been triathlons, it was nice to only have to walk out the door with my shoes, shorts and shirt and not a big bag of stuff for all the transitions.
I left the house in plenty of time to make it down to park in the HP Pavilion parking lot and walk over to the very crowded starting area in downtown. It was only 53 degrees (F) when I shut off the car, and I almost wished I'd worn my long sleeve shirt. By the end of the race, though, I was plenty glad I'd gone with short sleeves, as I was warm by the time I'd gone 10 miles.
The Elite Racing folks put on a well-organized race, and it was nice to see 10,000 runners out and about early on a Sunday morning in Silicon Valley. The bands every mile or so were a nice touch, but you could only hear a snippet of 40 seconds or so of any given band, so next time around I think I'll be wearing my iPod to help with my pacing.
When I registered for the race, I guessed I'd be able to finish the race in 2:05, and for that I was assigned bib #6089 (corral #6). When I picked up my race packet, though, I knew I'd be faster so I moved up in the pack to corral #4. I'm glad I did so, as there were fewer folks to pass as the race went on. Thanks to the disposable RFID chips we'd each been issued with our bibs, our timing was tracked in real time (and not gun time) from start to the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and finish lines.
After checking my gear bag with 20 minutes to the starting gun, we crowded into our corrals. It was nice to have all the bodies packed around if for no other reason than the warmth of the group. With 2 minutes to go, the gun went off to release the wheel chair racers and When the air horn went off, we began walking towards the start line, and I finally crossed the start line a good 90 seconds after the horn went off and got up to a decent pace by about half a mile into the race.
While I've been getting some good training runs in, I didn't expect to fall into the pack with a sub-eight pace quite so quickly. I was aiming for sub-nine to hit my 2 hour mark, and sub-eight was aggressive, so I had to force myself to slow down a bit for fear of sputtering later on in the race.
As we passed the two-mile mark, I realized I needed to pee. Cripes. Not a gotta-go-now-alarm, but a gotta-go-soon feeling.
Since there were plenty of porta-potties along the route, it wasn't for lack of opportunity to go, but how much time it'd take to go. I figured if I could hold on until the 10K mark, the crowd would be thinned a bit and it wouldn't be too hard to work my way back up. For every minute I spent off course, I was giving up five seconds per mile pace. I decided not to risk it and just keep running.
I crossed the 10K mark in PB time (52:27) and probably should've taken that as a sign I was running too fast. By the time I got to the 10 mile mark at ~1:26, I was well within a sub-two-hour pace and unless I blew up with three miles to go, I was going to make my goal.
Miles 10, 11 and 12 were tough for me, and I wound up walking at the water/Cytomax tables, and my pace slowed to around 9:30+ over the last 3km.
However, I got my adrenaline kick in the last half mile and picked things back up. With just 100m to go, the relief and happiness washed over me. I heard my wife and kids call out to me and new that they were just as happy as I was.
After finishing the race, I rushed through the refueling station in search of a restroom and you could hear my sigh of relief from a mile away.
My first half marathon's in the bag. Next time I'll be sure to empty the bladder before stepping into the corral.
I can't believe I'm going to be doing another half marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and riding another 56 on the bike.