Saturday, March 28, 2015

Peer pressure is real -- and it works

They were all around me. There were so many -- hundreds, it seemed like. I just wanted to fit in. So I did what they were doing, at first. After a while, even when others stopped, I kept doing it, even though I'd never done it before.

And that, my friends, is how not only did I break the elusive two-hour mark in my half marathon today, it's how I crushed the two-hour mark by more than eight minutes in my half marathon today. Booyah! I am so going to destroy the marathon in a month.*

As tends to happen during long runs, my mind wanders, so I had a lot of time to think about this blog post. Actually, no, my mind doesn't wander. My mind, in an attempt to get away from the pain that comes from running eight and a half minute miles in 65-but-feels-like-100 dry West Texas "spring" (OK, it is spring; if it were summer it would have been 100-but-feels-like-hell-if-hell-smelled-like-oil) ... where was I going? Right. Mind strikes out for different topics to pass the time. Most of these thoughts are from the middle six miles. The first three miles of a half marathon are basically a warmup, and the last two mostly consist of me screaming at myself (in my head, I'm almost positive). You know, for encouragement.

First, I ran by George W. Bush's childhood home. Twice. I thought about taking a picture, but I did not. On my way out of town I thought about swinging by, but I did not. Part of that was because I was tired and just didn't care enough, part of it was because I'd been marinating in my own sweat for long enough, and my shower was calling my name.

I may have been hallucinating that last part. It was a hot day.

Second, I have no idea how I clocked eight and half minute splits. I've been running 9:30s, sometimes pushing a little closer to 9:15s, but I have yet to have a long run in which every split is in the 8s. When we started running I did not feel like we were going that fast. The first mile is generally a weird one anyway, because everyone starts in this massive pack, and for a lot of the first mile you stay in the pack. Refer to the following bell curve graph for who you lose in the first mile and all of the people who are still left.
Eventually the crowd thinned and I got my 6-mile fun run in. The last couple of miles are where I paid the price for following the crowd. I usually pick it up in the last mile and have enough left in me for a good sprint (comparatively) to the finish line. Today I did not. It wasn't until I turned on the street that Midland Memorial Stadium is one and I could see the end that I started sprinting. I passed the people who passed me in the last little while. (Today marks the first time I've been passed in the last mile of a half. I tried to be upset, but by that point my mind and body had two goals: finish the race and don't throw up.) I turned into the stadium, heart pounding, sucking in and spitting out air, so grateful to see that finish line -- and that is when I discovered the mean, mean trick the organizers of the Energy City Half Marathon/10K/5K had played on us all.

The finish line, you see, wasn't right in front of me when I entered the stadium. It was a short 40 or so yards away, as the soccer ball flies, but we had to run 300 meters around the track to get to the finish line. 300 meters doesn't sound like a lot, and it's not compared to the 12.9 miles I'd just run -- or compared to just about any other distance -- but come on! We'd just run 12.9 miles, we thought this was the end, and now you're asking for 300 meters when we can freaking see the finish line but are running away from it? Do you know what this does to a tired runner's psyche?

I stopped comparatively sprinting and went back to finishing and not puking. I got passed by someone I'd just passed. I literally could not have cared less. I may have sped up my last 50 meters, but only because my legs are long and they can stretch out. It was rough.

I'm not sure of my official time; they weren't exactly speedy at getting results up, and after an hour and a half of stewing in my own filth at the stadium I realized I'd done what I came to do and this is not how I wanted to spend my Saturday, so I made the beautiful Midland-to-Lubbock drive, this time in daylight so I could see what I missed on the dark ride down. I thought about taking pictures for you, but images couldn't do it justice, so I'll describe what it looks like -- flat. Occasional farmland. Occasional wind farm off in the distance. Oil derricks. And still flat. Do you have the image in your mind? Good. Now make it a little flatter and you'll have the few that I had today.

My next goal: survive the day-in-the-sun headache that my trusty drugs are not curing. Next attempt: sleep.

Four weeks until the Big Day!

* Absolutely no part of me believes this is true. However, I'm far enough away from the marathon, and the pain has subsided enough from today's race, that I'm feeling really good, and that's why I can pretend to be so cocky about a race that I'm pretty sure could kill me if it wants to. I'm really hoping it doesn't want to.

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