February 1, 2015

Kaiser -- Complacent Completion

I'd lost the desire to run hard for long distances after the New York Marathon.  I was burnt out. 

But, I was already registered for Kaiser before I came to terms with this reality.  So, I mostly didn't train and figured I'd deal with it on the day of.

I'd lost a few pounds from the winter holidays and did enough physical activity over the holidays and throughout January to be somewhat in-shape, but a half-marathon training program of any respectable sort, I did not do.

Fast-forward to this morning, with my longest few long runs in the last 8 weeks being 8ish miles (although, in fairness, some in the hills).  I jogged from my cab drop-off near the start to the awesomely efficient self-serve clothes bag drop (0.4ish miles from the start) and then walked back (probably 0.75 w/u total -- ideal, actual).  Despite the crowds and chaos, my trajectory easily intersected with Jen, Jess, Cat, et. al., and we all said hi before separating for our target start times.

On the sideline of the start, where I found my friends.

Finally, after dropping into the crowd from the side and crossing the start line, I started jogging in the tightly packed crowd (sans watch) at what I perceived to be a "don't get stampeded or fall into the zig-zag death" aka "comfortable" pace.  I'd determined that 10:30/mile was the fastest possible outcome I could sustain throughout the whole race, but since I had no watch, I just tried to do what felt right.  I figured that once I was joined by my pacer, I should ask her to weigh in and let me know if I went below 11 min/mile.

I hit the 2 mile marker while the announcer called out 22:12 (they call out mile times via megaphones at all mile markers at Kaiser, it's seriously one of the most efficiently runner-oriented races in Northern California).  Since I had no watch, I had no idea when I'd started, but I felt I'd had at least a minute or so delay, so I figured I was in a reasonably decent spot given my goals.

Unfortunately, I'd missed my pacer (F).  She'd called around mile 1.6 or so and I answered (much to the annoyance of several runners around me).  We'd had a location mis-hap, she was at 1.5 miles, but I didn't realize it and had assured her I'd get to her soon.  I'd realized it too late (around 1.8) and called her back.  She hadn't answered.  So, I smiled after crossing the 2 mile mark feeling good and ran back across the panhandle, assuming I'd have to find her in person where she'd told me she was since her phone wasn't working.  Ahhh... there she was, actually, she was calling me, her phone did sort of work, just not when I called.  Also, we got cat-called by homeless folks -- they knew we weren't running the normal path, but I had a number.  Who knew that the 8:20 AM panhandle homeless had such strong feelings about race rule compliance???  Despite the yells, we ran back across the pan-handle, over the wet grass, and dropped back into the pack.

This experience finalized my laissez-faire attitude about my race time for the day.

In short, at this point, I knew I was just going to finish, and treat it as a good training run.  I'd already left my watch at home and had opted to run by feel.  F asked me a couple of times what my goal was and commented that I was, "easily beating it," but I kept on.  I felt good, but I was conservative and walked through water stations.  At one point, I stopped for a real bathroom with flush toilets (no line when I stopped, but when I exited, there were 5 ladies!! I got lucky!).  Essentially, I ran with a solid effort but enjoyed all the benefits of not being pressured by a time goal.

And then, around mile 8 or so, I hit a serious wall.  I needed to slow to take walk breaks.  F was a trooper and gently tried to speed up to keep me going and sub 11/mile as requested, but I told her I'd decided I didn't care.  We had some heartfelt chats about why we run and whether pushing ourselves is actually important.  And, truthfully, while I may have been waxing poetic about maybe never racing hard again, I will be forever grateful to F for joining me from 2ish to 12ish on this race, as without her I would have made a much less intense effort.

In the course of discussing why we run, we agreed that views and exposure to the location where we are (particularly if traveling) are a couple of the reasons.  Also, it was a beautiful day on the great highway.   So, I stopped to take a photo.  (So many surfers -- I always forget how many surfers actually surf on Ocean Beach!).

A beautiful beach day on Ocean Beach (from a water station)
The last few miles were tough. Having F there to pull me through was key.  As we discussed, once I know I'm nowhere near a respectable (to me) time goal, I tend to lose much of the incentive to push through the pain.  I'd rather be happy, healthy, and not struggling... finishing a slow half marathon on a beautiful day in a gorgeous city. 

Finally, after a very slow finish, but pleased with the overall result of 14+ miles of reasonable effort in a beautiful environment, I walked through the finish vendor chute and saw the discount for the Oakland Running Festival.  $15 off the half marathon?  Yeah, I'm registered.

So, I guess, Kaiser gets the credit for returning me to the place where I'm actually inspired to train. 7 weeks 'til Oakland and for the first time in a long time, I want to make a big effort over the next 7 weeks.  So, while it may appear that today was not a big deal, Kaiser (and F who stewarded me along) does get credit for this.

Also, brunch afterwards with running friends was so wonderful.  I feel so lucky to have found and bonded with all of the awesome local running blogger/twitter folks I've met over the last few years.  One of the ladies is moving to Oklahoma for family reasons in the coming year, and I am so sad to lose her -- she's not gone yet and I already feel the loss.

Running is a fascinating thing.  Today it allowed me to have almost 2 hours to catch up with a good friend who filled me in on many things in her life while she paced me (and slowed down when I hit the wall).  We know more about each other and we are closer than we would have been if today hadn't happened.  Today also allowed me to have a delicious high-end fancy-schmancy Richmond brunch with several folks including a couple I never would have otherwise met.

And, of course, today's running adventures allowed me to revisit my life, to remind myself that I am someone who loves to move and despite pushing 40 is healthy enough to finish 13.1 miles without significant debilitating pain, which is, of course, the ultimate privilege.

I am thankful.     


F said...

I had a fantastic time running with you! You motivated me to run farther than I usually would on a non-training Sunday, and on a beautiful SF day, no less. Sorry again about the messed up meeting location and detour. It was so great to spend bonding time with you and enjoy being active. ^_^

bt said...

Thanks, F. I hope to be able to repay the favor one of these days.

Jen said...

Great insights, bt. I always appreciate your positivity and reflections on running - not to mention your friendship!