So there I was, huddling in a bin-bag cape under a shelter in the rain, driving wind and cold (relatively) temperatures at 7.55 on Saturday morning, and I have never in my life regretted blogging as much as I did at that moment. You see, if you post a feisty, arse-kicking pledge to run your guts out in a race you don’t really fancy, you then have to deliver on it. So I thought of you lot and your wonderful, lovely comments and I
hated you vowed to do my best.
The morning had started hours earlier. I’d tried to eat breakfast (my favourite meal of the day) but it just wasn’t going down at all, which NEVER happens. I dropped the Dude off at my darling friend’s for the morning (the Husband has been away with work) and drove down to San Jose. The rain lashed the car, the trees bent in the wind and I just kept laughing. Why on earth was I doing this? Because of you lot. Because I said I would.
We all lined up, shivered through the Race Director’s talk and gratefully started running. The first half mile was an obstacle course of giant puddles and mud, but eventually we got onto decent paved path and I settled into what I thought was the right speed. I didn’t wear a watch at all for this race and it was absolutely the right thing – I may never wear a watch for a race again. The crowd thinned and I started running my race. Lots of people were dodging puddles but I splashed straight through them. My feet were going to get wet, I may as well get it over and done with quickly.
(Most of these photos are from Brazen Racing’s website – you’re able to download them free of charge. Awesome, thank you Brazen).
The Hellyer Half-Marathon (just south of San Jose) goes along a paved trail. It’s pretty flat in terms of overall elevation but there are fairly constant rollers. I like rollers, this made me happy. There is also a slight increase in elevation for the first half and then a slight downhill all the way back. Pretty much perfect. Despite my grumpy misgivings, it was very pretty all the way round, especially when we ran into clearer terrain at about mile 4 and a big rainbow lit the sky up. I was working fairly hard but comfortable enough. The weather had eased – it rained on and off all the time, but I wasn’t cold. There was a fairly significant headwind though. However many people raced in worse weather this weekend (and it wasn’t CIM!) so I’ll stop moaning.
What was really bugging me was Annoying Girl. She was just in front of me, we had pretty much identical paces, but she seemed to veer all over the path. If I tried to pass her, she would drift into my way and block me. So I’d try the different side and she’d veer there. I have no idea if she was doing it on purpose but she really started to annoy me. I’m not easily annoyed, but eventually I threw up my hands and said something. Nothing rude obviously, but she gave me a little more space after that. But even so, she and I were together. If I sped up to pass her, she’d increase her speed so I couldn’t. If I DID pass her, she’d pass me immediately. I don’t like that. It didn’t fire my competitive spirit, it just made me annoyed. But bless her, Annoying Girl did make the miles pass more quickly.
At Mile 6.8 (precisely) comes the turnaround and I was very much looking forward to it. My legs were tired and I was looking forward to the psychological boost of heading home. I could see the volunteer at the turnaround point. We had to run over a little bridge, turn right and he’d be there in 50 yards. Over the bridge…and CRASH…a guy just ahead of me slipped on the wet ground and hit the ground. Annoying Girl, another guy and I all stopped to help. I’ll be honest, my first thought was ‘That’s my PR gone‘ but my second thought was to help him. We got him up, dazed and shaken. He had a nasty cut on his face that was bleeding quite a lot, he looked like an extra from ‘Game of Thrones’ which I told him and it made him smile. Having seen he was okay and given him her glove for the blood, Annoying Girl/Compassionate Girl ran on. I stayed longer to help him limp to Turnaround Guy where I knew I could leave him safely. I turned around and started running back.
Annoying Girl might be gone but that was also my PR gone then. I’d taken at least one minute, maybe two, to help him. Now I wasn’t running for a PR but for guts and glory and pride. How far could the adrenaline buzz from the crash get me?
At mile 8, I was suddenly done. My legs were so tired (my heart was totally fine all the time, Mum, if you’re reading) but I didn’t want to be running ANY more. I couldn’t be bothered to run 5 more miles. I realised that I’d been right and that this race was all about mind rather than matter. This was when I needed to play all my mental games. Okay. Mantra time. How badly do you want it? Well ‘it’ was no longer a possibility so that one wouldn’t work. Baby or Warrior? WARRIOR. I ran on. I thought of the Pre quote…’I run to see who has more guts’ and was determined to be the one with the guts.
I ran as hard as I could for the return trip but it felt so slow. I felt sick from the Clif Bar I’d eaten in the car, too soon before the race start. I had 3 GUs in my pocket but couldn’t face them. At Mile 9, I knew I needed to refuel so opened one and took tiny, tiny sips of gel. I must have taken on a third of it. But I kept running and slowly the mile-markers ticked by.
Mile 11. I decided that racing a half-marathon was no fun at all and that I didn’t need to do any more again. This was it for racing. I’d keep running half-marathons for the fun and experience and the views, but I wasn’t going to race one again. I resolved once more that I NEVER want to do another full marathon. I felt sick. Would I actually BE sick?
Mile 12. BIG ENGINES time. Hmmm…not much left in the engines but maybe a little boost. Come on, Cat. If this is your last racing half-marathon, you can run a little faster. Yep, a little faster. And then somehow I could see the finish line. I sped up. I kept my head down so that I wouldn’t see the clock from afar – I knew that seeing anything other than 1.52 would make my heart sink. But eventually, I was into the finishing chute and reluctantly raised my eyes to see what the clock said.
OH MY WORD! I gave an Olympic boost and crossed the line in 1.52.37, half laughing and half crying. I continued half laughing and half crying for about ten minutes. Such an amazing surprise. I had literally talked myself into a PR.
My first priority was to get dry, warm clothes on, so I headed back to the car and got changed, before going back to the staging area. The Half Marathon results weren’t up so I tried to attack the buffet but only managed a mini muffin and a plate of crisps, the salt was awesome. The results went up, so I checked and my final time was the same. I was 4th in my age group – the eternal Brazen Bridesmaid. The sun had come out, I was snug and warm and I was flipping happy.
It goes without saying that now all I want to do is run another half-marathon and get a time that doesn’t involve stopping to help a fellow runner. My resolution to never race again has already vanished.
And then, later that day, the final results came through and…I FLIPPING PLACED THIRD IN MY AGE-GROUP. I don’t know how I missed it – not sure if the initial results were wrong or if I read it wrong in my bleary-eyed state. It doesn’t matter, because for the first time ever, I got an age-group award. They’re posting it to me. I am clearly ready for the Olympic Trials!!! 🙂
A note on practicalities – this was my second Brazen race and once again I was hugely impressed with everything, from the organisation to the medals, the ability to opt out of paying for a race shirt and the general slickness and atmosphere of the race. It was great. Be sure to get there at a good time, the car park was filling up when I arrived.
So that was it. It was an interesting experience in that I learned quite how powerful the mind is over the body. I had no motivation for this race, yet between a fierce determination to run my best and my desire to be able to hold my head up high on this blog to my handful of lovely readers, I managed to PR.
So, in true Oscars fashion…I’d like to thank the Academy, my parents and (seriously now) I’d like to thank all of YOU who read my blog for your encouragement – this race was totally down to you. My blog is tiny, hardly anyone reads it that I’m not related to. But out of it I’ve made some amazing runner friends, both in real life and online, and you mean the world to me.
(Flounces off stage with her medal whilst the music plays)