10th half marathon, done

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I love that my race shirt and medal both say Chesebro Half Marathon, when that race just didn't exist yesterday. I will forever look at this stuff and think: "Chesebro 2011, the race that never was!" (And if you're wondering why Mari is wearing my race goodies, it's because today is her birthday -- my little cat is 5 years old!)

So instead of splashing through mud, I hit the asphalt yesterday in the Pacific Half Marathon. Because this was a last-minute change, I didn't have difficult goals -- I knew there was no way I was going to PR. Mainly, I just wanted to finish in one piece (no injuries or near-death experiences) and possibly hit the 2:15 mark. (This course is fairly hilly, and most runners finish about five minutes slower than their average half marathon times.)

The race was a point-to-point course that began at Paramount Ranch, with an Old West movie set for the starting line.

I thought this photo was funny, since I definitely wasn't a mud bug yesterday!

The good part about the start: Real bathrooms. With running water. And flushing toilets! The bad part: Adding 1,300 trail runners to a road race (and the trail runners outnumbered the road runners -- there were significantly more green Chesebro bibs out there than blue Pacific ones) caused some logistical issues. The race was supposed to start at 7:30, but it didn't start until almost 8 a.m.! And it was ridiculously cold, so I was pretty much stiff and numb when the gun finally went off.

The start was a bit of a bottleneck as we took off up the gravel road out of Western Town. When we finally got onto asphalt, we were immediately greeted with rolling hills. I was so cold that the first two miles were brutal. I felt awful, totally disconnected from my legs, and I thought about dropping out and calling my parents to come get me. Not surprisingly, my first mile split was 11:03. Hardly a strong start.

I didn't feel good until I got to the Mile 3 marker and began the biggest climb of the entire race. This was the hill I had heard everyone whispering about at the starting line -- it was supposed to be nothing short of mean.

Oddly, I loved every single second of that climb. I loved the rhythm of it: Leaning into the incline, shortening my stride, increasing my turnover, staying on my toes, pumping my arms. I loved breathing. I cruised up that hill, passing quite a few people. I thought to myself: "If I do nothing else in this race, if I drop out on the other side, if I decide to walk the rest of the course, at least I can say I ran this hill."

The climb was only about half a mile. And at the top of the hill was what looked like an antique tugboat in the middle of a field, with no water anywhere near it. Random.

The descent was fine -- no problems with my knee, thank goodness. I cruised through the next few miles, just enjoying my surroundings. My parents moved to Agoura Hills after I left home, so I don't know the area at all -- running that race was a really wonderful way to get a tour. The hills were so green. There were horses. Ranches. A winery. A special lake for very rich people.

And there were a lot of stopped cars. Cops were at every intersection, holding vehicles back. At one point I overheard a driver yell: "They should've spaced them out better! There are thousands of them!" Apparently, the Great Race of Agoura is also the Great Traffic Jam of Agoura.

And of course, I found my nemesis. I swear, there is always one in every race. I started to notice this guy after the Mile 6 marker, when I heard an unmistakable rattling sound getting closer and closer. Yes, this man was running with a bottle of pills in his pocket, and it was annoying as hell. I tried to get away from him because the sound was making me insane, but he stayed right behind me. Luckily, there was another good climb at 7.5 miles to take my mind off him. (Seriously, I really like hills.)

At the Mile 8 marker, I walked through an aid station, so I could drink my water without spilling it on myself and eat some Honey Stingers. The pill guy passed me and called out: "You're doing great! I know you can do it!" I really wanted to yell back: "No shit, Sherlock. I've done this before. And I'm not bonking -- this is called fueling and hydrating!" And that was when this guy officially became my target.

I caught up with him at the next aid station because he had stopped right smack in the middle of the course to hug people he knew. Have I mentioned how annoying this guy was? Another runner yelled at him to pull over to the side. I passed him and his groupies and started yet another small climb.

At the Mile 10 marker, I began to feel tired. And my left hip hurt. Annoying Pill Guy caught up to me and then told me he had been using me to pace himself. And when I didn't respond, he said: "Your name must be Ann Aerobic because you can't talk! Get it? Anaerobic?" And then he pulled ahead, laughing the whole time. I vowed revenge.

When I hit the Mile 11 marker, I decided it was finally time to bring it home. I had run fairly conservatively throughout the race, and now I just had to pass people and finish it. I picked up the pace and pushed. And just before I got to the Mile 12 marker, I saw Annoying Pill Guy, passed his rattling ass and kept going. I never saw him -- or heard his stupid bottle -- again.

The course went through a sticky, muddy section, and I spotted Todd. He took this photo. (That's me behind the patriotic-looking guy in the red shorts, white shirt and blue hat.)

I waved at Todd and yelled: "I really just want ramen! I am so hungry!" And then I was off to the finish.

The finish chute was weird -- you had to run down a street and then jump a curb and run across some slippery, muddy grass to the line, which was in Chumash Park. My final time was 2:14:28 -- 26 seconds faster than my Nike time. It would've been nice to have been faster, but considering the circumstances, I was happy. Other than the first two miles, I felt pretty strong and present throughout the race -- no feelings of woe.

The best part: My dad did the 5K and finished in 41:20, which is a PR for him. Of course, we took a photo together with our medals. So proud of my dad! And so excited we were able to share the Great Race experience!

My mom got her race rewards too. She is all about the free stuff -- I think she goes to races largely for the samples at the expo and the finish line. (At one race, I actually caught her eating the hot food that was supposed to be for the runners.) Look at how much loot she picked up yesterday!

Overall, the Pacific Half was a good race. I had fun. I saw lots of weird footwear -- everything from a guy running in gladiator sandals to a woman in Skecher Shape Ups (they looked like boats). I overheard one runner tell another runner: "That's great! You've reached the point in the race where you're talking to yourself!"

And I learned I really love hills. Who would've thought?

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