Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm Only Half Crazy

About a fortnight before the race my left knee started to hurt. It never felt right after I ran twelve miles in training, and it started to hurt on hills. Then it started to niggle when I would walk up and down the stairs, which given two children and their propensity to leave the house without; their lunch, their jacket, their knickers etc meant a lot of stair climbing. Dr. Google diagnosed me with runners knee, so for the last ten days before my race I ran only five miles on perfectly flat ground, and the rest of the time I tried to ice and elevate as much as possible. This was sadly not much. For a start the girls are obsessed with their trampoline and like a muppet I'd been joining them on it, and then the day before the race I volunteered like the *keen* mother I am to help with a school field trip to the beach. Four hours of chasing small children around in the soft sand dunes had my knee begging to go back on the trampoline.

Plus, I was hardly over-prepared for the race to begin with. I'd only run further than ten miles on two occasions in my life, so to spend the last two weeks trying to do as little as possible was really disconcerting. I could feel all my hard-earned fitness seeping in to the couch. LK was really supportive 'you're tapering' he would say, and 'what's the worst that could happen? You walk for thirteen miles and hit every water and bathroom stop along the way - that way you get your money's worth, right?'

Except I didn't want to walk any of it, I wanted to keep chugging along for thirteen miles, I wanted to feel like I ran the race. I really wanted to justify all the time and energy and jelly babies of the last six months.

The night before I was a bit of a mess  a lunatic. I panicked that we'd run out of pasta (who runs out of pasta?!) and I couldn't carbo load. LK said "I think you may be over-thinking things". Convinced my knee was going to buckle within the first five minutes, I lay awake at 11:30pm aware of my alarm set for 4:30am. I could feel a migraine coming on from lack of sleep, pretty chuffing ironic considering the reason I'd started running in the first place was to help my migraines. I kept telling myself it was good to get out of my comfort zone. You know you're getting old when you keep doing the same old stuff just to be on the safe side. Whatever happened, I was going to push myself and make some memories. Then I would think of the 7am race start, my stomach would clench and I would be back at square one.

Well, I'm a complete nutter. There, I said it. It was so much fun.

Here's my posse at the start line:

It was freeeezing cold. 6:45am with a heavy drizzle marine layer, I'm surprised Anna managed to crack a smile for this picture. The queues for the loos were pretty intimidating as well but the adrenalin was definitely flowing and people were so friendly and approachable, not the pack of uber-athletes I had supposed them to be. I think the race was over 70% female which was quite surprising, but then 99.9% of females in Santa Barbara do wear black lycra yoga pants and look like they're just off for a quick power-marathon so perhaps that explains it. 

My brother had warned me about the porta potty queues.....

I ran a lot of the race with my friend Chilly, who is definitely one of the people who inspired me to sign up in the first place. Not that we were chatting away mind you, when that race gun started I plugged in my headphones and it was Lady Gaga and Rhianna all the way, with a little 'Mull of Kintyre' because my iphone likes to keep it real.

Someone told me before I embarked on this insanity life goal, that it's the first 2-3 miles that are the hardest in running. Well I thought, that would explain it then, as that's all I'd managed to run before and I was about as far from a runner's high as I was from crossing the finish line of a half marathon. It is true though. The first 2-3 miles can be really hard, as that's when you're finding your rhythm, both pace-wise and breathing-wise. I always had trouble with the latter, but the more you train, the more your body accepts the torture you're putting it through, and you're much less likely to gasp for air like a dying cod.

The first 2-3 miles of this race were amazing, but we were running in a vast crowd of over 2500 people. The atmosphere was electric, and there was no time to think about having to run another 10 miles. Then, just as with a transatlantic flight, reality sets in when you've already done 5 and you have a further 8 to go. Plus we were running past signs advertising lavender farms, wine tasting and pick your own fruit - all the wonderful Sunset magazine-esque things that the Santa Ynez valley is famous for, and I started to wonder why I was slogging away behind a sweaty 'I'm doing it for Cherie' bloke instead of sampling the local Viognier. Just as that happened though, two of our good friends appeared like a mirage out of the early morning fog, and their cries of "you guys are awesome" and "why are you stopping!" and "really, don't stop!" were truly uplifting. Actually, at that point it was so awesome to slow down for a high-five and a brief natter, that after five minutes (actually 15.2 seconds) I was ready to keep going. Thanks Jen and Mooks!

The rest of the race was a bit of blur; rows of grapevines, people dotted along the course screaming encouragement, a random woman in purple who would break in to a run whenever I caught up with her - and then all of a sudden (not really) I only had one mile to go and I knew I was going to make it. My legs were doing a weird cartilage-less Inspector Gadget impression but my knee was holding up, and then I spent a ridiculous ten minutes being able to hear the finish line without being able to see it (we must have been turning corners every half block at that point).

I grabbed my two girls (Lucy initially reluctant) and we jogged sedately over the line where I collected my medal. Which became Lucy's medal five seconds later. She's a bit like that my youngest child.

The big question is - what next? Well, after a week off and lots of cake that is.


itsgrimupnorth said...

I once ran a half marathon where a random women kept speeding up every time I overtook her, I was freaked out until she asked me at mile 10 if I was the back-marker!!! I that swore whatever happened I would beat her. Then my legs started hurting and I didn't. Hmmm. Character building.
Next for you should be the great north run to compare the scenery.

AliBlahBlah said...

Hmm - if it was cold at the start of the Wine Country Half Marathon in May in California - what's the start of the Great North Run like? More than a black binliner can handle? I was thinking you and L should do the run out here next year.......and I'll stand you for the post-race wine tasting!

itsgrimupnorth said...

It's the bracing breeze into your face for the last mile along the South Shields sea front that's the memorable bit. Followed by a brown ale tasting.
Was thinking LK and LW should do the run next year, I'll babysit while he gets beaten by a girl.

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