“Act like you’ve been there before.” Can’t. Haven’t been there before. This is all new to me. So, while they are still fresh, here’s some things I took from this whole process.
1. Training! The most important part of the training isn’t the mileage. It’s the stamina. It’s having the wind to push through. The mileage is almost irrelevant.
2. Mileage! Almost. But not quite. When you’re out there for 13.1 and you are feeling it through mile 8, you just lock in ‘I’ve got this’ mode and that’s when disaster strikes. Suddenly. Painfully. At almost exactly 10.66 miles, a mere 2.5 miles from paydirt, it felt like a sniper blew off my left calf. Pop. And then complete lock up mid stride.
3. Hydrate. Hydration is more than a ‘day of’ concern. I learned this is more a week of or month of thing. Be hydrated to the gills. You will need it.
4. Do the due diligence on the course. This is something I pride myself on but woefully fucked up this time. Know the water tables and rest rooms. Know the hills. Know that bush you can piss in between rest areas.
5. Set a goal. A realistic goal! 3:00 flat was my goal. It kept me focused during the good times and the bad.
6. Calculate the pace you need for that goal. Unlike me, calculate it correctly. I came out guns blazing because I thought I needed to flat 13:00 every mile to get there because I can’t do math. It helped, because I banked time for the midrace wall and inevitable last 2 mile struggle, but how much of that was exacerbated by picking em up and putting em down with everything I had for the first 7 miles?
7. Have fun with it. The whole time, a guy I ended up trading places with the whole race was asking me ‘when does this start being fun?’ And every time he’d ask, I’d push my answer back a mile to implore him (and myself on). Then around mile 11, he said ‘under 3 flat right?’ and I nodded. Off we went. It WAS fun.
8. Get by… with a little help from your friends. Have a posse. Have people there who want to see you through. Believing in yourself is a lot easier when others share that belief. Let them know what you need.
9. DO NOT DEVIATE FROM YOUR NORMAL PRE-RUN ROUTINE BECAUSE IT’S A ‘BIG’ RACE. Have your normal pre run meal. Wear your normal running clothes. TAKE YOUR FREAKIN MEDICINE. I left my allergy medicine at home because I am a catastrophic moron.
10. Leave nothing back for tomorrow. You are a weekend warrior. I get it. You have a 9 to 5er to punch in for some hours after the race. Cool. That’s the day to day. The race, the pursuit of self, the seduction of punctuating that impossible dream and shouting down the drone of ‘you can’t’ with a defiant ‘I HAVE!’ demands nothing less than everything you’ve got. It’s your goal. A Half Marathon doesn’t get undertaken lightly. Treat it accordingly with the respect and effort it deserves. Pace yourself, sure, but there will come a moment when it’s time to pedal down and go for it. You will be afforded the chance to seize it. Do so. Apologize for tomorrow when it’s time comes and regret nothing. Pride lasts forever. Pain lasts but a few hours.
Lastly, to ensure that pain lasts only but a few hours? Immediately after the race, hydrate, eat, rest, medicate, ice, heat, treat every injury quickly. Stretch once you warm down. It’ll help. You will feel like death afterward. That’s fine. You just did something borderline superhuman. There’s a price for glory. Now, tend to yourself so you can go get the next one. And there will be a next one.
Then, reflect on the lessons. Some concerns like illness and weather are out of your sphere of influence, but will impact your race. Just let them be like water off the back of a duck. Do you. And give her everything you’ve got.