Some races I enjoy. Some I gut out. The Mercer Island Half Marathon on Sunday was the latter. It’s a beautiful event. While it’s been going on for over 40 years, and has a big registration, it still feels home-grown, with so much community support and not a lot of commercialism. The route is gorgeous and satisfying–a 13 mile loop being so perfectly suited to the perimeter of the island. You start at the northeast side, at Luther Burbank park and head east past a senior center with the residents out cheering you on. You turn south, and curl through the dappled S-curves, then you get views of the south lake and Mt Rainier. It’s exciting when you round the bottom point and start heading west and north. Then comes mile 11, which starts out good, but gets bad with an almost mile-long hill, just when you really don’t have one left in you. You cap it off by running past the Roanoke Inn in a daze and up one final brutal rise.
The whole race was hard for me this year, but I somehow managed to beat my half marathon time by over a minute. It’s an accomplishment I’m struggling with a little since the trade off felt pretty steep. It’s good to know I can tough it out, but I also like to come away having enjoyed the experience.
Since it’s a chunk of time to feel so uncomfortable, I look back at it and wonder what kept me going. Here are the answers I came up with:
- The morning of the race, I read a quote posted by a triathlon friend Cindy Peters–the quote was from Steve Prefontaine, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” That flew into my mind a lot, whenever I was tempted to default or slow.
- A few miles in, when I saw I was holding my starting pace, I began to realize I could beat my previous time. Knowing that there were hard miles toward the end, I had banked a few faster miles. I think many people experience this–you enter a race not knowing if your goal is realistic, and at a certain point, you have evidence of what you can do. You start to trust it. You start to get excited. That happened.
- Although I was uncomfortable the whole time, I was able to do an inventory of things that were going well. I recommend this to clients, and thankfully, I remembered my own advice. My list: Legs feel strong – no IT band issues, which I had worried about. Well fueled- not bonking. Warm enough, and welcoming the turn onto the shadier side of the island. Beautiful day. Gorgeous views. Cramps in diaphragm and shoulder are manageable. Wonderful husband David, Rachel S and pals at the finish line. Brunch at the Beattys’ after the race!
- I took three very short walking breaks at water stations. The breaks themselves, and the fact that I made them very short and got right back to pace, worked as a mini-recovery strategy.
- Racing makes me feel right and credible. I know I can teach and coach better.
- I wanted to surprise myself.