My weekend in Harrisburg went pretty well. Jim and I had a nice vacation together that included my pre-race pad thai at the cute Café Fresco. It was just blocks from where we stayed.
I had my normal dose of pre-race jitters which Amy and Arron quelled with a FaceTime chat. The moment they extended their arms and gave me such a loving virtual hug, my nerves were never that upset from that point on. I spent a portion of the rest of the night reading race quotes and favorite race course signs that people had found inspirational.
The morning of the race I was torn between running hard or just having a good time. I think I stopped having a jolly outlook toward the race the day before when I saw the shirt in my race packet (remember – for me it’s ALL about the shirt). They used the Capital 10-Miler logo which I liked well enough but it was in one color, white, on the most common of t-shirt blue shirts. Meh. At least it was a tech shirt that I could count on it to cling and not shift around nor retain moisture. I unfolded it and it looked really big. I checked the size and it was a small. I couldn’t believe this was the smallest shirt they had and asked since sometimes they have just a few kids XL unannounced. They excitedly told me that there was extra small!!! but they were out. WTF! There wasn’t even an XS option on the online order form. Thus my grump set in and race morning I still couldn’t shake it.
I had printed off a pace bracelet (which I will from this point on refer to as my pacelette) that would keep me on track for running my fastest ever 10 miles. Each mile had a time printed off that I was to match or beat to stay on my chosen pace. I have a hard time running that distance in an hour and 40 minutes since it requires an average of less than a 10:00MM (MM = minute mile which requires MORE MATH!!!) In March I had finally been dropping my times down a bit and was slowly sneaking under my 10MM average. Before I left home I had printed off an ambitious 1:38:00 goal for my pacelette that would require me to average 9:48MM.
The last time I had a pacelette it kind of freaked me out and ruined my race. The race was hot and hilly and the pacelette was a constant reminder that I was failing to meet my goal. It burned white hot in my SpiBelt during the entire Dry Valley Half Marathon, the only race where I decided to take walking breaks. I couldn’t look forward to proudly wearing the race t-shirt after I finished so I was compelled to try PR (in central Pee Ay it’s pronounced “Pee Argh”) but didn’t want that goal to ruin the race for me all together.
I was wasting time and had to pull myself together to get over to City Island where the race started. I gave the pacelette one last glance by looking at the halfway/ 5 mile split – 49:00:00. I then stuck it in Jim’s bag of stuff to carry for after the race and decided not to carry it with me at all. I finished getting ready and tried to focus on how to get the best out of my run without fixating on time.
As I was pulling on my shirt I blurted out a mumbled “run the tangents!” as a reminder to myself how to make the best of the course. I immediately apologized to Jim, “Sorry – that was supposed to have stayed in my head.”
He normally just accepts my outbursts but this time asked, “What did you say?!” I assured him it was only me thinking about the race but he insisted that I tell him because he thought I had said, “rubber panties!” We laughed and the mood for the entire day lightened at that very moment. I insisted that we continue to call that race strategy “rubber panties” but have doubts that it will catch on as typical racing jargon.
The day was pretty but the breeze on the island kept it chilly. I got out of my warm up pants and at the last moment gave Jim my jacket. It was getting sunny and my darker colored shirt would be good once I got moving. After a chilly delay, we were off and jogged around City Island before turning onto the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge for the first time. We were so packed together that I chose the grated side to run on. It was poor footing, wasn’t optimising my tangential running but I knew Jim was ahead on that side of the bridge and I wanted a parting cheer from him at the one mile mark.
This video is of me running on the Walnut Street Bridge as a local band plays… “Batman!?” As I pass you can hear Jim laugh and cheer for me. Listen to what he yells!!
The run along the river was very pretty as we ran toward the sun. The pack settled in as some people passed me and I passed some others. I overheard a couple of young women talking about the wind and hadn’t really noticed it. I looked up to a flag they made reference to and it was standing straight out and snapping in the strong breeze. We had a tailwind and I hadn’t even noticed.
As we made a looping turn after 4 miles or so the wind became very noticeable as we retraced the course.
Jim was down at the bottom of the Walnut Street Bridge as we passed under it. I saw him in the distance and waved my arms so he would know that it was me coming if he wanted to shoot another video. As I got closer, I saw he was making a video and could hear his voice. Until that moment I hadn’t realized how loud the whipping wind was in my ears. I shouted, “I can’t hear you.” The video below has his response and my less than thrilled comeback. HA!
I glanced at my watch as I passed the 6 mile mark and I think I may have been losing time battling the head wind. I don’t think anyone had passed me since about mile 5 and had passed a few runners who had been taking walking breaks. On the Lower River Walk we ran by some cute parks I had never seen before and some geese flew so low that their honking scared me. I thought it was a runner quickly approaching and shouting “on your left!” as they skimmed just over my head before landing on the Upper River Walk.
I saw the Harvey Bridge coming closer at an excruciatingly slow speed. I was slowly gaining on a fellow as we finally got to the bridge. We both ground our way up a little hill that took us to the far pedestrian sidewalk on the bridge. I worked my “rubber panties” just right and passed him as we looped around to get on the bridge. I conversationally said to him, “I’m done with that head wind.” He agreed but little did I know the worst was yet to come.
As we climbed in altitude on the windward side of the bridge, we were hit on the side by the strongest winds I have ever run in. Over the mile long bridge we were pounded by a relentless gale that had me dipping my head to keep my hat on. It was so strong that I cannot remember checking my watch at mile 7 and part of me was starting to lose confidence. I realized at one point I was misjudging the length of the bridge because I had crossed the shorter Walnut Street Bridge from City Island so much more quickly. About 2/3 of the way across I decided to take off my hat and carry it. I pin my iPod Nano into my Ruffian hat during races that do not allow head phones. It provides some music and also records my run data. If my iPod and favorite hat flew off and into the lanes of traffic to my left I would be very upset.
I hoped beyond hope that the leeward side of the bridge was not going to be as bad. My feet made a slapping sound as they hit the ground through the little underpass and I gritted my teeth to climb back up onto that bridge for my return trip. There was still a breeze but nothing like on the windward side. Soon I was actually able to start thinking again and remembered checking my watch at 8 mile that was about 1/3 of the way back across the Harvey Bridge.
My watch read 1:20:?? at the 8th mile. I was on my regular old 10MM pace and that made me pout but only for a short moment. I realized I had averaged that pace even with the head wind so it was possible, if I had it in me, to make use of the tailwind. “Why wait?” I thought. If I could start on the leeward side of the bridge I might still keep it under 1:40:00. I was tired but one of the many quotes that I had read the night before came back to me, “Pain is temporary; your race time on the Internet is for all eternity.” I slowly started to kick it up a notch.
It still wasn’t easy on that bridge and I can’t remember if I had to take my hat off on that side or not but when I finally settled onto the Upper River Walk my hat was back on and I was slowly putting the hammer down as best as I could. When I hit mile 9 I checked my watch but couldn’t figure out if it was a better pace or if I was just maintaining. I was encouraged that my play list seemed to be off and that the songs that normally inspire me to get to the 9 mile mark seemed to be a little delayed.
I kept trying to reel in this runner ahead of me who was in that bright yellow visibility color. He was still ahead of me as we approached the Walnut Street Bridge as I glanced over to City Island and could see that I had been mistaken about the final approach to the finish line, They had added about .1 – .2 mile loop before we turned for home. That made me a little sour but I tried to turn the anger into some energy as I started across the breezy pedestrian bridge.
I was able to run on the sidewalk for the return on that bridge and kept trying to catch that guy in yellow. I had to take my hat off yet again and upon exiting the bridge turned to fight the wind straight on for about 200 meters. “Rubber panties” were second nature to me as I hit the next left as sharp as I could to turn up a hill for and head for the finish line. “That’s it, finish strong!” said the volunteer on that turn as I growled out loud and pushed my way up the hill.
I never quite caught the yellow guy but he kept me going. I knew where the finish line was and searched for the timer as I pushed as hard as I could without letting my legs get out of control under me. I saw it turn to 1:39:00 and just started yelling “Yes! YES!” because I knew even the race clock time was going to bring me in under 1:40. When you start farther back in the pack and the race isn’t chip timed, your race clock time can be off up to a few minutes. My watch time (I start it exactly at the start and finish lines) read 1:38:59. I was so pleased I had left the pacelette behind because I felt great about this new PR instead of feeling like I had failed a piece of paper.
Here I am crossing the line, I am after that guy in yellow. I just love the song that is playing as we cross the line since it represents my efforts.