In the beginning of November I was upbeat. I was ready to go. I was mentally preparing myself for a trip to the Bay Area to find running redemption and visit one of my favorite cities. After a horribly disappointing spring half marathon I was ready to get my groove back at the Golden Gate Half. Despite a relatively inactive summer my fall training had gone very well and I had laid out five very achievable goals for the event:
- Don’t Suck
- Finish in Less than 2 Hours
- Enjoy the Golden Gate Bridge
- Don’t Shart Myself
- Post-Race In-N-Out Burger
The good news is that I completely crushed goals four and five. The first three not so much.
Let’s start with goal number three. San Francisco is a town famous for its fog and on race day it certainly delivered. It was as if a cloud was lying on top of the city for the entirety of the race. Visibility was so bad that as I ran along the Bay during the first few miles I couldn’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge; you know that giant orange structure that seemingly can be seen from just about anywhere in the city.
After traversing some wicked hills within the Presidio I finally got onto the Bridge and was actually able to see the first tower. Barely. Running the Bridge was still outstanding but had the morning’s weather been as spectacular as it was for the other parts of my trip (clear, sunny, and warm) it would’ve been really, really outstanding!
Unfortunately, I can’t blame the weather for messing up the first two goals. Those are on me.
I got off to what seemed like a good start, but by the time I crossed the Bridge (about a mile past the midway point), I realized I was in trouble. When I pulled out my phone to snap a picture I decided to check the time. Not my actual race time, but the actual time, just to get a rough sense of how I was doing. I was not doing well. I was roughly 5-10 minutes behind where I wanted to be. So I quickly shoved my phone back into my Bib Belt and convinced myself I could make up time on the back end.
This did not happen. In fact, I ran slower. About halfway back across the Bridge (around the 9-mile marker), I started to feel sluggish and began my ritual of wondering why I run these long distances.
As I continued my legs began to feel more and more fatigued. It began to dawn on me that I was unlikely to achieve my sub-two hour goal and started to question whether I’d even be able to reach the finish line without stopping to walk. But I pushed on, desperately trying to take solace in the fact that there were no hills on the final few miles. But by the time I was down along the misty waterfront, my body had had it. Around the 11-mile marker I decided to walk.
I counted to thirty in my head then got back to running, hoping this short break would somehow recharge my batteries and get me back to where I needed to be. But instead of one quick walk break, I ended up walk-running the next mile and a half. It didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t going to reach my goal. But that would be okay. As long as I could move fast enough to better my last half marathon time I’d be okay with it.
It would not be okay with it.
My final time was an awful 2:11:31, slightly behind the time I posted in May’s half marathon. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how I could’ve run slower considering I only slept for two hours the night before that ill-fated race.
My strongest suspicion is that all the travel and walking my wife and I did the day before drained my legs. We flew to the Bay Area on the day before the race, dragged ourselves through airports and mass transit before eventually arriving at our hotel. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful city, so we strolled to the expo to pick up our bib numbers. We also walked to stores and picked up food and by the time I checked my phone at the end of the day, we’d logged over eight miles worth of steps.
Was all this travel and walking the problem? Or was my training more lackluster than I thought. Or I’m just getting old.
Despite my horrible race time – the only time I’ve been slower was during my first ever half marathon – there was something about this disappointment that didn’t seem to sting as much as it did in the spring. Maybe I’m getting used to sucking and embracing my mediocrity. Or maybe I was just happy to be able to run.
My wife had to pull out of this race because of an issue with her hamstring. She’s had to withdraw from three half marathons in the last few years due to nagging injuries and it’s become increasingly likely that her days of long distance running are behind her. Yes, I ran slowly, but at least I ran. I still finished, I still got a medal, and I still got to celebrate with a face full of In-N-Out burger. And that’s something.
I’ll run another half marathon in the spring. Hopefully I’ll do better. My wife, on the other hand, will probably never run another half marathon again. So I’ve got nothing to complain about.
Well… I’ve got nothing to complain about related to running. I’ve still got plenty of non-running stuff to complain about.