Happy New Year!
How is everyone? Getting a start on your resolutions? Giving up on your resolutions? Still hungover from NYE?
This is not a post about my own resolutions. Shock, I know. In a very not-like-me move, I actually did make one this year (I almost never do), but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I am here to tell you about something else related to New Year’s Eve. So while there was resolution making, drink(s), and midnight fireworks, there was also something extra that made this New Year’s Eve memorable. In fact, it was probably the most memorable NYE to date, because let’s face it…with the exception of pining for a midnight kiss from your crush (which I never got), there isn’t much you can really expect from the night.
But this year, New Year’s Eve doubled as a race day. A perfect race day, in fact.
I call this my “I do this expression in every race photo of me ever taken” face.
I was fairly hush-hush about the Yukon Do It half-marathon. Not because I was especially nervous, but because I didn’t really have a lot of feelings about it.
Going into it, I knew my sparkly sub-1:40 half goal was possible, but I wasn’t necessarily interested in going through a lot of pain for it.
So, my game plan was to start with 7:40s, and if I was feeling good, drop to 7:35s halfway through.
That didn’t exactly happen. In fact, none of what went down during this race was anything I would have expected—for a variety of reasons:
1) The weather. It was bloody cold during this race.
Grown men wore pants and double-layer tops. I wore spandex shorts. However, as I’ve stated before—winter running and I are BFFs. My body enters into a “must warm thyself” panic when it’s cold, which results in faster paces.
2) The course. The elevation map of this course was, well, wrong. It was allegedly an out-and-back with miles 1-4 fairly flat, 5-8 up and then downhill, and 9-13 flat again. No, not true. Details to come.
The way the course was supposed to look…
3) The company. I signed up for this race because a ton of my coworkers were doing it. So, there were about 12 of us…most of whom I’d never met before, and all of whom were relatively fast.
Fun fact: if there is an audience around, I’ll be ready to perform. It’s the Glee-kid in me. Or maybe just the narcissistic competitive brat in me. Whatever. Point is, it was an opportunity to hang with the big dawgs…the big dawgs in this case being stranger men from work.
A few of us from the group! In case you couldn’t spot the only female in the photo, I’m on the top right.
So now that I’ve given way too much information before writing the actual report, let’s get down to it:
With only 300 or so runners doing the half, I was able to line up relatively close to the start line. The gun went off, and I mentally threatened myself to not go out too fast. Just warm up. Just get your pace. So after a half mile of “leisurely” getting started, I checked the Garmin: 7:15.
I seriously felt like I was running an 8:30, I think in part to the throngs of fast dudes around me whose effortlessness masked my own speed, and also because of the cold. My feet were numb for the first 1.5 miles, and I think my body was doing everything possible to just thaw my blood.
I chilled out though, decided the first mile could be fast as long as I got my sh*t together for the rest of it.
No, still didn’t happen. But I didn’t panic. I genuinely felt really good, and I figured as long as I closely monitored how I felt and paid attention to my breathing, I could keep up the speed. Plus, I knew the hill coming up would slow me down and I could save some time for those miles.
There weren’t too many people around me. The leader (who I actually knew and who is ridiculously badass- 1:10 finish, nbd) was way out in front, then there was a decent size pack behind him, then followed myself and some other randoms.
This was the first time I legitimately played leap-frog with other runners the entire race. There were three other females that I kept alternating spots with, which was a combination of helpful, intimidating, and fun. We all knew it was happening, of course we didn’t say anything, but it was an amusing silent competition.
One of those ladies, by the way, was wearing a Boston finisher shirt.
Don’t you think your sweet shirt will scare me away…
After the first 4.5 miles or so, I expected the promised “ gradual ascent” to start. Alas…we would all learn that the course profile was quite incorrect and misleading.
The flat sections were spot on, and the first four and the last four miles were beautiful and scenic along the waterfront. The middle 5 though? Basically the course traversed up and down the same hills about 6 different times. And these weren’t rollers…they were some pretty significant inclines, with consequentially steep declines. So those miles were filled with grunting (and getting passed) up those hills, and then bombing (and passing others) on the way down.
This is what my Garmin elevation data showed.
My paces over these miles were all over the place. I’d be logging an 8:30 trudging up a hill, and then it would quickly drop to 7:30 on the downhill. These miles were beautiful, however, as they wove through a super-green forest—which slightly made up for the unexpected course switcheroo.
The nice thing about an out-and-back, though, is that you know what to expect for the second half. I was starting to feel not-so-awesome around mile 7. The hills were getting to me, and I was ready to head back to the flat lands.
I know this is really not-such-a-big deal in retrospect, and I don’t want to complain, but I thought a more accurate elevation chart would have been helpful beforehand.
Once back on the flatter parts, I felt a second wind coming, and I regained a consistent pace. I gained a bit on a few of the females that were ahead of me during the first part of the race, and I let my racing instinct take over as I passed them.
According to this batch of race photos, I close my eyes a lot while racing. Sleepy? Defense mechanism? Also #LEGS. Gross.
Around mile 9, I spotted a coworker who was holding a perfectly steady-yet-fast pace, and I decided to use him as a pacer. I stayed right behind him for a while, which was probably annoying, but he didn’t seem to mind (thanks David!).
When I came up beside him with 2 or so miles to go, and apologized for my drafting, he exclaimed that I was on track for a 1:38. Excited by this announcement, and impressed with his mental math, it was just the spark I needed to drop to a sub 7:20 pace. I held with him for a while longer, but after seeing two girls fading ahead of me, I knew I needed to do a little bit of chick-ing.
And seriously…one of them was wearing zebra-print spandex. I realize most of you would love owning something like that, but personally I refused to be beat by someone wearing those.
Zebra girl, be gone.
By that point, the finish line was in sight. There is nothing more encouraging than seeing the end—and the promise of being finished. A glance at my watch and I knew I was not only looking at a sub-1:40, but a 1:38:xx. Cue: giddy excitement.
And just like that, I crossed the finish line, heard my name called over the speaker, and knew I’d cinched the coveted sub 1:40 half that I’d been wanting with a 1:38:22 PR finish time.
“Pretty psyched” would be good words to describe the feeling immediately following, although I was mostly focused on how quickly the heat I’d built during the race was quickly escaping my body. At the finish line, I learned that two co-workers had claimed 2nd and 3rd overall, with others in the top 15 as well!
I myself ended up as 4th overall female and 2nd in my age group. And yes, ahead of Boston lady…who congratulated me after as we’d been racing each other for nearly 10 miles.
After changing into warmer, dryer clothes and collecting ribbons (!), we made a pit stop for a celebratory brew before packing it in and calling it a year.
Running this race was wonderful, and I’m thrilled to have closed with a time I feel like I can hang my hat on for a while. Doing it on the very last day of 2012 was awesome as well—it felt both like a grand finale and a prelude of the year to come.
I don’t have a lot of hindsight about this race…it was cold, beautiful, and a lot of fun. However, in retrospect, I am particularly focused on the fact that while I did run hard and achieved my goal, it actually wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated. Which makes the promise of what’s the come in 2013 all the more intriguing.
Happy New Year!