Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Half at Philadelphia

The night before was nearly as memorable as the day of. The plan was to responsibly take in a movie and be in bed by 8 or 9; in other words 2-3 hours earlier than normal.

Restlessness was exacerbated by what sounded like *quite* a party in the lobby. Totally unable to sleep from the jitters, inexplicable hunger, and periodic howling (in the strictest definition; actual howling) coming from the lobby, I did what any normal super-tweaker would do: I pulled on my jeans and shoes (no socks) and headed down to the gift shop for pretzels and water. I sat there, scarfing, first two pretzels at once, then six or seven, listening to Like a Virgin booming from the nearby bar. "OMG, I'm in the land of the world's loudest, most inconsiderate people in America: Philadelphia. Screwed. Got back to bed, only to be awoken an hour later by a piercing ring (Maybe I'm dead? I hope so.) and a voice "Evacuate the building. There is an emergency in the building. Do not use the elevator. You must evacuate the building." Some kid had pulled the fire alarm.

Got up around 4 and went out for a light jog. This is my day. I once passed a really tough exam on 2 hours sleep. Been there. Came back and heated up two packets of oatmeal. No spoon, so I used the coffee cup lid. Lots of it ended up on my face. This is my day.

The way they organized the corrals was weird. Half and full marathon peeps are all together, which was fine. But, right behind elite and sub-elite are “up to 3:10" and “up to 1:35.” Hmm? Anyways, by the time I got to the start from the portajohn line, it was like 5 minutes to the gun (of course). The only way to get into my corral was to jump over a chest-high metal barricade. Up and over and who do I find? Bryan McDonnell, who lives one town over and regularly wins local races. I was flattered that he recognized me. He told Mike he was going for two 1:24's. Yeah, see you back in Jersey. They started playing Lose Yourself and, embarrassed to say, I lost myself a little. But, some dude behind me was tearing. Come on, man; I hope it was from something other than Eminem.

Go! I was through the first half mile in like 3:15. The sub-3 pacer was cruising along, chatting with the guy next to him, and holding up his balloon stick like it was nothing. I was mesmerized by that for a bit. Forcing myself down, I came through mile 1 in 7:13.

Around mile 4-5ish, I noticed I had been running most of the way with one runner, Amanda, and asked her what she was going for.
“Me, too.”

Running with Amanda was the best part of the race. Even though we exchanged surges, I wasn't trying to beat her and I could tell she wasn’t trying to beat me. At some point, she came up with another woman: “I found another one.” Ha.

Through 10k in 43:01.

At this point, we hit the hills. I hadn’t looked at a course elevation profile or anything before the race, so these took me by surprise. At some point I lost Amanda, and the other women lost me.

I pulled up to the to 10-mile clock and saw 1:09: 50, 51. Good *grief,* not again. Not again. At this point I started negotiating with my legs. “No more races this year. This is it. This is it. Come on.” I knew I had to run in the low 6's for the rest of the race. Plowing, plowing, plowing. “Full marathoners to the left, half to the right!” At this point, there was only one half marathoner in front of me. As I passed him, he grunted, “Yeah, finish strong.” Seeing no one else and completely delirious, I sincerely thought, for about a mile, “Am I winning? Am I going to win? Omg. I’m winning the half at Philly...No.” Later, others would comment that the course finished along “the river.” I did not know that at the time, since I was in a tunnel. The clock came into view: 1:59:40, 41. Oh no, not again. Not again. Dig, dig - Why is the guy in front of me stopping to jump and touch the clock? - 1:29:57, 58. In! Right? I later found out that my gun time was 1:29:59. Good grief is right.

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