Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Carmel Half-Marathon

This might sound a little portentous, but I'm gonna say it anyway because we all know I can be a little portentous... I ran the Carmel Half-marathon last weekend, on a whim.

I signed up at packet pick-up.

There were several reasons to run this half:
  • It literally encircles my neighborhood. Either I run it or I'm trapped by it for 6 hours.
  • I could walk to the starting line in less time than those who drove to the race.
  • It's good to support local events.
  • The GF was running her first half.
  • I have been totally freaking out about my upcoming marathon and could use a distraction.
There was also a big reason not to run this half:
  • My marathon is this weekend. This weekend!
  • It was cloudy, windy, and chilly.
  • The shirt was kinda fugly.
I'd decided weeks ago that I wasn't going to run it. What turned me was that my marathon freak-out was way stronger than my fear of running too hard a week before the big one. Besides, a decent run, a run where I might actually find my marathon goal pace, and most importantly, stick to that pace, might just help the jitters.

Probably not, but it sounded better than being trapped at home, freaking out, with runners circling around me, silently mocking me.

So ran I did.

I love running in unusual, interesting, far-away places. But there's something comforting about a race in your neighborhood. I'd run every inch of the course at one time or another, and most places pretty often. I hadn't necessarily run down the middle of the street, but I knew where the hills were, and where the flats were. And a bonus for me, being directionally and positionally challenged, I knew where I was most of the time. And I saw lots of familiar faces.

What wasn't so familiar was running so far toward the back of the pack. This was my first half since 2008. Wow, that can't be right! Let me check something here... one sec... nope, that's right. I ran the IU half in 2008. Anyway, it'd been awhile.

Plus, this wasn't a race for me. It was a dress rehearsal. My biggest fear - other than having my horrible training on full display out in Big Sur as I crawl on hands and knees up the hills, crying like a wounded puppy - is going out too fast. So this half was about finding my easy marathon groove, and reassuring myself that it was a groovy groove.

Let me tell ya, that was a damn good idea. It took me 7 miles, over half of the race, to find that groove. Once I found it, it was awesome. I felt like I could click off miles all day. Had it taken me 7 miles of the marathon to find it, I'd have been in a four-alarm panic.

Now, thanks to the delightful Carmel Half-Marathon, I feel more or less relaxed and confident that I can slot into that groove early and really enjoy Big Sur. I also learned that the socks I had planned to wear were woefully inadequate, and that there are a couple strategic places I need to make sure get a little extra dab of lube. 

Quick review of the race, as this was my first Carmel Half (I volunteered at a water table last year). The course is rolling and really nice... lots of neighborhoods, no long miserable flat-and-straight-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see hunks. The amenities are medium-race quality, better than I expected: Excellent start/finish area with live music, great aid stations, plenty of volunteers. Passed quite a few cars stopped for runner traffic - most seemed to be taking it in stride. I made a point of thanking those with their windows open for their patience.

The crowd support was about what you'd expect from a small town race... very slim, limited mostly to a sprinkling of family members and the occasional cowbell. The racers were pretty thin, too... not quite as many as I expected. I ran alone a good portion of the race, but there were always people a few yards ahead of me, and yes, some passing me. I had company if I wanted it, but also room to run if I needed it.

The only negative for the event (aside from my noobish inattention to the conditions and the resulting screw-up of not bringing dry clothes to change into, or even a jacket for the race (Thanks, Marty for the loaner!), and subsequent freezing of my nards after I'd finished) was that the finish line announcer, who dutifully announced at least the first name of every finisher as they came down the final 50 yards or so, totally missed the finish of the marathon winner. I felt bad for the guy, having just won a damn marathon, and no one other than a couple of us who just happened to be paying attention, even clapped for him. Meh, he probably felt worse for me, the schmuck standing in the cold wind in a wet shirt.

I posted my worst time for a half since 1994. But Saturday wasn't about time, it was about finding that groove, and feeling good about next weekend. Today, two days after, I'm a little sore, but in a good way.  I'm a little more confident that I'll make it through Big Sur in once piece, which puts me just above scared-shitless.

That's a good place to be above, even if only just.

Good running,

PS - Sorry guys, I didn't realize until I was walking home that I failed to snap a single picture during the race. I'll make it up to you next week.