Well. That could have gone better.
I had high hopes of a good run at the Oakland Half Marathon. My training has been going well; a few mid-teen runs and a couple of hill runs had me feeling I could easily enjoy the day and not exert myself too much. I was looking forward to seeing old friends, chatting a little, running 13.1 miles and going home to get through my weekend stuff. It didn't quite work out that way.
Saturday I went to the "expo" and picked up my race packet. It went smoothly and easily, first getting my card, then my number with the timing tag, then my tech shirt. The expo was a disappointment because there was no there there (sorry Oakland, couldn't resist). There were mostly local purveyors of services, a couple of other marathon booths, a Gu tasting booth (although they weren't selling it), a Clif booth (they weren't selling either), and race merchandise which I didn't even look at. My "goody bag" contained a bunch of literature and fliers, a teeny bottle of EVOO, a sample sized bag of Gu Chomps, a wrist sweat band from an insurance company and that was it. Not so goody after all.
I carpooled Sunday morning with Ellen, a great chance to catch up with my original running partner. She's substantially faster than I am now (... everyone is substantially faster than I am now) but we had the ride to chat about everything. We decided to park at City Center since it would only be $5 and that way we wouldn't (1) lose the car and (2) have to walk too far. We got there way early and were able to sit in the warm car for a while before heading out.
The morning was cool, sunny and a bit breezy. I wore shorts for the first time this year (with 100 SPF sunscreen on my legs, paranoid much?), a long sleeved top and throwaway gloves. Because it was supposed to be partially overcast turning to total overcast, I was wearing black. Not my smartest idea, but it turned out to not be a huge factor.
I met up with a few people I knew and then went to stand in the front of the back of the crowd; I wanted to be in front of the walkers but behind everyone else. It was pretty good placement although many walkers seeded themselves way up front since I continued to pass them for the first couple of miles. Finally the anthem was sung, a few words from the mayor (which we couldn't really hear), then the horn and we were off! "Off" being relative, of course. It took a few minutes to cross the start line and start running.
I felt really good that first mile, holding myself back so that I wouldn't be pulled along with the crowd's enthusiasm. My plan was to go 9:1 the entire race, plus walk through water stops. That worked for all of one whole mile. A short way into mile 2 my legs felt heavy and my lungs started heaving. I was dizzy and my stomach was queasy. I seriously considered just turning around and going back to the start but figured it would work itself out in the next couple of miles as I warmed up. It didn't.
The race was very well run, the waterstops were frequent enough and well stocked and staffed. The street closures were handled professionally by the Oakland PD and the majority of Oakland's residents were happy to see the race and runners (except for the honkers in their cars trying to get somewhere important). The route was varied and interesting and I saw a few areas of Oakland I'd never been through. I tried, really tried, to to get into the spirit of things and my body didn't want to cooperate.
I knew by mile 2 that I wouldn't be sticking to my plan but I really thought things would improve. I reviewed the route in my head and tried to figure out how far I'd have to go to walk back to the finish, compared with how far I'd have to go to stay on the course. It always worked out shorter, or even, to continue the race.
I tried gels, I tried drinking water and electrolyte fluid, I tried running and walking and shuffling. If I ran either my lungs couldn't get enough air or my legs felt like cement posts. If I continued running I got dizzy and nauseous. While walking I just felt dizzy. My muscles and joints ached and I felt like I had the flu. I was alternately hot and chilled. I tried to see the beauty of the sunny day, tried to enjoy the fact that I was out there. I kept telling myself that any day I could run, no matter how poorly, was a good day.
At about mile 10 I saw one of my old TnT buddies, now a coach. I was telling him that I was having one of those days that every runner has, but that you hope comes on a day you haven't paid to run. My timing was just off and I told him I hoped that it meant my crappy run for this training series was over. He walked with me for a couple of minutes and we talked about our upcoming plans and races, then I ran on.
I was pretty sure if I continued my shuffling I could finish before 3 hours and that became my last goal. As I came around Lake Merritt I shuffled to the next light post, walked to that car, ran to the parking meter, shuffled to the corner. Repeat as necessary. It became apparent that I would not, in fact, break 3 but I wanted to finish strongly. Then coming down the last hill (and one of the only hills on the route) I saw my coach and stopped to hug and talk. I stopped for several minutes and didn't care about time any longer, it was more important to talk with him. Finally he sent me on my way. At that point I was shivering from the cold since we were talking in the shade.
There were lots of people cheering in the runners and I managed to run, slowly, the last couple of tenths. I crossed the finish line, grabbed a medal and a heat sheet, and trudged along. I got a bottle of water and a quarter of a bagel and made myself eat and drink, trying to stop the shakes and ease my stomach. It didn't work too well. I saw a friend and chatted for a few minutes, glad to be standing still, then went to find Ellen who was meeting me over by the beer tent.
I found her and figured that beer wasn't going to make me feel any worse so we stood in the long line. I got a few ounces and we continued to walk around. The beer tasted good but I only had a very little since I didn't want to get sick on the way home.
I went home, showered and collapsed on the sofa. I felt as if I had just run a particularly hard full marathon. All of my muscles, all of my joints, all of my internal organs hurt. I guess it was from pushing myself while I didn't feel well. I didn't want to eat but I forced myself to have a few slices of turkey for the protein and to drink water to rehydrate. I napped on and off for a couple of hours but mostly just lay there reviewing my race.
Today I'm sore from the top of my head to my toes. That poor performance took a lot out of me, but I'm not going to let it get me down. I've had those good training runs recently and I think the bad run was the aberration, not the good runs. I'm looking forward to my longer runs, looking forward to getting back out there.
Any day you can get out and run, or any day you can get out and walk, is a good day. It might not feel that way at the time, but I'm lucky I get the chance.