Monday, March 10, 2008

Valley of the Sun Half Marathon


Picked Lisa up at 5am. UGH. Coffee. PB&J Sandwich. Whining. Driving. Analyzing. Strategizing. Contemplating. Wondering why we didn’t pick a different sport.

That was the drive to the race – some 40 miles away. It took us 50 minutes to get to the location, when we planned on 30.

Upon the opening of the car doors in the cool weather, in the dark, at the finish line ~ the dorkiness began. Lisa and I just crack ourselves up. No matter if everyone else thinks we’re strange ~ I think it’s just engrained in our MO. (Along the race course, during an apparently weak moment, Lisa dubbed us Laverne and Shirley. I don’t think we ever determined who was who ~ but does it really matter?) :P

Talked to Taryn. Met up with Eileen, who was hopefully not discouraged by our bad behavior on race morning, LOL.

We hopped on the shuttle to the staring line, and compulsively analyzed our Garmins, making sure they were set appropriately – mine with intervals, Lisa’s with Trainer Guy. Done. Got to the finish in the perfect amount of time. Said a quick hello to Taryn again. Headed for the starting line (which ended up being about ¼ mile from where we thought it was).

The Race

We took off in perfect form. Words were spoken that had never been heard on a run with Pokey and Java ~ words like “we need to slow down” and “I think you’re running too fast again.” And we were ~ we had to consciously work to stay ahead of Trainer Guy – but not too far ahead. We both learned lessons at RNR about coming out of the gate way too fast. Miles 1 and 2 were great – some of the best miles I’ve run. Breathing was hard for both of us, but it was all about the warm up stage.

The first hill surprise came sooner that expected – somewhere between mile 2 and 3. So we walked ~ a lot. I was continually amazed at how much energy is expended on hill running, or even hill-walking. It zapped a lot of my energy way too early on, but we trudged on. While pushing up the hill, we looked for Eileen at the relay station, but missed her. Taryn came up behind us, we commiserated about the hill for a bit, and then she took off. We had her in sight for a while, but not long. Way to rock, Taryn!!

This is where the race starts to get blurry for me. I remember miles 3-6 as being okay ~ but I was hot. The sun had come up over the mountains and it was blazing - at least to me. Luckily we were on a nice grade at this point, and we still kept pace.

At just about the 10k mark, we made a turn back onto Bush Highway and this is where the real fun for me began. At the 10K aid station, we were still on track…a bit ahead of pace. Trust me, my running partner not only had Training Guy on her wrist, but the split breakdown on a piece of paper in her pocket. Would you expect anything less?

Miles 6-10 were pretty rough. We had some decent miles, and some bad miles (one at almost a 16 minute pace!!) A lot of hill work ~ although we did have a few nice downhills as well. I have to admit, there’s nothing like coming to the top of a hill and able to look down the other side ~ a view of nice desert scenery and the open road ~ how can that not feel good? At least for a moment ;)

We made a few "aquaintances" along the way ~ one in particular who stayed neck and neck with us, and had to put up with our comic relief efforts. At the top of the large downhill, we apologized to her for having to listen to us. She laughed and said that she wished she had a running buddy like that to joke with. We invited her to run with us, but somehow she thought she wasn’t fast enough. Silly girl ~ she apparently hadn’t been listening to our conversations well enough.

Then at the 10 mile aid station, a worker asked us if we were twins! We laughed – and I said no, we just dress alike. But it made me wonder if running partners are like spouses ~ you know, the longer you run together, the more you look similar? Hmmmm…..

So amid all the joking and Laverne & Shirley antics, it still happened. My 10 Mile CRASH. Yup, I’m a crasher. I have 3 races under my belt to prove it now.

We were still on pace at the 10 mile mark, until my legs had just reached their max. No real cramping, but the tightness was almost unbearable. I know a lot was related to the hills ~ but a lot of it is just the norm for me also. My energy was zapped and my legs were screaming – and we still had some miles to go on an incline. Not good.

Somewhere between mile 10 and 11 was when Lisa morphed from the nice running partner I usually know, into the Slave Driver that would carry me the last couple miles. Apparently, she learned from the expert while running with Lori at RNR. She spewed all kinds of profound thoughts my way ~

“You didn’t come all this way to walk the last 2 miles!!!” I tried to explain to her that yes, really….I did….but she wouldn’t have it. There would be no loafing for Pokey. She bumped our intervals to 1 minute just to keep me moving.

I asked again for the millionth time for her to go on ahead and get her new PR ~ it was still totally in reach if she ditched her baggage. Of course, she refused. She made a comment about what a lousy friend she would be if she left me behind. I tried to explain that I thought racing wasn’t about friendship ~ it was about running. But she didn’t buy that one either.

My trusty running partner somehow got me and my tired legs across that finish line at my best time ever. It’s hard for me to not let my mind wander to what our race could have been, if it had been a flat course like RNR. I know we would have hit our goal –and then some. But it wasn’t RNR, it was Valley of the Sun and it had its challenges. We faced them one at a time, and got through.

Overall, I guess my legs held up okay (better than before) ~ I had a serious cramp issue at the car (more on that later), but ultimately, I was just pretty tired. Lisa finished strong, with plenty of fuel left in her tank ~ which is a tribute to all the work she has done. KUDOS to my running buddy!

I’m bummed that running season is pretty much over for us ~ I have so many thoughts of what we could do now, that it’s hard not to be bothered by it. But I’ve already done more than I ever thought ~ 3 half marathons in the past 5 months, each of them with their challenges, lessons learned, and more success than the one preceding. I really have no room to complain.

Valley of the Sun is one for my record books - at least for a while. At the end of the day, my running buddy ~ with whom I have shared a ton of sweat, whining, and laughs ~ gave up her own PR to help me get mine. So maybe this running thing is about friendship after all...

Lisa, thanks so much for a GREAT run!

Valley of the Sun Half Marathon
Time: 2:51:32
Average pace: 13:06


Nat said...

Well done! Congratulations.
Sounds like a great running friend.
Interesting if I am half training I always find the 10 mile mark is where it all starts to go downhill.

Jeff said...

Great report, Karen. What an awesome friend you've got.

(Even felt myself getting a bit teary at the end.)

What's this about running season being over? You guys don't run in the heat???

Jason Dittle said...

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Bev said...

Too awesome! You made it! What a great pair you are. You know it wouldn't be much of a challenge if you had no difficulty making it to the end. Way to suck-it-up.

Laura said...

What a fantastic report! And congratulations on the awesome finish :)

Wes said...

The best friendships are born through trial and tribulation :-) Nicely done again!!!

Running Knitter said...

Awesome job! I'm sure we'll meet up again soon. :)

Non-Runner Nancy said...

YAY for great friends. YOU TWO ROCKED!! I'm sure she learned her skills from Lori. Too funny. And I bet she remembered what Lori did for her and you know, pay it forward... :D

I have an idea. Dam to Dam 20k in Iowa would not be too hot. It would be a great way to extend your season. :D :D :D Besides who runs 20K? it would be an automatic PR.....

Laura N said...

Great race report. Congrats on the PR--and on a race with hills! Dang girl, that is something to be very proud of. Lisa is indeed a great friend. And, you know, I have a feeling you'd have done the same thing for her. =)

Hope you enjoy your success today!

Mendy said...

I truly wished I had what the 2 of you share. I don't have a running partner that can be there for me and vice versa during the most difficult runs/races, but you guys have that support and that is what helps the both of you accomplish your goals!

You did so AWESOME in my book. A Half is nothing to sneeze at, AND you did it with leg cramps, frustration and those crazy hills! You should be so proud of yourself and your friendships that have formed because of the sport. I enjoyed your RR and always love how you put it all out there, good and bad! Way to inspire!!!

Cheryl said...

Awesome race, Pokey! Sounds like you two make a great team. Congrats on your new PR, and on having such a great friend.

angie's pink fuzzy said...


re: crashing/cramping, not that you asked, but I'd suggest experimenting with your fueling, both before and during the race...

J~Mom said...

Good golly moses you made me cry!! I absolutely know you would have stuck by my side! Laverne and Shirley cannot be split up! You fought hard and you made it!! You deserve that PR!! Congrats!!!

Viv said...

Wonderfully done, Karen! You two are so lucky to have each other to get through those hills of running. You have a great PR now, just GREAT! It is funny I pictured you two running doing that Laverne and shirley walk one ducking down than the other. LOL! Those hills sounded so challenging, and you rocked it all the way to the finish for a sub 3 hr 1/2 :-D
Your running is going fantastic..hello 3 1/2 in 5 months WOW! Take a bow lil' lady! PS love the notes from the family too sweet!

Pat said...

congratulations. You did great. Good thing I wasn't there. It would have been a 3 hour run. We can meet up at the rec center and run all summer.

AnnaBanana said...

Congratulations and thanks for the great report - gave me giggles & teary too.

Of course, now I'm going to have "Schmeel Scamazzel" stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

Carly said...

Nice race report! You did great!

RunnerGirl said...

Great job on the race!

My Life & Running said...

Very, very sweet report! You two are an amazing team!! && personally, I love the Laverne & Shirley bit!

And I can't walk right either (neither can my running buddy). Two days later and I'm still hobbling around like a freak. Are you SURE you won't sign up for Nike with me??!! ;)

Chief Wahoo said...

Thanks for the great race report! Conrats again on the PR!

Running season over? Mine is just getting started here...the ice and snow will be gone in few weeks!

Andria said...

Wow! Way to go. Sounds like this was a great race and you rocked it (there was never any doubt that you would!) That was so great of your running buddy to stay with you. Just great.