Hi Friends! It's Sprenkel here. This past weekend, Michelle and I took a zippy trip to New Mexico together to run in the Duke City Half Marathon. I'm slowly working my way through a race in each state (with the hopes that'll help keep me in half marathon shape for an extended period of time), and through a series of online voting, ticket scouring and registration fee comparisons, I landed on this one for the fall.
I don't remember exactly when Michelle got roped into it with me. We'd started running together before her gentle yoga classes on Thursdays and I must've mentioned it to her or begged her to keep me company a few times on those miles. I didn't know Michelle much outside of her being an excellent instructor for us, and a kind person. Well, in case any of you ever have to travel with her, she's also excellent at that. She arrives to your meeting spot for the trip well in advance of the planned time because she's so excited about the race (while you're still struggling the morning of to shower and get everything, for a one day trip, packed in one suitcase), she packs plenty of snacks and is willing to share, she remembers phone chargers and is full of knowledge about secret birthday languages (ask her about this sometime).
Once we arrived in ABQ, our first task was to hit the expo to get our race bibs and shirts. I made sure to book us a hotel right at the start line since we weren't renting a car on this trip. Despite this effort, we still managed to arrive late to the race (keep reading). But the expo was about 12 miles south of town at a casino. So we took an Uber and took full advantage of those two trips to get insider info on the best places for pasta and pizza in town. We arrived late-ish to the expo, still well within the hours of operation but later in their day. Most of the vendors had left and they were out of Michelle's shirt size (always crazy to me when this happens. If we order a specific size, you should have enough of that size, no matter what time we get there!).
We got our bibs, got some snack foods, got a free massage, Michelle won a hat and then all that was left to do was eat. While we waited around for our next Uber ride, we took full advantage of the free time to work on some yoga poses with the desert background. You can't put two yogis together and not expect some spontaneous warriors, dancers or triangles to come out. We just can't help it.
Yelp helped us find a place close by that would have pasta and salad. I was craving spaghetti, which is straying from my usual pre-race meal of pizza but I'd eaten some leftovers earlier in the week and couldn't stop thinking about it. Michelle was so patient as I turned down place after place saying "but there's no pasta". We finally settled on Farina which had both pizza and pasta. After about a mile long walk to the restaurant we were seated at a tiny two top right by the server station. It was crowded and busy tucked up in there with the water pitchers and the waiters but at least we didn't have to wait for food.
I ordered the spaghetti and meatballs - Holy Cow y'all. For all my fit campers and nutrition clients, I brought out the whole tool box of tricks to help me notice I was full. I alternated hands. I set my fork down in between bites. I used my left hand. I KNEW I was more than 80% full. But it was so damn delicious. I couldn't stop eating it. Just one more twirl of the noodles, one more scoop of sauce. Finally, as Michelle finishes her soup and salad, and we start to talk race strategy, I snapped out of it. Oh yea, I need to feel good enough to run 13.1 miles in the morning, I better stop eating." But I'm tellin' y'all, had there not been a race the following morning, and despite my best efforts, I would have eaten it all.
We woke up and it took quite an effort to roll us out of the soft, white cloud of a bed we both slept in. I downed some water after remembering we had some wine last night (not unusual pre-race, helps vasodilate). We put on enough clothes to make us presentable for a trek down to the Starbucks in the lobby. By the time we returned back upstairs with our coffees, we were much more awake. Then the usual race morning worries started to set in: what should I wear, where is my food, will it be enough, (and most importantly) will I be able to go to the bathroom before we head down to the start. This whole routine took us longer than normal. We'd been training in Tulsa in 80+ temperatures and our phones were reading 50s for that morning. Do we wear tights or shorts? I knew for sure I would wear a tank on top, but couldn't decide on the bottoms. Ultimately I went with tights and Michelle picked shorts. I would have been comfortable temperature wise in shorts but I might have caught them on fire with the friction from my thighs (no thigh gap here).
We had about five minutes to start time and I ran through the checklist one more time:
- iPhone (charged and playlist ready)
- Greased up the right spots (they make this lube that looks like a deodorant stick and you rub it everywhere anything rubs together on you - under the arms, around the bra and if you're in shorts, on those thighs)
- More water
- Bathroom.......well let's just try one more time.
We were late to the start because of that last bathroom attempt. We snapped a quick selfie and Michelle was off. I wasn't sure yet what I really wanted to try to do. At dinner, we discussed our strategies - Michelle was going for a PR so I knew she'd leave me at the start (I always recommend having this discussion with your running partners ahead of time so you're not sad when they leave you behind OR feel obligated to slow down to stay with them). I wanted Michelle to go for it and I didn't want to try to keep up with her because that would have resulted in major tears and pain.
My goal was to get in or around the low 2 hours. My training had been a little off for distance running and this race was kind of a last minute trip. All year I've been focusing on the 5k distance and only once had run 7 miles since April. I was not expecting much, and just hoping to finish feeling strong.
Holy moly I could not have been more surprised. A couple miles in I glanced at my watch and my mile pace was awesome and definitely I didn't feel like I was putting out the effort required at that pace. I was even more surprised when I fairly easily maintained that pace for mile after mile. The crisp air felt awesome, the sky was crisp and clear and runners were around all the time. It was an out and back course and I got even more energized when the front runners started to come back against us. I found Michelle and yelled at her but she was so in the zone she didn't see me. Hot air balloons were rising up over the mountains and I was in total runner heaven. I'll tell ya, it's not very often that races feel so good and I was soaking up every second of it.
The last mile or two is ALWAYS so tough but I kept pushing and crossed the line in 1:51 and change. I almost lost all that coffee I'd had before the run but I managed to hold it in (thank goodness for the guy handing me my medal). You stiffen up real quickly as soon as the movement stops and I gimped around looking for Michelle. The race wasn't huge so I found her within a few minutes and she told me she missed her PR by 30 seconds. This sucks y'all. All at once you want to celebrate because you ran a killer time, but then you were just a few pacing strategies off your best.
Let me tell you though, she has it in her. If we had been on time to the race start and not at the very back of the pack, she wouldn't have had to jump around all those people for over a mile. I know she would have nailed it. But that's the thing about racing too, we weren't on time and so she missed it. Unfortunately, official results don't have asterisks next to them saying "she could have had it but tried one more time to use the bathroom and missed the start". But Michelle if you're reading this (and all of her students), you ran a great race and can nail that PR anytime you feel like trying again. We're proud of you!
Man, I wanted to include all the reasons I think I ran so strong despite not doing traditional half marathon training in this post but I think it's long enough! You'll have to watch out for that in another post!
all my best y'all,