My good omens and positive premonitions for Saturday's Fontana Days Half Marathon began sometime Friday.
Blog buddy Jim left me a bit of gold here on this blog when he commented: "Brotha you're a marathoner!" I had been, of course, doubting myself and was not feeling as confident as I had before other races, but Jim's comment, like the other comments I received, helped settle my nerves. I took that comment, stowed it away, and went on with my day.
Friday night, I finished work in record time and was home by 12:20. I glanced at the clock at 12:45 but the next thing I knew, some music stirred me awake.
Oh crap, is it 5:15 already?
For a second, I wanted to roll over and get back into that glorious warm cocoon I'd carved out for myself but I popped out of bed in half marathon mode, happy that I'd gotten more than four hours of sleep after all.
I threw on the clothes I'd carefully set out for myself, got my GU, fuel belt, phone and everything together. Mrs. LB joined me, although she was less than chipper at that hour of the morning. The girls had stayed the night with their grandparents so it was just the two of us.
After a brief trip to Starbucks for Mrs. LB, we found the start area, parked and I got out, leaving Mrs. LB to drink her coffee and eat her bagel. I got in line for the buses as all runners would be bused to the start line. The ride was not necessarily something I enjoyed. All things being equal, I would rather not drive along the very course I'd have to turn around and run.
This is a loooong way up.
The elevation changed somewhat as we were now more than 3,000 feet above sea level, not necessarily a drastic change but it did present one noticeable change.
Wow. It's very cold.
I'd worn a sleeveless shirt and my barren arms felt like popsicle sticks. No matter. After a light five-minute warm-up jog, I was in good spirits, good shape. I also saw a familiar face. Blog buddy Lisa of Discovering the Meaning of Stonehenge was there and we chatted for a couple of minutes. I was excited to have seen her there and hoped some of her speedy vibes had rubbed off on me.
Finally, I was at the start line, with someone saying some inaudible words into a bullhorn. Before I knew, I was off.
My warm-up had helped get my heart rate going and had started to pump blood into my legs. The course was, of course, billed as all downhill, and right away I felt it. The street knifed its way through cabins, trees and rocky foothills in a downward motion.
Before I knew it, I had one mile under my belt, racing downhill in 8:05. When my running app notified me that I'd done two miles in under 16 minutes (15:55), I couldn't believe it. Three miles in, I was at 23:52, which wouldn't have been a bad 5K time.
You might be able to do this after all.
I felt good, didn't feel heavy legs like I've felt all too often recently. I knew this pace was fast for me but I didn't feel as if I couldn't maintain it. I had gravity on my side, and I wasn't going to turn my back on it.
But it wasn't just the steady and friendly downhill that lifted my spirits.
Brotha, you're a marathoner!
The next few miles markers came way before I'd expected them to and when I finished six miles in 49:06, I felt like a PR was close. I knew without a doubt then that I would be able to finish the race strong, that I would definitely finish in under two hours and that I would give my PR of 1:55:03 a run for its money. I knew it, I felt it. There was no "maybe" or "if things go well" or none of that. No quantifiers necessary.
I am a marathoner.
As I was preparing myself for miles 7-10, I took more notice of the runner in front of me. Tall and lean, probably in his mid-40s, he was running close to the shoulder. Next to him was a lanky girl who despite arms that swung a bit erratically seemed quite in control. They'd been running in front of me for a mile or so, but now I watched more closely. The older runner, who I assumed was the young girl's father, was a few feet in front. He held his left arm out and opened his hand. She sped up slightly, held his hand and the two ran side by side, hand in hand.
Oh Yvie, I love you.
I wanted my Yvie there with me, at that moment. Wanted to give her a big hug. Since the girl in front of me had glasses, Yvie popped in my head.My Yvie has glasses and I'd love to hold her hand during a race someday. Now, I've shed tears during runs and races but this was the first time tears welled in my eyes during a half marathon.
Daddy's gonna make you proud.
With more motivation under me, I sped past the father-daughter team and sped up to Mile 7. Mile 8 came and went, Mile 9 was a blur. After the 10th mile marker, I was at 1:22:35. I knew I could PR. I allowed myself to dream about a PR. There was no failure today, no letdown, no near-miss. There was just one thing to do.
Go get your PR.
I'd felt strong up to this point so I asked more of my body, more of my legs. They churned and churned and when I asked more from them, they churned more. I felt like I had energy. I felt strong. I started to do some math. Worst-case scenario, I'd hit the wall and run three 10-minute miles. That would be good enough for a PR.
But I didn't want to back into it. I didn't want to feel as if the only reason I PR'd was because the course was downhill. I wanted to put a stamp on this race and finish strong.
Mile 11 was my slowest mile (I didn't know that until well after the race) but I really got my legs under me in the penultimate mile. Mile 12 - 8:17. I wanted that PR. With 1:39:28 gone and one mile and change left, I knew that I would PR and I even toyed with the idea of getting my sub-1:50. Barring a complete collapse, that was possible.
I started to pick off runners. I put my crosshairs on one runner and passed her. I targeted another and passed another. I did not want anybody to pass me either. I was finishing strong and wanted to keep it that way. Two women came up out of nowhere and tried to pass me. I surged ahead.
I ain't gonna get chicked, sorry ladies.
The finish line was close. So close. Two more blocks to go and I felt great. I scanned the crowd and saw Mrs. LB, shouting "Go Luis!!!" as I ran close. I raised my arms, smiled broadly and said "I'm gonna get my PR!!!"
As if on cue, my legs shot me forward. I wasn't just running at a good pace now. I was sprinting. I demanded everything from my body and my legs responded. I felt in control. I felt strong.
I saw the clock as I approached the finish line.
1:48:52 (my official tag time would be 1:48:34)
Wow! You got it!
As I crossed the finish line, I smiled in disbelief. I was in awe, not quite coming to grips with what had happened. I wasn't confident in myself, wasn't feeling it in the weeks leading up to the race and yet here I was with a new PR. I'd shattered the old one by more than six minutes. I'd gotten what I thought was not yet possible, a half marathon in under 1:50.
There is one possible explanation to this all.
Brother, I am a marathoner.