It’s been a while since I’ve gotten that nervous before a race.
I registered for Albuquerque’s Day of the Tread Half-Marathon a couple months ago. I trained for it, told people about it, picked up my race packet two days before the event, and proceeded to have not cute, fluttery butterflies, but galloping moths in my stomach. I watched two of my favorite inspirational movies, Secretariat and Hoosiers, which served their purpose brilliantly, but also kept my adrenaline levels up and dancing. Ack.
Pre-race jitters or no, race morning arrived. I got up early enough to put some grub in my belly (those galloping moths weren’t fully awake yet, thank goodness) and headed to the hotel where I would catch a shuttle bus out to the starting line. The air felt perfectly chilly and still – Mother Nature wasn’t going to provide any excuses today.
With the race so close to Halloween, its organizers encourage participants to sport costumes. I had considered the idea, but the galloping moths devoured any creativity that may have been floating around. Orange nail polish and a temporary tattoo of the race logo are festive enough, right?
The race got underway with an airhorn and the launch of a hot air balloon (hey, this is Albuquerque!). The first few miles lay flat, and I felt optimistic about my sub-90-minute goal. However, before long, I found myself in the less-than-ideal position of running all alone. Such is the price of a “young” race with a fairly modest turn-out. Oh well. Nothing like a good exercise in mental focus!
Somewhere around the sixth mile, the course headed directly into what appeared to be the Grand Canyon. I’m pretty certain I saw hawks and vultures circling overhead, looking hungry. But I avoided the scavengers, and had a thought – I like my races with a little hilliness. I think pancake-flat courses lull my legs into complacency. Maybe that explains why I ran my slowest marathon in Chicago? Hmmm.
Another hitch in young races arises with course markings. When I race, I like to just launch myself and direct all mental and physical energy towards moving forward. I do not enjoy pondering directional questions. Unfortunately, that happened several times during this race, but I’ve begun to accept that really, when that happens, all you can do is laugh. For example, at one point I asked a volunteer which way to turn. Now late in a race (or immediately after one), something – exertion, or all bloodflow going to my legs; who knows? – makes my mouth forget how to function and slurs my speech. The volunteer probably thought I was either a) drunk at the glamorous hour of 9 a.m., or b) not speaking any language resembling English. Poor guy!
Oh well. Nothing to do but run on … and I clocked 1:29:44, my fastest time in over eight years!! A PR eluded me – by just 10 seconds, *$#@! But I was satisfied. It felt really, really good to dip below that 90-minute limbo stick again.
Milling around the finish area, I sipped chocolate milk, people-watched (no handsome, eligible-looking runners or cyclists to be seen; yes, I keep an eye out), and admired other athletes’ Halloween costumes. And I began thinking about the next race to register for and get nervous about.