If you read my last post, you know that I had not yet caught Winter Olympic Fever and I was unmotivated for this weekend's A-1a Half Marathon in my home town of Fort Lauderdale. While it is a hometown run with a lot of my friends running, I just didn't get psyched up for this event. The Expo is not the most exciting. I met up with a few friends at the Expo on Friday night. There just wasn't that much I was looking for and I was in and out in about 10 minutes.
The next day, my wife Salome starts coming down with a cold and a slight fever. She heads to bed most of the day in the hopes of recovering enough to run Sunday morning. I stay up later than I should having finally caught Olympic fever the last few days. This combined with the lack focused training for this half, keep me up to about 11 PM instead of the early bedtime I knew I should get for the race.
Race morning, Salome informs me that she had a fitful pre-race sleep, so she is going to run this event in spite of her cold. You can't argue with a determined Greek. So we get ready, get our ride to the start and get lined up. I line up with the 1:40 half marathon pace group, but figure this is overly optimistic given my training and my 1:39 Half PR was set a few years back. I meet up with several running buddies. In the first half mile, I come up on buddy John, who ran 7 miles before the race in order to make his run a 20 miler in preparation for his Antarctic Marathon trip next month. When John first told me he was signed up for this event, I simply wished him luck. While I enjoy a cool weather run, Antarctica seems a bit too cold for me.
I stick with the 1:40 group for the first 5K, then let fall back to a bit of a more reasonable pace. The weather was in the low 60s, but my lack of focus will not permit me to race above my fitness level. However, by focusing in on my form, I'm able to keep at just below an 8 minute mile pace. At about mile 8, I see the race leaders on the return portion of an out and back loop. After about 6 guys, I see my friend Jen Jones of the "Yeah, I Run Like A Girl" blog. I met Jen about 3 and a half years back at a 30K fall training run. At the time, Jen and I were about similar runners. However, Jen kept training hard, got an e-coach (none other than the great marathoner Dick Beardsley) and kept getting better and better. Last year at A-1a she was 2nd in the 30-34 age group and 11th woman overall.
Normally, I shout out "1st Woman," "2nd Woman," etc to the first few woman runners to let them know where they are and give them encouragement. With Jen, I did a double take. I hadn't seen any other women. Had I missed someone? Not wanting to misinform her, I simply shouted out "Jen" to let her know I saw her. A little bit on, I note other speedy women runners. Could Jen be leading the women's race?
I try to keep my pace, and by focusing on my leg turnover, I'm able to run a little above my conditioning. I finish in what I consider a respectable 1:43. Not bad for a race I just couldn't get excited about. I find Jen at the finish sitting by herself. Her husband Matt usually is around as her personal photographer riding his bike along the course. We should all have a personal photographer like Matt. The guy takes great pictures and has expanded to taking HD videoclips of Jen as she runs. But here is Jen sitting by herself. As I approach her, I ask, "Jen, Did you win the women's race?" "Um, yes," she replies rather non-chalantly. "What," I say excitedly, "Aren't you excited?" It turns out Jen doesn't go nuts on the immediate occurrence of such an event, but enters a blissful glowing state that lasts her all week. I get excited for her, giving her a hug, high fiving her, and explaining my surprise on seeing her first woman on the course. In winning the event, she knocked the heck out of her PR, running her first sub 1:30 in a time of 1:27. Matt soon returns to show some of his pictures.
Wife Salome had a bit of a struggle on the course, but finishes looking good. Well, she always looks good to me. I meet her at the finish area and tell her about Jen. We get Matt to take the above picture of the three of us. I remind Jen that I predicted that with all of her hard work, she would soon brake the sub 1:30 half mark and the 3:00 marathon mark. That's one out of two. I look forward to seeing Jen's continued improvement and success. All in all, a great day for everyone in a race I couldn't get excited about. What a difference a day makes in one's outlook. Some days, you just have to go out there and race.
OK, I'm just watching the Ski Cross Competition. 4 guys skiing at brake-neck speed, racing over a course of jumps. That looks like serious fun. OK, I'm now officially hooked on these Winter games.