October 18, 2015 | Nike Women’s Half Marathon – San Francisco 2015
I had run this course before, at last year’s NWHM. I had paced myself considerably and I remember having energy to sprint to the finish line. Then again, I had also actually trained for the race.
With NRC duties and other fitness goals in mind since last year (not to mention job priorities), I made the decision to put properly training for this race on the back burner. In retrospect this, I feel, was ironically a good decision. I had injured myself pacing a run merely less than two weeks before the race, and I’m half-convinced that my weight-training and cross-training was the main reason the injury was not as bad as it could have been. That said, with the lack of proper training and an injury to boot, it was probably a miracle I even finished.
I had spent the few days before running and walking around the city. That, coupled with more than a lack of sleep, probably didn’t help my legs.
I obviously make really great pre-race decisions.
Race day came along and I was up at 4:30 A.M., doing final preparation for the race. I double wrapped both ankles, first with KT Tape and then with an athletic wrap. I didn’t get much range of motion from my ankles because of the wrappings, but I was more concerned with having extra precautions to avoid re-spraining either ankle. Because I am a klutz.
I was a little late to the start line. When I reached the race’s start point, I had no time to warm up and very little time to stretch. I had even, pardon the private information, skipped my immediate pre-race ritual of using the restroom so I could make my wave. Mind you, all of this is not really meant to complain; in competition and races, every moment leading up to and including the race is important. That does sound a bit extreme, but a competitor has his/her rituals. Peeing before I run 13.1 miles is one of mine.
The first three miles were decent, given my expectations. I could feel my legs already getting heavy halfway through Mile Two, and my stride was suffering. By Mile Five, I was behind my normal pace and I felt people passing me by the masses. I was getting a little antsy. I wanted to gun it. I wanted to speed up.
No. You have to stay on the slower side. You’re not even halfway through the distance.
Having to let myself slow down made the miles seem longer. I am an impatient person, so each slow step could have been compared to, say, swatting at a persistent fly.
When I reached Mile Eight, I could feel my feet swelling against their wrappings. (It was extremely uncomfortable but thankfully not nearly as uncomfortable as it was when I kept jamming my toe back in Toronto.) I started to feel nauseous. My legs were starting to get mad at me. It started to feel like the race that would never end! As my legs started to lag, I could hear the voice in my head start to grumble.
Don’t you dare stop! There are people watching!
With my ego motivating my legs to keep running, I trotted along. The nasty, queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach continued to bobble around with each stride. My heart started to beat faster and faster. Finally, I reached the Dreaded Mile Ten Hill.
For those of you who are not familiar with the course, the hill at Mile Ten is basically every hill you would have expected to have run across during the earlier part of the course (because when you think San Francisco, you immediately think of hills) merged into one big hill that stretches along at least half a mile. NRC pacers and coaches from the San Francisco community were staggered throughout the hill, cheering and running alongside some of the runners. I remembered this hill from last year. I remembered how I had sprinted through the first half of it, only to be taken by surprise by the second half. My eyes were locked on it as I continued running. I took a deep breath as I took the first step up the hill.
Not today, Motherf*****!!!
I forgot about my injury. I forgot about my feet. My heart was pounding furiously with the speed of a jackhammer and the force of a giant metronome. I continued to silently gasp for air as I continued to run up the hill (although I’m fairly sure it was really more like flailing in a semi-running manner, much like how a fish behaves out of water). I glanced from side to side as I continued to run. The cheers started to fade as the voice in my head screeched an unintelligible battle cry louder and louder. I was told I looked determined and composed but my inner monologue was just one giant hybrid of King Kong and the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.
I reached the three-quarter mark of the hill. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a familiar face running down the hill toward me.
She looked up, and it was almost like a third wind hit me. She ran to my side and started to run with me. My legs moved faster and faster.
Where the heck was this speed and energy for the last nine miles?!
“Here we go! Here we go!” Sally chanted as we ran up the last section of the hill. Perhaps it was the fact that I had realized I had ran completely up the hill. Or maybe it was the fact that I was being paced by one of my favorite runners ever. Probably both. Most likely both. I suddenly had a burst of energy that catapulted me through the hilltop.
“Get after it, Liffany! You got it! Go!!!”
“THANKS, SALLYYYYYYY!” I cried as she doubled back down the hill. I continued to throw my legs, one in front of the other. It was all downhill now. Literally. I threw caution to the wind as I barreled through, knowing that the end was near. The hill stopped. It was flat ground now.
Mile 12 arrived quickly. And it was then that I felt myself hitting the wall. My legs refused to speed up, my breathing began to quicken. I struggled to keep my pace. Suddenly, I didn’t just feel queasy. I felt as if my stomach had fallen out and I had left it somewhere at the top of the hill at Mile Eleven. My feet were screaming again. But I didn’t dare stop. I had just seen the clock. If I can just hold this pace…
I wasn’t sure what was louder: my heartbeat or my feet hitting the pavement. I calmed my breathing as the thought just echoed in my head: Just hold this pace. Just hold this pace. For the love of all things chocolate, all you have to do is hold this pace!!
I checked my watch. So far, so good. I checked it again. Keep moving.
Just less than a mile left.
My legs kept going. I looked up from my watch and saw, several feet in front of me, a woman fall to her knees. Another woman ran to her. I got closer and closer, watching the woman try to help the fallen one up. She was unable to stand. I prepared myself to help as I started to run towards them, as the woman was now dragging the other woman to the side of the course. Suddenly a volunteer had arrived, medic in tow. I marked it off and ran past, glancing upon the scene. Her legs had given out.
As I realized what had happened, I felt my own legs starting to tighten, almost as if out of solidarity.
Oh for the love of — FINISH, WOMAN, FINISH!
Quarter of a mile left. I looked at my watch and looked up. I could see the finish line. My legs were stubbornly not speeding up. I swung my arms. I kicked off the ground. I opened my stride. Move, legs, move!!
I could feel my lungs crying. My legs sped up only slightly.
WOMAN, YOU CAN SQUAT MORE THAN 200 POUNDS. YOU ARE CAPABLE OF GOING FASTER. SPEED UP, DANG IT!
The last two-tenths of the half were indefinitely worse than the Mile Ten hill. I pushed with every last bit of energy I had, with every last bit of breath I had. I had never hit a wall this bad before! I couldn’t run with grace — nothing about this last bit was pretty. Just do it. Just run harder than you have during the entire distance. Run. Sprint. FLY.
FIGHT FOR IT!!!
I crossed the finish line. My hands went straight for my knees as I bent over in exhaustion, waiting for my lungs and my legs to reset. I looked back at the clock.
I just PR’ed.
A friend of mind working at the finish line production booth ran over to me and gave me a congratulatory hug.
I caught my breath.
That run was stupid. But it was guts. It was all guts.
- KT Tape Pro
- Athletic Tape Wraps
- Nike Elite Compression Running Socks
- Nike Zoom Elite 8
- Nike Dri-Fit Miler Tank
- Nike Rival Shorts
- Lululemon Energy Bra
- Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS Watch
- Secret Deodorant (for anti-chafing purposes!!)
- Banana (1) before race*
- Nuun + Water
- Sally/Yellowrunner at Mile 10!!
*I normally run/workout on an empty stomach.
- Having an injury obviously was not ideal. Choosing to pace myself to avoid further injury was a good move for the long run; it should definitely be noted that the desire to at least hit my previous time and forcing myself to start much slower may have resulted in a much less enjoyable and extremely stressful second half.
- Stress the importance of needing to have time to properly warm up and stretch before the race. The lack of total urgency to the start line led to a serious rush before the gun went off. My legs definitely suffered right out of the gate because of a lack of immediate pre-race preparation.
- I made the mistake of leaving my lacrosse ball at my base in LA, so I didn’t have means of properly rolling out my hips, glutes, and legs. This alone was a pretty big disservice to my race status.
- The Lululemon bra that I wore wound up feeling very heavy towards the middle of the race. I have never used this bra for running prior to this (only for a few weight training sessions) so I think I will go back to using my Nike sports bras, which have proven to be lighter and a little more forgiving in terms of mobility.
- Awesome Parts of the Race
- Sally. Duh. That woman is a contagious energy of positivity and sunshine.
- The hills. Ironically, it was the flat terrain that almost took me down.
- The signs people held up as they cheered on the course. (“Hurry up. I want to go to brunch!” Haha!)
- The people at the cheer stations.
- Seeing Erik V. at Mile Nine.
- Watching a man propose to his girlfriend at the finish line.
Run Strong and Finish Strong!
– Liffy C