I usually arrive to races decades before the start time, but I cut it close on Sunday.
I arrived at the Surf City half marathon overflow parking location, Edison High School, about sixty-five minutes before the gun went off, later than standard protocol, but still a healthy buffer. Nope. The lot was full, and there was an infinite line of chattering runners waiting to load the shuttle buses that were nowhere in sight. Not good. Fortunately, I found a spot to park in a cul-de-sac a block away from the school, quickly slathered on some sunscreen, hopped out of my Jeep and started walking toward the starting line that was more than a mile away. I was joined by three fellow rebel runners, but once we arrived at PCH, I took their group photo and started to jog toward the start. Time was running out.
Thankfully, this race allows for self-seeding, so with about seven minutes to spare, I found my friends and teammates Kelly, Lynne, and Lynne among the thickening crowd, and staked my claim near the front. My nerves were jumping higher than usual. I think that is because unlike a triathlon, I couldn’t hide behind a slow swim, or windy bike ride, this race was only a run; I felt exposed, but ready to go.
I used to be a basketball player. I have teased this storyline in the past, and have never felt ready to share it, but here it is. I believed for years that basketball was my true calling, and the one sport I was born to play.
I played three sports high school, cross-country, basketball, and track. However, my senior year I added to my overflowing plate student body president, college applicant, best friend and girlfriend, but something had to give. The summer before the school year started I decided not to play summer basketball. I wanted to spend every spare moment with my boyfriend; a high stakes choice, which meant I couldn’t play during the season. Predictably, my heart was shattered about a dozen days into September, but my fate was set in stone; I wasn’t allowed back on the team.
The decision to stop playing basketball has haunted me for years. I’m not saying I would have ended up in the WNBA, but I know my life would have been altered if I played that final year.
My mom remembers that decision differently.
As we were going through old photos and memories last week, she told me that she felt guilty all of these years because as a high school English teacher she didn’t want me to burn out with so much stress my senior year, (as she had seen firsthand from former students), thereby making me choose only two sports out of the three. I chose running. I ran cross country in the fall, and since I wasn’t playing basketball, I started training for track earlier to get a jump on the season which officially kicked off in the spring. What I think is interesting, is that this whole time, over two decades, my mom thought basketball was purely fun for me. She enjoyed watching me play, and thought I was good but not great, there were better players on our team, but believed what mattered most to me was running.
She was right.
I cherish the time I spent with my two best friends, Emily and Hadara, in lieu of playing basketball, and the fact is that extra time on the track paid off. I finally learned the 3-step in the 100m hurdles, and helped lead our team to a League Championship.
I think what weighed me down most about my basketball decision, was that I quit. The fact is, yes, I quit playing basketball, but instead I fed friendships that are still thriving today, and pursued my instinct in a sport that continues to inspire me to be a better human being every single day.
Speaking of running, I ran each mile at Surf City just as I planned to, which was a very satisfying surprise. I hadn’t run a stand-alone half marathon in exactly one year, (the last one was the same race a year ago), and even though I had a breakthrough run that day, (I clipped off two minutes from my previous PR), it was sloppy. The assignment from Hillary for this year’s race was to be “steady and strong”, whereas last year I blasted out of the gate quicker than usual and slowly petered out throughout the race. Therefore, I started a little slower. My stomach swirled and my legs shifted through gears trying to find their groove, but just after I gulped my first gel at mile three, it all came together.
I took the first right turn and cranked up the start of a hilly section extending my stride and pumping my arms harder than anyone around me, guys love that. A couple of them caught me at the top of the hill at mile four, but once we crested it, and were on the downward slide they took their place pattering quietly behind me.
I was picking up my pace and loving every second of it.
I ate my second gel at mile six, and settled into a few miles of luscious, yet mind-tripping straight-a-way leading up to what I looked forward most all morning, a short, but meaningful encounter with a special spectator that was cheering up ahead between miles 8 – 9, www.smashfestqueen.com co-founder and designer, Michele Landry.
The reason why I look good and feel confident during every race, and training session is because of Michele. I am always honored to wear her designs, but to have her see me wear them in person was next level amazing. Considering the circumstances, I didn’t stop for a proper visit, but it was wonderful and incredibly impactful to see and hear her cheering for me. Thank you, Michele!
The next few miles clipped by like I was in an exhaustive dream like state. I was on pace, 6:45-6:50 min. mile, felt comfortable, and simply enjoyed every single step. It was along those miles, 10 – 12, that I realized even though I always have a blast running the short half marathon distance; I am a marathon runner at my core.
In my opinion, pacing correctly is the ultimate achievement in marathon racing. I have always fallen short of pacing correctly during a race, (any distance), but I nearly hit every mile on the nose during this one, which is a big step in the right direction.
I can’t wait to take another crack at Boston.
I promised myself I could go nuts at mile twelve if I had anything left. I ran as hard as I could, but I was spent, and couldn’t quite sneak under 6:40min. mi., like I hoped. That’s okay, I crossed the line in 1:29.17, which is a new PR, and the sub 1:30 time both Hillary and I believed I could achieve. I placed 9th out of 874 women in my ridiculously competitive age group, which is pretty cool, but the part of the day that I got a kick out of most was finishing among the tiny, svelte, crop-topped, tan, skinny ladies that I assume did not ride their bicycles nearly 300 miles in three days, three weeks prior.:)
The cherry on top of the amazing race sundae was a priceless post-race debriefing and photo shoot with my teammates, Lynne, Lynne, and Kelly.
They each ran wonderful races, too, and I cannot wait to train and race with them again soon.
Stay tuned for next week's installment where I'll share all about my marvelous Monday of Uber adventuring....
Following is the very cool song, "Helium" attached to an odd, yet very Sia-esque video. I recommend giving it a listen.:)