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Where I pull a half-marathon out of nowhere & bore you with the details

by John on October 23rd, 2012

Hershey Half-Marathon MedalI haven’t been running as much as I used to. Heck, I’ve even been wondering if the name “Daddy Runs a Lot” is really applicable anymore . . . but, when push comes to shove, I still do enjoy running. And I would run a whole lot more than I do right now if I didn’t enjoy sleep as much as I do1.

But, this past weekend was the Hershey Half Marathon. Despite the fact that they allowed a significantly greater number of runners this year, I knew the event would sell out, so I signed up, thinking “I’ll get pretty serious about training sometime before the run . . . or, at the very least, I can pull a half-marathon out of my ass.” The latter held true.

This weekend, Duffy went away on a much-needed girl’s weekend – which meant it was just me & the kids. While I love time with the kids, my typical “day before the race” routine involves eating pasta and stretching before an early bedtime.

Being a “bachelor father,” I let the kids just spend the night in bed with me both Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday, Leila, my little princes, woke up at 5 . . . and, as she does whenever she wakes up, she was grumpy and demanding milk.

So I got out of bed (waking CJ) to get milk.

Each child sucked down their sippy-cup full of cow juice and found their respective arm-pit (Leila in my left, CJ in my right) before falling back to sleep. At 6, we were all cuddled and happy.

My own internal alarm clock woke me just before 7. I felt out to do a diaper check. CJ was nearing the “peed through” stage, but wasn’t quite there yet. Leila . . . well, Leila was nowhere to be found.

I panicked.

I nearly jumped out of bed, but then freaked out that, maybe, Leila had fallen out of bed and was lying helpless on the floor2, and then did the “monster check” that I remember doing as a kid, looking over the side of the bed, and then under the bed, because if I touched the floor, a monster would get me.

There was no Leila there.

I re-checked the bed, just to make sure that she wasn’t caught up in the blankets (she wasn’t).

I ran downstairs.

I heard the “dada” squeal and she ran to me, a plastic teapot in her hand. Around the coffee table sat a stuffed puppy and a doll – both with a plastic teacup in front of them. My near-heart-attack was interrupting their tea party.

Then she asked to watch Dumbo.

On Saturday, though, I started with a near heart attack (see sidebar, right) before heading over to Elizabethtown College, my alma mater, for their homecoming.

Of course, I forgot to bring the stroller with me — so I walked around, a lot, much of the time carrying two clinging toddlers to me. But we had a good time meeting up with friends & checking out my old haunts.

However, the kids’ sugar intake meant that they were in a mood to party until around 11, when I fell asleep. There was no stretching, though leftover pizza did work as a quasi-carb load.

I had set the alarm for 4 in the morning, but Leila beat the electronic buzzer with her demands for milk. I got her milk and started the battle to get her dressed. Obviously, Daddy has no idea what princesses wear, and, eventually, she decided that the outfits that I was bringing over for her to choose from were entirely unsatisfactory, so she chose her outfit herself (a very pretty, though far too large for her, dress).

Then I got myself dressed (running tights, a compression shirt, running shorts, and the jersey from the 2010 Harrisburg Marathon, if you must know).

Then I woke up CJ in the act of dressing him.

I was out of the door by 5:30.

The problem was that I was supposed to be in Hershey by 6:30, to pick up my packet, Hershey is an hour’s drive, and I still had to drop my kids off at my mom’s.

However, I made it to Hershey by 7:10 (after stopping by Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee . . . with real sugar, because I allow myself real sugar on race days), for a 7:30 race. After running around for a bit, trying to figure out just where to pick up my packet (because they changed the location to make things easier for the very late comers, but I never saw the sign as a very late comer), picking up my packet, dropping off my swag in my truck, standing on the porta-potty line, peeing, I made it to the start line just as they said “GO!”

Not waiting around for awhile, at the start, is kind of awesome.

From last year, I knew my strategy of “running like an asshole3” wouldn’t work, so I set out between the 9:00 mile & the 10:00 minute mile crowds. Simply, especially in the early going, the course was fairly narrow, and you burn a lot of energy passing pack. I knew I’d, likely, be dealing with energy issues toward the end of the run, so I didn’t want to spend any extra energy against the crowd if I didn’t have to. Besides, this event is a half-marathon & relay . . . meaning that there would be no shortage of runners passing me, with fresh legs, soon after the half-way point.

I walked my way to the start and found my stride.

They changed the course from last year — there was more time inside Hershey Park and less time in the parking lot. I applaud the change, even if it meant a hillier route. Simply, the more I can be distracted during a race, the happier I am.

I did not run a great race. While my first mile matched my pace from last year, but I started running out of steam around mile marker 7, and I felt “heavy” around mile marker 10. The thing is, I maintain that I can “run a 5k, whenever,” so once I made it to the 10 mile mark, it was just a matter of getting to the end.

Looking back over my splits (I hit the “runners high” around the third mile, and that carried me until the 10th mile, so I was only vaguely aware of the mile markers until then, though the big arch for the second-leg start for the relay teams made me acutely aware of the 6.55 mile mark), I can see that I steadily lost steam throughout the run. My best mile was my first (which, considering I was dealing with crowds, surprised me), but my differential between best & worst was 1:12, which is far better than my best full marathon, but far worse than most of my long training runs (where I can usually keep my miles within 30 seconds of one another).

Post Race RelaxationAll-in-all, it was a beautiful run. While the temperatures were cold, right at the start, I was running around too much to let the cold set in . . . and, as the day progressed, the sun came out, the breeze was just strong enough to help blow the sweat away, the humidity was well in-check.

Simply, the half marathon reminded me why I love running.

Complaints? I have none for the event organizers . . . if I had looked more closely, I would have seen where packet pickup was for people like me (the last minute pickup-ers), and that was my only stress for the whole thing. However, on the course:

  • I seek out kids on the sideline throughout any organized run . . . so, if you’re a kid, on the sideline of a race, please-please-please don’t let me hanging if I stick my hand out for a high five along the way. I’m blaming the fact that most of the runners ahead of me were concerned about their time (so I may have been the first runner through that sought-out high-gives) for the fact that, early on, few kids responded to my coming by.
  • Why, for the love of god, if you’re walking during any run, would you work your way to the left? Seriously, I think it’s more dangerous than driving slow in the fast lane. Early on, as I was working my way around a big pack of slowish-runners, I nearly plowed into two “race walkers” who were traveling at about half my speed. And I’m pretty sure they had their left turn signal on, too.
  • Only two women flashed me4.
  • They may have gone a bit much with support personnel on the course — I don’t need someone telling me which way to go when there is a swarm of runners ahead of me, all of them going the same way – though I did make someone laugh by acting all confused as a volunteer pointed to the left, underneath a bunch of signs pointing to the left, as all of the runners ran to the left)

My favorite moment came sometime near the middle of the race — a large crowd had gathered, and they were cheering furiously, so all of the runners, right there, were getting pumped up. But I let out a loud guffaw when, in the middle of a throng of cheering spectators, someone held a sign reading “Worst Parade, Ever” in bright purple lettering.

I had a great time, though I have some sore legs & feet today . . . it’s good to know that, should I need to, I can still pull a half marathon out of my ass.

1 In order to run, I need to do it either in the very early morning or after bedtime . . . and rare are the nights that I don’t actually fall asleep during bedtime for the kids, so that leaves early morning, which means waking up before 5
2 You’d think the resulting thump, and the resulting wail from such an action would wake me . . . but this is a John brain that has not yet had coffee, so logic isn’t always pertinent to the internal dialogue.
3 “running like an asshole” = hanging back at the very beginning of a race, before the start line, letting all (or nearly all) of the runners out of the gate, and then running at your own pace, freaking people out as you pass them with ease. This works well for un-crowded, chip-timed races because you can run your own pace and ignore all of the other runners on the course, as well as any of the posted timing boards – you just run based on how you’re feeling.
4 I don’t know what it is about endurance events, but for each marathon & half-marathon I’ve run, I’ve been flashed.
  1. John stop it. You keep pulling out all these runs and I still sit here like a gimp. Ok, I retract. Thank you. I will keep on with the PT and eventually run. Even if I settle for a 10k. Or 5. Whatever, beggars can’t be choosers.

    Also? Nice job on the girls’ away weekend for Duffy and handling the toddlers solo.

    And also again? I’ve never been flashed. But isn’t Hershey a family place?!

    • Hershey is a family-friendly place . . . but flashing has actually become part of the park experience (they introduced a water park, and there is a water slide that has claimed many a bikini top). The actual route is only in the park for a few miles . . . the rest of the run is through residential zones, and that’s where the flashing occurred.

      And I’ve been obscenely lucky with regard to injury . . . I’ve had my share of injuries, but few have been running-related. I thank my running style (I wear Vibrams, so I’m basically barefoot) . . . if I don’t look out for my form, continuously, I go from “ok” to “oucy” really quickly. Every step, I have feedback of how I’m doing.

  2. Duuuuuude, we so need to run a half together. Between scouting out T&A and our general asshattery, we would have the most fun two willing adults can have while sweating in our clothes, in public, while our spouses watch, without getting arrested.

    • Agreed – totally. I hope, some day, to be at a point where I can treat 26.2 like I treat 13.1 at present . . . but I’m not there. But if I have two hours free? Yeah, I can, and want, to run a half.

      And we do need to run together. Badly. If I had a bucket list, well, a three-way run with you & @juliecgardner might just be at the top of the list.

  3. I had a great weekend. Thank you. Also, you make me laugh. Lots.

  4. 1. Sleep is where it’s at. Which is in bed. Sleeping.
    2. This race better have chocolate in it, or I’m going to be rather disappointed.
    3. You went to a college named Elizabethtown?? Is this your way of confessing a deep, creepy love of Kirsten Dunst?
    4. Good job not pushing your children off the bed. It’s the little victories.
    5. You should have tried fist pounding. Everyone loves fist pounding.
    6. Wait, what? My perception of runs is now forever altered. And slightly boob-ier.
    7. WHY DO I not take mocking signs along and cheer for marathons? Clearly I’ve made bad life choices.
    8. THERE WAS NO CHOCOLATE. Total rip-off.

    • There was chocolate provided during the race . . . there was chocolate before, and during, and after the race.

      But I’m an oddball, and I hate chocolate, so I avoided it. I swear, I actually started avoiding the break areas, because they kept on trying to force me to each chocolate, and that would have just made me vomit.

      As far as fist-pounding . . . I find that when six-foot-something, 250+ pound guys with shaved heads run up to you with their fist out . . . well, a fist-bump isn’t really what people think of.

      I did go to Elizabethtown College, and I have a major-league crush on Kirsten Dunst. No, I do not believe these are coincidental.

      I like to think that it’s me, and not the rush of exposing one-self to a throng of highly-trained athletes, that leads to the boobage.

  5. Glad you did it. Our marathon and half were last weekend too. I did not run, as I’m still working on running farther than 2.33 miles. This week? 2.35 here I come!

    • I remember working my way to 5k, thinking that I’d be insane to ever think about doing more . . . never mind tying 9 of them together for a marathon.

      But, well, I think my insanity has no bounds.

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