Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Road to Becoming a Half Fanatic

A few months ago, my lovely bride asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I'm not one who wants for much. I mean, I have a loving family, a roof over my head, food on my table and am healthy enough to run. What more does a guy need?

Yet, there was one thing I wanted. Money for membership in Half Fanatics!

My Bride: "Half Fanatics? What's that?"

Me: "It's a running club for people who half marathons and run so many during a certain about of time. With the three I'll be running in seven weeks, I'll qualify."

My Bride: "I think you're fanatical already."

My bride is wonderfully supportive of my running, but I know she thinks I'm nuts when I start rambling about running and all the races and distances I want to run. But she still loves me anyway. :)

Ever since I learned of the existence of the Half Fanatics, I longed to become one. I NEEDED to be one.
Only problem I had trying to find time to get the races in.

Working in sports information is a wonderful job. Love it. Work never seems like work. However, from August through May, work is nearly non-stop and time off is rarely an option. It gets to be a bit frustrating to try to find a race on a rare weekend 'off' for me.

This past fall, I got pretty lucky finding a couple of races on weekends I did not have any events to work. Yet, the Iron Horse Half and Secret City Half were four weeks apart, and those alone would not qualify me to be a Half Fanatic. Then, I learned of the Santa Hustle Smokies Half. It was three weeks after the Secret City to give me three half marathons in seven weeks, which easily qualified me.

Now, all I had to do was finish the races.

Simple right? Yeah, not so much.

I thought the obstacles I faced leading up to my first half marathon of this trifecta were something, well as the old saying goes, I hadn't seen anything yet.

For the Iron Horse, I had the goal of setting a PR ... and then some. I wanted to post a sub-2:15 time which was only 16-plus better than my PR. And when work and life interrupted my training a month prior to race day, I was about to panic. Nothing like traveling to throw a kink into a perfectly good training plan. I was sure I'd lose ground and not come close to my goal.

Boy, was I wrong. 

I blew past my goal time and posted a time of 2:09:42! Nearly 22 better of my my previous PR!

Yet, that little hiccup was nothing compared to what I faced leading up to the next two races.

Heading up to the Secret City I had more work and travel to pop up but for a longer period of time. The first of November is a crazy time of year for those of us in sports information. It's what we lovingly call "crossover" season. The time when one sports season overlaps with another. Always great fun.

I spent one six-day stretch away from home working 15-plus hour days and getting very little sleep. Consequently, getting in my training runs were not easy. Being so tired, I didn't feel like getting up to run.

But nothing was going to get me down about running the Secret City. Both my kids were running the kids half marathon, and I was stoked about competing as a family.

However, I did not go into the Secret City with a clear purpose in mind. Should I go for another PR or should I just run and have fun? This battle raged for the entire 13.1 miles, causing me to labor and struggle. I crossed the line in 2:11:14, a very satisfying time. Just a tick of a 10-minute per mile pace.

Because of my indecision, I came away with a sore hamstring. All this pushing and pulling back put a strain on my hamstring.

"Great," I thought. "One race to go to become a Half Fanatic, and I'm coming up lame. This can't be."

I took it easy on my running during the three weeks in between the Secret City and Santa Hustle Smokies and stretched even more. I didn't want to push so hard to aggravate the injury. I wanted to finished this race. I needed to finish this race. I HAD TO FINISH THIS RACE.

Being a Half Fanatic was my goal. It was in reach. I just had to finish this race.

So, with all this in mind, I set out to enjoy the Santa Hustle Smokies Half. 

And that is what I did.

Through the first half of the race, I was on my way for a PR as my pace was four seconds better than it was at the Iron Horse. But as the race wore on, my legs grew more and more tired. And while I felt like I could kick and maintain a faster pace to shoot for a PR, thoughts of hurting my hamstring crept in. While this is my last race for a while, I am gearing up to train for my first full marathon. Last thing I wanted to do was put myself behind the 8-ball as I gear for my first 26.2 jaunt.

Better to sacrifice a PR today to be able to race another day. Sometimes you need to take a step back in order to keep moving forward.

Foolishly, I thought running three half marathons in seven weeks would not be that tough. Long runs are a regularly part of my routine, so running 13.1 miles three times in seven weeks time shouldn't be that hard, I thought.

It was a little harder than I thought, but I did it. I finished the race. Excuse me, I finished the races!

This was a great learning experience. Learned a lot about myself as a person and as a runner.

Eventually, I'd like to improve my status/level as a Half Fanatic. But for now, I'm going to bask in the glow of his accomplishment.

Happy running!