One thing that I got to practice this morning -- and I really need to practice it -- is my patience, waiting for the race to start. Normally, I get up, get dressed, get out the door, and start running. If I wake up before the alarm, I start running earlier. Not today.
I did wake up before the alarm. I got up, ate breakfast (I never eat breakfast before running), got dressed, checked my e-mail (Nothin'!), did a few clues in my current crossword, read some more of my current book (Ultra Marathon Man, by Dean Karnazes), and paced up and down the driveway a couple of dozen times before my friend Mark pulled up in his little old Honda to give me a ride. The drive to Dubuque is about a half hour, and Mark and his friend Don and I chatted about running and politics and the hurricane and whatnot. We got there, picked up our race packets, and I still had time to do a full yoga routine to get stretched out.
The race had a DJ playing predictable oldies -- Born to Run, Eye of the Tiger, etc. He'd come on every once in a while to tell us the time to start: 20 minutes, then 15 minutes, the 9 minutes, then... I never heard another announcement. I drifted over to the start, and other people started to drift over. I chatted with a guy wearing a Green Bay Half Marathon t-shirt, and then "Bang!" the gun went off. If they said anything like "Ready, Set,..." they said it way too quietly for me to hear back where I was.
The DBC has a half marathon and a 5K, that run together for almost the full length of the 5K. So I was surrounded by people planning to run a much shorter race than I was. So, of course, I went out too fast. My first mile was 8:30. Make that "way too fast."
I reigned myself in, and did manage to slow down some. My second mile was more like 9:10, and my third was about 9:30. At that point, the 5K runners veered off, and we 13 milers ran on alone.
It seemed like the fourth mile took forever. I had just about convinced myself that I had missed the mile marker, when there it was. Another 9:30. Still faster than I wanted to run, but at least in the right range. Somewhere in the fifth mile, at ate my first Cliff Shot Energy Gel. I was feeling OK.
The first six miles of the DBC half marathon are down along the river, and are pretty flat. Sometime around mile seven, the course gets cruel. It starts with a gentle but long uphill, just enough to knock off some momentum. Then we run into Eagle Point Park, and right up the side of a hill. Ouch! Several people around me started walking, but I plugged away, and passed them, and even some other runners who had slowed down more than I. Needless to say, the seventh mile was my first one that took over 10 minutes.
At this point, I started to lose my mental focus. The eighth mile leveled out at the top of the park, but I'm not really sure what my time was. The ninth mile stayed level, and it seems to me that I ran it in about 9:30 again, but that may have been bad math on my part. The 10th mile gives back the elevation you earned in the seventh mile, but again I lost track of the time. Mile 10 was the last time I looked at my watch. I was deep into survival mode.
About mile 10 was the first time I realized that I didn't have to hold myself back. I was now running slowly without any particular effort to do so. The eleventh mile took hours, days, possibly weeks. We'd had water around mile nine, and I was getting thirsty again. I realized that I still had a Cliff Shot, and I sucked it down. It was probably too late to do any good. By the time the glucose really hit my system, I was already done. But the psychological boost was worth it.
Cliff Shots are one of the gooiest energy gels in the world, so now I really needed water. But fortunately, another water station came up right about mile eleven. I grabbed two cups, and slowed to a walk for the first and only time in the race. I probably walked 150 or 200 yards total, just enough to down both the waters and to get a little rest. Two guys in red shirts ahead of me also stopped, and I started running when they did.
The last two miles were all mental toughness. The early overcast was gone, and the shade was pretty spotty, so I was heating up badly. It probably wasn't all that warm, objectively, but 12 miles into the race, my body was a little furnace.
Right after mile 12, I passed a guy who was clearly into his survival shuffle. He said something about having run 12 miles, anyway. I was too tired to make a joke, and he probably wouldn't have appreciated it if I had. I just nodded and kept running.
The last mile is straight down Kerper Boulevard, then at the end there's a right turn, and the lovely sight of the finishing gates. I came in about 2:07. I fumbled with my watch, and didn't get it stopped, and I never saw the official results. They will post them on their web site eventually, and I'll know my official finishing time. But I do know that at 10 miles, I was at 1:37, so I ran the last 3.1 miles in about 30 minutes. I don't think that I dropped below my 10 minute pace except on the nasty hill.
Overall, I'm pleased with my performance. At the Des Moines Marathon, I plan to start with a pace group, which should keep me from going out too fast. I definitely do not want to run the first mile in 8:30.
After the race, Mrs. Jogger and all the little Joggers showed up, and we had a little picnic in Eagle Point park. Driving up that hill was much nicer than running up it. I don't know why I didn't do that the first time.