Thursday, October 17, 2013

Today is Your Day

The Girlfriends Half Marathon and I had some unfinished business.....

Pretty t-shirt and necklace

When I ran this race two years ago, an unplanned potty stop at mile 6 cost me a new personal record (PR).  Ever since then, I've wondered what could've been.  The proximity of this race to the Portland Marathon date prevented a 2012 comeback.  But this year, I had no such restrictions.  Time for a rematch!

Colorful crowd at the starting line

My previous half marathon PR was 1:56:10, set at a race over two years ago.  Although older, heavier, and not in the shape I was in then (I was training for a marathon at the time) I still wanted to try and beat my old mark.  The Girlfriends course, flat and fast, offered the best chance.

Start line selfie

Last Sunday found me and 1,300 other women shivering in the cold morning fog of downtown Vancouver, WA at the starting line of the Girlfriends Half Marathon.

This race is billed as a women's only event with the beneficiary being the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  The first time I ran Girlfriends, I came away mightily impressed.  It was such a well-organized, positive event with great entertainment, food, and swag - all for a good cause.  There was a wonderful positive vibe amongst the participants.  Ladies dressed up in various pink outfits, placed signs on their backs honoring a loved one fighting breast cancer, or wore t-shirts with awesome motivational slogans.  I knew right away I'd be back.

Love, love, loved this lady's shirt!

Before a race, I'm usually out mingling with the crowd.  But today was different.  A huge goal loomed before me.  I sat in my car, trying to keep warm, getting pumped up with some loud rock music.  I emerged exactly twice - to use the potty (didn't want a repeat of last time!) and do a quick scan of the vendor booths.  About five minutes before showtime, I emerged from my cocoon and jetted to the starting line.

A crowd of women take over the street of Vancouver

There was a countdown - and bam!  The multicolored crowd of women took to the streets of downtown Vancouver.  I didn't have a specific race strategy, except to start fast and try to hold a quick pace as long as possible.  After a half mile of dodging slower runners, I settled in behind two ladies in purple who were streaking along at an 8 1/2 minute mile pace.  Although I was puffing and struggling a bit (which is common for me in the early stages of a race) I kept up.  The first mile passed, with me hot on my companion's heels.  Although winded, I thought to myself: "just hang on for one more mile, and then you can go slower."

Approaching the Interstate Bridge

Mile two came and went.  I was running so well, I talked myself into one more fast mile.  Mile three passed and I was still tailing my racing buddies.  The pace alternated between an 8:20 and 8:45 minute mile.  By now my body was warmed up, and I was running comfortably.  Amazed to be still running so fast, I told myself to hang on just a little bit longer.  And then, a small voice popped into my subconscious.

Today is your day.

Super fall colors!

The planets appeared to be aligning.  I was maintaining a pace way faster than I usually run.  The weather, although a bit on the cool side, was perfect for running.  The course followed a beautiful path along the Columbia River, popped onto an industrial street, and then back through a lovely city park.  Since the course is a winding out-and-back, I began to see the leaders heading in the opposite direction.  I followed my pacers in purple through the park, and circled the turnaround at mile 5, amazed to be still on their heels.  And again the voice sounded:

Today is your day.

The course featured fine views of the mighty Columbia

Back down the industrial road.  Past an aid station, past intermittent crowds of mostly dads and small kids, holding signs and ringing cowbells.  Past intersections where local police and sheriffs directed traffic, keeping us runners safe.  At mile 6, the time on my watch flashed 50 minutes.  Whoa - way faster than expected!  Very close to a PR for the 10K.  I was running out of my head!  And still my watch continued to show a 8:30 pace.  Again, the same thought flashed in my mind.  It was becoming a mantra.

Today is your day.

Sticking with the faster women

Halfway to mile 7, I passed the gas station, site of my ill-fated potty stop two years ago.  With a satisfied smile I realized today no break was needed.  As I sped by, a 8:45-ish pace still showed on my watch's display.

However, soon after the effects of my fast pace started to take their toll.  My energy began to wane.  Was it payback for such a fast start?  But I couldn't slow down now.  All my hard work and great fast times would go to waste.  And besides, the voice came back again, this time much louder:

Today is your day.

Lots of great scenery to distract me

Through a parking lot, and back onto the riverfront path I ran, trying my best to hold on.  I lost both my purple pacing buddies at an aid station and with them my tempo.  Using my watch as a guide, I tried in vain to rev up the engines.  But as I left the path and veered back onto a street, my legs slowed down.  A bunch of ladies began to pass me.  No!  I was running so good - I couldn't throw it away now.  Forcing my body to move faster, I repeated the words that were was fast becoming my motivation:

Today is your day.

Back along the riverfront

Across a street, under a railroad underpass, the crowd of runners came upon a short, steep uphill section of path that led people into Fort Vancouver.  The hill was brutal on my tired body.  I felt as if I'd hit a wall.  Gritting teeth and swinging arms, I forced my legs to propel me up.  Many ladies stopped and walked, but I wasn't about to.  I had a PR to earn.

Today is your day.

Under a railroad bridge to Fort Vancouver

Past Fort Vancouver, skirting Pearson Airpark, mile 10 came into view.  My body, fast becoming exhausted, was starting to stage a full revolt.  Legs felt like rubber, body and mind were numb with fatigue.  It was so very tempting to slow the pace.  Was all this suffering really worth it?

But then a glance at my watch and a quick calculation made me realize how close I was to my goal.  If I could hold on for three more miles - I could do it!  I'd worked too hard to throw it away now.  Today is your is your day......I repeated the phrase over and over in my head as I circled a strip mall, and passed mile 11.  No stopping now.

Today is your day.

The finish line!

About this time I caught up with one of my purple pacer ladies.  Sticking to her like glue, I followed the crowd down a main road and turned onto a path through a local park.  And up another hill....  This one wasn't as steep as the other, but right before mile 12 of a half marathon wasn't great timing for an uphill.  Knowing at this point every second counted, I pushed my body as hard as it would go up the path.  Passing a couple of women, I left the park and turned back onto a main road.  One mile left.  I could see the buildings of downtown Vancouver ahead.  Time to kick things into gear.....

Today is your day.

A new PR!

Crossing over I-5, I was right on the heels of my pacer.  The streets began to line with cheering people.  Their positive energy provided the boost I needed.  I put the gas pedal to the floor and stormed past my purple mentor.  Turning a corner, and then another, I remembered the last block was a short uphill climb.  I hit the uphill and gave it my all.  Around the final turn, and there up ahead, was the finish line arch.  With my last ounce of energy, I propelled my legs over the timing mats.  Hitting the stop button on my watch, I glanced at my time.  And looked again.  And then I smiled.

Celebrating with some cute firefighters

I'd done it!  1:55:08!!  A new PR by over a minute!

Instead of a finisher medal, the Girlfriends half gave every lady who completed the race a cute necklace.  And even better, they recruited local fireman to stand at the finish and hand out the bling.  Greeting the firefighters, I asked if one of them would take my picture.  Not only did the first guy volunteer to snap a photo, the other two were nice enough to pose with me.  What better way to end such a memorable race?

A few men of the "pink brigade"

Checking the results on the web later that afternoon, I discovered my official time to be 1:55:06 (even better!).  My average pace was a speedy (for me) 8:47 minutes per mile.  I was 7th out of 140 women in my age group and 107th out of 1,359 participants.  Definitely a performance to be proud of!

Showing off my finisher's necklace (photo by Sarah Bowen Shea)

I have a theory that participating in a race brings out the best in us.  The cheering crowds, the upbeat atmosphere, and the competition of other runners often result in superhuman performances.  When I ran my first mile at such an out-of-my-head pace, it instilled a huge batch of confidence.  Subsequent fast miles provided more and more boosts, until I knew something special was happening.  Once I set my mind to it, there was no stopping me.

Never underestimate the power of a simple phrase.

Today was my day.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot.


  1. Another fun filled day. Way to go!

  2. What a fantastic time Linda. You should be so proud of yourself. You must have incredible determination to run through 'the wall'.

  3. I'd have no problem cuddling up to the cute guys in uniform! Glad your determination worked for you, I do that myself sometimes. It's amazing how often when we think "I'm tired" all we need to do is give ourselves a mental chiding.

  4. I am so proud of you!!! What an amazing accomplishment. You ran such a great time and did so well compared to everyone else! Congratulations! :)

  5. You go, girl! What an accomplishment.

  6. WOWZA! You did great! For sure it was your day.

  7. What a fantastic achievement! Well done!!! AND you had time to take the trail pics for us.

  8. Linda--you absolutely amaze me!! Incredible job!!!
    PS: Now you have to share how you get such great photos while running:)

  9. Oh Linda, I am SO damn proud of you!! I keep telling you that you inspire me and you really do. I loved reading about your race and your time. I need to get me a stop watch!

    We're down in KY for the weekend and I think tomorrow I'll go out and run outside for the first time. I can't wait to see how I do not on the treadmill.

  10. Oh yeah! I am doing my first "official" half marathon in two Saturdays. I ran one on my own a few weeks ago in 2:10. So, I am hoping to hit maybe 2:05ish.

    Looks like a really nice race!!

    I also have a local 5K this Sunday...hoping to be super speedy and maybe place in my age group!

  11. Congratulations - that's a lot faster than I could run a half-marathon. In fact I don't think I could run a half-marathon!

  12. You go girl! You certainly are amazing Linda. Fabulous that you broke your record. I always wonder how racer don't have to stop for a potty break. I'm sure I would. lol!

  13. WOW, I'm impressed... you go girl! Thank you for coming by sharing your creative photography on the Weekly Top Shot, #105!

  14. Very impressive, Linda!!! You go! :)

  15. Very cool! I loved the cohesiveness of your blog too. Race well done.


  16. Hi! Congratulations for your nice time record. The scenery is very beautiful too. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Hello Linda, this is a nice post. I want to stay physically fit and active even the time when I'll have kids. You're an inspiration! :)


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