There are two types of people in this world. Those who are here for yog (H4Y), and those who are not. On Sunday, I was one of the former.
Last year my yog was poor. I made a decent attempt at training for the bench-your-marathon challenge before dislocating my shoulder for the 12th time and scrapping those plans, and was consistent about squats and dead lifts in an attempt to stay balanced and injury free. Injury prevention was successful, but I was also miserably sore 5 days a week. Week after week, I was just too fucking sore to stand up out of a chair or walk down a hallway without looking like a geriatric, and certainly way too sore to scrape everything possible out of my minimal talents during an OTCY, which is always the goal.
Somewhere along the way in 2012 I also became bitter and crotchety about the trend of rampant price increases at OTCYs. So the priorities for 2013 seemed clear; 1) Figure out a way to be active, healthy and strong without feeling destroyed so much of the time, and 2) Stop overpaying for yog. This allowed only 3 OTCYs to enter my schedule, the first of which was the San Dieguito Half Marathon. I got hit with the realization a few weeks ago that I had forgotten to train and it was now too late to train, but I wasn't feeling horrible during my infrequent yogs either and had entirely neutral expectations. Then last week I got sucked into a busy work week leading to less than 1 hr of total exercise combined with continuous consumption of alcohol and comfort foods. On Wednesday I noticed that my normal belt notch was becoming a little bit more snug. I was downright sucking it in to keep using that notch by Friday, and by Saturday I had to relent and loosen my belt. Increasing pessimism towards yog resulted. At about 10:30pm Saturday night as I was nursing my 5th or 6th beer I decided I would not yog. I felt good about the decision.
Nevertheless, I found myself driving towards the ranch the next morning, not exactly sure why. Thoughts of an appropriate drinking challenge to combine with half marathon yogging filled my head. The obvious one seemed to be more beers the night before than minutes-per-mile pace during the race. Drink 7 beers the night before, average sub 7 min miles during half marathon. Decent right? But the problem with that is it seems to get easier and easier the more you drink. So to counteract that, I decided to insert a time clause the challenge. Drink X number of beers in 13-X hours before the yog, and average under X minutes-per-mile for the OTCY. Mmkay? For example, if you drink 7 beers, you must drink them all in 13-7=6 hours before the race, and then average under 7 min pace. 10 beers in 3hrs before the race and 10 min miles. I think that's a credible challenge. I did not qualify for the challenge this time around, but I'll keep it in mind for the future.
I was kind of late for the start, didn't get to warm up, said hi to a few friendly faces and toed the line. The Shoulder Toucher arrived just a few moments before the start, looking kind of ragged and sporting a fresh shiner on his right eye. I asked if he had gotten into a fight, and he informed me that his friend's 3 year old had taken the liberty of jumping on his face while he was sitting on a couch. He described the incident with his signature vivacity and Matthew McConaughey style laugh, the horn sounded, and we began to yog.
I do not yog with a garmin, but usually pay decent attention to the splits if someone is calling them out. To the best of my recollection:
Mile 1 - 5:43. Not terrible. It's a significant downhill. Expect to get slower as the climbing begins. I settle into a group of 4 with the Shoulder Toucher, track club Bobby and unknown older guy.
Mile 2 - 11:57. Ok. We're climbing. My rested, untrained legs are burning a tiny bit, but my stomach is churning, burning and hating me.
Mile 3 - 18:10. More of the same. At least this section of climbing is over soon.
Mile 4 - 24:11. Wait a minute, the hill ended a while ago and we're running downhill. I'm still over 6 min pace? Ugh. Oh well, I guess that's reality.
Mile 5 - Forget the exact time. My shoelace comes untied and I have to pull off. The group gaps me. Legs burn as I try to get back into the rhythm of my yog. I like running alone better anyway. I see the ranch boys (Suffer Seeker, Todd and Luc). They are not H4Y. They are here to heckle. Good. I'm pathetic. I wish I could explain that the lost shoelace time has me looking worse than it really is, but there's no time.
Mile 6 - Forget the exact time. My shoelace comes untied for a 2nd time and I totally lose touch with my former group.
Mile 7 - 42:51. Getting wayyyy behind 6 min pace here, but at least I'm done with climbing for a bit and my stomach is feeling better. Starting to reel in my former group, which has splintered.
Mile 8 - 49:00. Oh my. I feel like I'm finding a groove and I'm definitely going to swallow up the Shoulder Toucher soon, but a 6:09 mile? My pace is declining and I'm on pace for >1:20. Whatever. It is what it is, but it still sucks a little bit. When I decided years ago to make some consistent effort to improve my yog, there were several long term goals in my head. Sub 5min mile, sub 17 5k, sub 35 10k, sub 1:20 HM, sub 3 Marathon. I wasn't particularly close to any of those when I started, and there was a reasonable satisfaction a few years later to know that I not only got all of them, but put them all significantly in the rearview mirror. So going back above any of those lines in an OTCY stings a bit. On the bright side, the humiliations are a big part of what keeps me coming back. I'm committed to putting in my best effort for the rest of the OTCY but I'm fully prepared for the time to be ugly.
Mile 9 - Forget the time. I pass the Shoulder Toucher. He's starting to struggle.
Mile 10 - 1:00:30. I felt like I sustained a good effort going up the 2nd to last significant hill. I see the ranch boys again, who this time give me a more positive reception. I give them the H4Y sign(cheerleader H, flash 4 fingers, cheerleader Y) as I go by, so they would know why I was there, but they don't seem to understand.
Mile 12 - 1:11:32. Mile 11 and 12 are downhill and fast. I clear my mind, and just keep thinking relax, relax, relax. Relaxed shoulders, relaxed legs, relaxed turnover. Imagine that red line in my head, and put my effort right up against it and keep it there without going over. I see Healy around Mile 11.5 and he screams not to save it for the last hill. Absolute best advice ever and he's standing at the perfect spot that the yoggers need hear it. I'm stunned after making my peace with running ~1:20 to hear the time at mile 12 and know I'm going to run 1:18.
Finish - 1:18:10. The last hill in reality isn't all that bad, but feels like an absolute monster at this point of the OTCY. I'm closing on one guy, the unknown older guy from earlier in the race, but he's got a sizable gap. I keep my head down and focus on the effort. No trying to close the gap and then giving up when it's too big, or looking at the top of the hill and getting discouraged by how it never seems to get any closer. Just be here right now, getting what I can from every step forward and doing it without enough effort that I won't be disgusted with myself later. I didn't catch unknown older guy. I've pussed out on the hill many times, but I'm ok with my effort this year.
I was pleasantly surprised with the finish clock. With very humble expectations, a good workout on a nice morning and a tiny PR at the distance after 4 years, even though it's still weak, was all I could hope for. Beer tasted great afterwards. All you can drink Green Flash, Stone, Ballast Point and Lost Abbey. Unbeatable. There was no Queen this year, just a woman with a sign saying "Queen Wannabe". I hope the real Queen is ok. Two days later, my legs are still wrecked, in the most satisfying way possible. Every single usable muscle in my legs is still raw to the touch. Unfit and rested is a fun way to race. Get off the couch, crush yourself, and back to the couch with you.
In other news, the return of Walking Dead on Sunday night sucked hard. Very disappointing.