I don't usually write RRs. Well, I mean, I WRITE them, I just don't post them. But this is a big enough deal for me to want to share it, since my last half was eighteen months ago, in September of 2011. Some of you may remember that -- to put it mildly -- it didn't end so well. As in, it took 3:59:18, since apparently I had five pelvic / sacral stress fractures. It caused me to miss last year's Jerusalem marathon, and I really, really, really needed this year's to be my "redemption" race. It would be an added bonus if I could finish in under 1:59:39 (that's half of 3:59:18), but I primarily wanted to run the entire race and finish uninjured for once in my life.
And so this RR is really, REALLY long, but since it's been a year and a half coming, it's absolutely justified. (Spoiler: it happened.)
After the scare I had with the peroneal tendinitis from late January into the better part of February, I was worried about pushing myself too hard -- I'd rather get to the start line under-trained and healthy. As a result, I hadn't run further than 10K since January; and only 4.25 miles off the AlterG. I was doing a pretty good job of stressing myself out over it, but not much I can really do, is there?
I arrived in Israel on Tuesday morning. I went for several walks over the next few days, mostly down Yafo to get to Village Green (the novelty of actually being able to eat food from a vegan restaurant has not yet worn off), which is part of the course. The hills were real. I mean, I knew they were, but this really brought it home!
The good thing about Michael being on sabbatical in Israel is that I didn't have to give up my pre-race acupuncture; I just had to travel up to Zichron Yaakov to get to him. Which sounds fairly simple, unless you're me and you miss your stop and wind up in Haifa instead. Everyone tells me Haifa is lovely. Yes, I know; but A) not so much when I want to be in Zichron Yaakov, and B) all I saw was the inside of the central bus station. Anyway, I did get my acupuncture. Eventually.
That night I took another bus to the OneFamily Center for the team meeting and pasta dinner, and to get my race T shirt. The size small was really more like a big medium. Isn't that just what you want when running -- extra fabric to slow you down? Surprisingly, I did not get lost on this particular trip. I left early, before the team picture, because I have had the worst jet lag ever, wherein I am dead tired, fall asleep early, and wake up two hours later, only to remain awake until 4 AM or so. Six hours of sleep over three nights doesn't really help in the racing department.
When I got back to my hotel, I tried to work an annoying knot out of my right calf using The Stick and a tennis ball, which I had brought along in lieu of a roller, since that takes up much more space. Alas, the former are not as effective as the latter. I attempted to go to sleep and hope for the best.
I was supposed to get to Sacher Park early for a team picture, since I missed the one from the night before... but, of course, I couldn't find anyone, and once I checked my baggage, I had no phone, so there went that. I just made my way to the half marathon start instead.
There were three corrals: under 1:40, 1:40-2:00, and over 2:00. This is ridiculous, because 1:40 = roughly 7:30/mile, and 2:00 = roughly 9:10/mile, but okay, whatever. I had gotten there half an hour early, so I was chatting a bit with the woman next to me, which did little to assuage my nerves, because I think she was freaking out even more than I was. The atmosphere was really crazy -- there were all sorts of characters in costume and on stilts everywhere. Then another runner for OneFamily popped up on my other side; he just moved to Jerusalem from New York, and he claimed that he found running here to be easier than New York, because there was just something about the Jerusalem air. I was skeptical, but it would be nice to believe that to be the truth!
Finally, after what felt like a decade, we were off! There were supposed to be pace groups, and I had planned to try sticking with the 2:00 group, but I couldn't find any pacers at all, so I was on my own. I doubted I could run such an insanely hilly and winding course in under 2:00, but I really wanted to finish in under 1:59:39 -- that is exactly half of 3:59:18, my finish time of the Half Marathon from Hell.
Mile 1: 8:48. That's faster than I need to run to get to my goal, so I don't need to worry too much if I can keep this up, right?
Mile 2: 8:28. The first mile finished on an uphill, and I enjoyed the downhill during the first quarter of this mile. Then we started to climb again, but it wasn't too bad... though nothing could be as bad as I'd been expecting, really.
Mile 3: 8:01. My watch switched from 3.09 miles to 3.10 at the exact moment that I passed the 5K marker. That has never happened to me before in a race! I had previously looked up where I'd need to be at the 5K and 10K points to make my goal, and I was at least a minute ahead of that -- the constant conversion of miles to kilometers and vice versa kept my brain occupied for a large portion of the race! We ran through a short tunnel here, and I wasn't too pleased about the prospect -- shades of Tunnel to Towers, anyone? -- but it was actually not bad at all.
Mile 4: 8:20. We were approaching the walls of the Old City, and running on cobblestones. That's scary enough. But on a really steep downhill, it's absolutely terrifying. I lost my fellow OneFamily runner somewhere around here -- we'd been pretty much running together up until that point. As I was running toward Jaffa Gate, with the hills spreading out on my left, a constant loop started to play in my brain: I can't believe I am actually running a half marathon in Jerusalem.
Mile 5: 8:10. This might have been the Old City; I don't remember exactly!
Mile 6: 8:50. The first of several particularly brutal hills was in this mile; mile 5.35, to be exact. It was when I first actually entertained the idea of walking, especially since I had passed the 10K mark still far ahead of my goal, but thankfully I crested the top before I could actually give in. That one hurt. We ran down Emek Refaim, which is how I know that the rumor of a second Village Green is actually true. That street had good crowd support, too -- I got a huge kick out of hearing people calling out "Kol hakavod!" to us as we ran by.
Mile 7: 7:54. I don't remember this being particularly downhill, though my Garmin tells me there were about 150 feet of elevation loss, so I guess it makes sense. I just didn't feel like I was running that fast, since I had purposely been trying not to make up for the climbs by zooming down the other side.
Mile 8: 8:26. One of those annoying inclines that isn't really steep, but just keeps rising. Not hard enough to warrant "oh no, not again," but not exactly pleasant, either. And shut up, hip flexors.
Mile 9: 8:22. Up, up, up, a little bit down, up, down -- this is ridiculous. But rolling hills are better than the alternatives, I guess? You also shut up, knees. I'm not listening to you.
Mile 10: 8:34. One of the marks of the insanity of this truly winding course presented itself here in the form of a long out-and-back. There are few things more demoralizing than having to slog up a hill while seeing others cresting down the other side.
Mile 11: 7:50. But the reward for slogging up that hill is that you do eventually get to crest down the other side yourself! There was also great crowd support in this mile, which helped. There was a food station halfway through this mile, which I found strange -- why would you offer that when the race is practically over?
Mile 12: 9:33. We ran past the OneFamily Center, and everyone who wasn't running was standing out front cheering... with nary a word of warning of the horror that lay ahead. You know how I said few things are more demoralizing than having to slog up a hill while seeing others cresting down the other side? Well, this qualifies: this close to the end of a race, climbing up a steep hill on a winding route, and every time you make a turn and hope to see the ground slope down or at least level out, instead facing a long line of runners trudging ahead of you, still climbing the blasted hill. As you may have surmised from the time, I caved in and walked for ten or fifteen seconds here -- I was already so far ahead of my goal that I could have made it even if I'd walked the rest of the way. Not that I was planning to do that, but this hill was going to kill me. It rose over two hundred feet in less than a mile -- this is the 9% grade that so terrified me. A woman jogged past me near the top and said in Hebrew, "You've got this," which just sounded funny to me for some reason. I hadn't stopped to walk earlier in the race because I was afraid that once I did, it would be hard to start running again.
Mile 13: 8:07. Thankfully, that monster hill crested around the 12-mile mark, and the next three quarters of a mile were downhill. At mile 12.85 on my watch -- I know this exactly because I actually looked -- I ran by a guy who was staggering like a drunkard with his eyes rolled back in his head. It was terrifying to see that. (And before you go assuming that I just cold-heartedly left him like that, there were already three or four people propping him up.)
Mile .27: [8:29]. I had been under the assumption that since my watch lined up with the 5K marker, it would continue to do so and I'd cross the finish line at 13.10. HA! It was a lovely sadistic touch that the finish line was also located at the top of a hill. It is true that I tend to mysteriously get a second wind when I see a finish line, but when the route winds in such a way that first you see the finish line, and then you don't -- it messes with your head. Especially since my watch says I already ran 13.1, dammit! It felt like those last couple hundred yards took longer than the rest of the race.
Finish time, according to my Garmin: 13.27 miles in 1:51:43, average pace of 8:25/mile. Official finish time was 1:51:39, which I would guess is around 8:30/mile.
I was sure that I would cry when I crossed that finish line, but I didn't. I don't think I felt anything, actually -- I was pretty much in shock. I still am. It doesn't feel like this really happened. This was a course on which I was sure it would be near impossible for me to go sub-2:00, and then this happens? I must be dreaming. I can't have run such a race on a course like that, and emerged in one piece. It's simply too good to be true. Except that the way my sore quads scream every time I get up or sit down indicates this actually did happen.
Normally, I don't do such things, but this race really meant a lot to me, and so I wanted to get my name and finish time engraved on the back of my medal. This meant that I had to wait around for the official results. But after three hours, they decided that their computer had crashed and we'd have to bring the medals to the engraver in Tel Aviv if we wanted to make use of that service. No, thanks. I guess I can always get that done at home, if I really want to.
I'm not doing the McMillan prediction thing, since that's really more applicable to races run under similar conditions, and I am fairly certain that I'm never going to run a course like this again. (Though I'd be lying if I said I don't want to come back and run again next year.)
But I will say that I may have set a world record for the biggest half marathon PR: I chopped a staggering 2:07:39 off my previous "best"! Not many people can claim that. Though I guess you kind of need a really crappy race first, in order to be able to do that.
I would have enjoyed this trip regardless of the outcome of the race, so long as I emerged from it intact -- it's why I made an exception to my "I don't travel for races" rule, because I love Jerusalem enough to make the trip for no reason at all. Having a great race is really just the cherry on top. Maybe one day I'll actually emerge from my catatonic shock regarding the experience and be able to talk about it in a coherent fashion, but for now all I can say is that it was, hands down, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. And I would absolutely love to do it again.
Though I'll swear I never said that if you asked me about it during that killer hill in the twelfth mile.
EDITED 03/06: PICTURES!!! (Yes, I actually bought some this time... hard to resist when I hardly ever get any! I'm the one in the red tent... um, shirt and yellow shoes.)
Awesome blue, just freakin' awesome! You my dear, have been vindicated!
I'm so happy for you!! You ran a unbelievably fantastic race-congrats!!
Bless your heart.
Run to live; live to run
what an amazing run!
I've been following your progress throughout your journey and I was cheering you on (even while sleeping, as I woke up several times that night and my first thought was of you, for real). I am very happy you got this redemption race, not only that you did but that you got a huge PR out of it. Your elevation profile shows it was tough and your time shows all the hard work you've done (apart from the running) throughout this last year.
Damaris, Marathon Maniac, Ultra Runner
"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."
I haven't finished the whole RR yet, but I had to stop to say how much I love Zichron Yaakov. When I was there in December we had one week of gorgeous weather and spent the day on the tayelet (promenade) shopping. I got a great purse, delicious falafel, and that ice cream shop on the corner!! OK, I will go back to your RR.
So many folks at the Jerusalem marathon, I need to rearrange my next trip to include this race maybe (or not, too hilly).
EDIT: Great time, congratulations. And Emek Rafaim is another one of my favorite places.
"Won't you try just a little bit harder, couldn't you try just a little bit more?"
Congrats, Blue! You ran an AMAZING race!! This sounds like a wonderful experience of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing your story - it's inspiring!
But The Smile That I Sent Out Returned With You.
YAYpril - B-Plus
I believe I started reading the BF right after your first half that resulted in all the stress fractures. It has been wonderful watching your progress since then and I am thrilled you had an amazing redemption race. Congratulations.
I agree, your long RR was absolutely justified and also well deserved. It's wonderful that your comeback ended up with such a great finish time. You must feel so vindicated. And how awesome that it happened in Jerusalem. Wow! I'm so happy for you, Blue. Huge congratulations! And thanks for excellent RR!
PRs: Boston Marathon, 3:27, April 15th 2013
Cornwall Half-Marathon, 1:35, April 27th 2013
4 years racing, 16 marathons, 16 BQs
I'm so happy for you that you made it to this race in one piece and you ran an awesome time on a very difficult course! After all you've dealt with in regard to injuries, you really deserve it! And you're getting so speedy, I can't wait to see how you do on an easier course!
I race in SparkleSkirts
That is awesome!!! HUGE congrats to you on your amazing, well executed race on what sounds like a really tough course, and amazing PR!!! Wonderful RR, I enjoyed it a lot!
PRs: 5K- 28:16 (5/5/13) 10K- 1:00:13 (10/27/13) 4M- 41:43 (9/7/13) 15K- 1:34:25 (8/17/13) 10M- 1:56:30 (4/6/14) HM- 2:20:16 (4/13/14)
I started a blog about running :) Check it out if you care to
Barking Mad To Run
Great report, and what a great finish for you! Congrats on your half and your great comeback from your previous adversities!
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Theodore Roosevelt
Blue, I am so happy for you! You have come such a long way battling through those injuries. Huge congratulations to you! I can only imagine what you must be feeling. Good stuff.
Very well done! I'm proud of you. I wish that I'd been able to shake your hand.