Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon 2014

Hello friends an neighbors! Is everybody having splendid Saturday? I’m typing up this post from the comfort of my living room, tuchus firmly planted on an ice-pack and electrolytes in hand. I have NOT yet washed the salt off of my face from this morning’s race. I wanted to get my recap posted and processed while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind.

marathonsam: 100% organic ingredients, 0% shame
marathonsam: 100% organic ingredients, 0% shame

The Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon is a great race, all around. The Tacoma Marathon Association puts on phenomenally organized events, their volunteers are incredibly friendly, and the course is a blast.

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 11.54.00 AMRunning over Galloping Gertie is always a total thrill (although she’s never galloped when I’ve traversed her).

There’s also a fun section where the course detours through Cheney Stadium, and you are treated to a view of yourself on the jumbo-tron.

"Cheney Stadium outfield" by http://www.flickr.com/photos/29633291@N02/ - http://www.flickr.com/photos/29633291@N02/2962042925/sizes/l/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cheney_Stadium_outfield.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cheney_Stadium_outfield.jpg
“Cheney Stadium outfield” by http://www.flickr.com/photos/29633291@N02/http://www.flickr.com/photos/29633291@N02/2962042925/sizes/l/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cheney_Stadium_outfield.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cheney_Stadium_outfield.jpg

I spent my morning doing my favorite thing: running around interesting avenues, amongst friendly people. I finished in 1 hour 38 minutes and 29 seconds, which was sixth in my age group. I am so blessed that I get to run, and race, and participate in amazing group experiences out on the roads.

20140802-114312-42192896.jpgAnd yet…instead of euphoric, endorphin-enhanced bliss, I’m feeling…ambivalent.

What’s going on with you, Sam?

It might seem petulant, or whiny, but I’m a little disappointed in myself. Last year I placed fifth in my age group, and no small part of me was hoping to improve upon that at this year’s race. I fully recognize that not every event can be a PR. Your performance at a given race is governed by a panoply of variables that you can, and that you cannot control: the training you put in leading up to the big day, the effort you expend during the race itself, and the cornucopia of environmental conditions you encounter during the run. I know that I finished this race strong, and I am proud of my achievement. Racing is a privilege: I’m lucky I have the time, wherewithal, and financial resources to train for and complete these events. I’m lucky I have supportive friends who put up with my weird schedule, and incessant rambling about running. I’m also extremely grateful for the online running community. It is so cool to interact with other bloggers, runners and athletes; I love sharing my story, and reading about other people’s experiences of the trials and travails of training.

It's easiest to connect with people via banana phone
It’s easiest to connect with people via banana phone

I guess I should stop prattling on about performance anxiety, and get to the meat of the recap. If you still want to ride along, lets start at the very beginning of my morning, that seems like a very good place to start.

Tragically my alarm clock is NOT as musically gifted as Julie Andrews.

I would pay GOOD money for an alarm clock that woke me up with show tunes. Does that exist?
I would pay GOOD money for an alarm clock that woke me up with show tunes. Does that exist?

I greeted the dawn and topped off my glycogen stores with my typical pre-race breakfast.

Yup…I ate my oatmeal directly out of the pot today. It was early, who’s got time to wash a bowl?

Feeling fueled, I took to the the wheel of my stalwart Subaru and headed south to Tacoma.

20140802-113351-41631830.jpgThe race was a point-to-point. I parked at the finish line and hopped on a shuttle, which took me to the start. Finding parking was a total breeze, and I was able to get on a bus without any problems. Have I mentioned how well organized the Tacoma City Marathon Association is?

The clouds were GORGEOUS this morning!
The clouds were GORGEOUS this morning!

The bus ride from downtown Tacoma to the starting line at Gig Harbor Airport took about 20 minutes: the prefect amount of time to do some last-minute grooming.

This stuff is BULLETPROOF
Yep I used my iPhone selfie-camera to wax my mustache.

We arrived at the starting line with ample time to get warmed up, apply anti-chafe cream, and check out the planes.

So cool
We also got a nice double-rainbow!
We also got a nice double-rainbow!

There were plenty of port-a-potties, but the line was hilariously inefficient. I’m not sure why we all collectively decided that the optimum method for queuing up would be to form a giant spiral, but that is the shape that manifested as we jostled for the johns.

Seriously....it was so strange. I was worried we'd never make it to the bathroom, and just walk in circles forever
Seriously….it was so strange. I was worried we’d never make it to the bathroom, and just walk in circles forever

Before I knew it, it was time to line up at the start. There was one wheelchair racer participating! I can’t imagine how strong you have to be to propel yourself 13.1 miles with your arms alone.

This guy is totally my idol.
This guy is awesome. 

My plan for this race was to hang out with the 1:40 pacer for the first eight miles, then kick it into a higher gear for the final five. I pretty much accomplished what I set out to do, but the first five miles were a struggle for me, mentally and physically. For whatever reason, I just did not feel great. My shoulders were strangely tight, and I was all-too aware of my left butt-cheek. I kept the pacer in my sights the whole time, but the pace felt difficult. During those first miles some negative self-talk started creeping in around the edges of my thoughts:

“Sam you are UNDER-trained for this.”

“Man, that pacer just got a little further ahead of you, kiss a PR buh-bye.”

“You should have gone to bed at LEAST an hour earlier last night, why do you always sabotage yourself?”

“That girl in the teal running next to me looks like she isn’t trying at all…man I’m a joke”

“This feels HARD, and we’ve got a ways to go.”

“You have SO much writing to do this weekend.”

“You are putting in SO MUCH effort, and for what?”

I’m not sure what was going on with me to send me on a spiral of doubt, but those first few miles were not particularly pleasant. Thankfully, for whatever reason, right at mile six something shifted. I found my groove. I changed my attitude. I still was having a few negative thoughts, but I started giving myself some positive answers.

“You are putting in SO MUCH effort, and that’s AWESOME”

“That pacer is slowing down a little bit…”

“Your effort is YOURS, NO one can take it from you. OWN your effort. Who cares if you don’t PR?”

“Look at all of these people running around you…they’re working hard too. Some of them are faster than you. That’s so cool for them! You’re faster than the people behind you.”

I’m not sure if I was getting my second wind, or my first wind, or what, but the second half of the race was WAY more enjoyable than the first. From mile six through mile eight I simply zoned out on the mantra “SoHam,” which is sanskrit for “I am that.” I kept repeating “SoHam…HamSo….SoHam…SoHam” to myself, thinking “I am that….that I am…that I am…I am that…that I am…BLESSED.”

Source: http://alannak.com/musicians-mantras/mantra-library/so-ham/_res/id=Picture/soham.png

At mile seven there was a brief, but intense, burst of rain and hail. I started giggling and repeating “holy-hell, holy-hail” to myself: no one can control the weather, complaining about things you can’t control isn’t particularly useful. Sometimes you just have to surrender, hold on, and try to be cheerful through the chaos.

Around mile eight, the coolest thing happened: A volunteer in a bright orange vest yelled: “are you marathonsam? I read your blog!”  To the wonderful woman who recognized me (was it the mustache), thank you so much for the shout-out! It really gave me a charge! In fact, after that anonymous awesome person called me out, I told myself: “Sam, people are going to READ about your experience today. You should finish this spectacle STRONG.”

I had been running without music. After Cheney Stadium, I put in my headphones, cranked up some Queen and Bon Jovi, and picked up the pace.

I passed the 1:40 pacer. I kept going. I felt great. There’s a simple bliss in pushing yourself and running hard. I may not have started off the race at my best, but I finished fast, strong, and smiling. Maybe I could have run harder at the beginning, or maybe I couldn’t have. There are runners out there who run faster than me, and farther than me. That’s great! I look up to those people. I’m just glad that I’m able to run, stoked to have gotten out on the road, and grateful for the race I ran. After I collected my medal, I scarfed a PickyBar in my car (my new favorite fuel, produced by the awesome athlete Lauren Fleshman) then drove back to Seattle.

That medal aint comin' off ALL day
That medal aint comin’ off ALL day

Now it’s time for me to shower, eat some lunch, and watch the BLUE ANGELS perform. Thanks for reading my excessively long, and wordy recap.


Have a WONDERFUL weekend everybody!







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