We left Phoenix yesterday at 4:45 am and arrived in Albuquerque after an uneventful ride of 8 hours door-to-door.
It was a good trip. It was a good race. It was a great race. Logistics aside.
We departed here on Friday, since I was anxious about being in time to register before 5 pm next day. That was an inspired move. On Saturday the weather turned nasty, and we had miserable driving conditions through the mountains, with snow and ice and useless windshield wipers unless one used a ton of washer fluid. Phoenix was clear, but half of downtown is one-way streets, and half of those were one-lane due to construction, so it took more than an hour to drive four blocks to the Phoenix convention center for race packet pick-up.
I was assigned to corral 27, based on estimated time of arrival. I don’t remember what I submitted – 2h or 2h 15 minutes. Is that so bad? 27 was the last corral, I was there among runner/walkers in street clothes. And not even among them did I feel like a runner.
The morning was frigid and bright, the coldest start in the history of the event (I heard people say). My contingent took off 57 minutes after gun time. No matter what I did in that hour to keep warm – jumping up and down, rocking back and forth, running in place, rubbing and shivering – by the time we had a GO I was numb with the freezing cold. The luckiest people were those who kept the layers on and didn’t use gear check-in.
For miles ahead, the streets were littered with discarded clothes. By mile two my toes were still burning with the cold. By mile three I still had pins and needles in my hands. But I ran.
I ran, free and carefree. One factor made a tremendous difference. I have only run in Albuquerque so far. Altitude over 5,000 feet. I thought it was me, puking my lungs out, as robtherunner
once described the modus operandi for a 5K. It wasn’t me. It was the altitude. Thin air. I had not realized the handicap before. In Phoenix, Arizona, 1,100 feet over sea level, breathing is labor-free. You run, you breathe. It’s a given. It’s not hard at all. I cut steadily through the crowds ahead, thinking of nothing but the running alone.
Mindless, high on oxygen, along palm trees, to the beat of music, I ran. I did not walk once. Clock time read 2 h 52 minutes on the electronic display when I reached the finish line. With a near-to-an-hour-late start, I knew before I crossed it that I had finished in less than two hours. I had PR-ed.
It wasn’t all my merit. I was still not completely over my cold, being on the road did not improve my general state, and the hour-long expenditure of energy to keep alive before the start could not have helped. It was the altitude. I will not beat this record in Albuquerque. But it is still my record.
I spent the rest of the day giggling. My landsman Emil Ardelean ran the full marathon, and had a good race as well. My boyfriend drove us around, and generally acted as the only responsible adult. We had a fabulous late lunch, and behaved as if we had performed great deeds. It had been a great race. I had PR-ed. I know from the time I was target shooting: a personal record is a big, big deal, even if only for that one person.
We went on the internet that evening. The official website gave my chip time as 2h 08min 25sec, about a minute over my previous half-marathon.
I don’t understand.
I know I ran this race in less than two hours, although I cannot prove it. It was a great race. For the first time, I almost enjoyed running. The rest should not matter. But I still feel as if that incorrect chip time takes something away from me.