Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heartbreaker Half Marathon 2012

At the start of the race

On Sunday, Carissa and I ran the Heartbreak Half Marathon. We registered as team Not Your Own in the “Friends – Girls” division as a reminder that we run because we are not our own.  We were bought with Jesus’ precious blood and we want to honor Him with our bodies.  We also ran with the intent to set a PR (Personal Record) on our time.  We’re running hard and fast as we train for an April marathon so we figured why not go out hard and fast and see how we ended. 

What I didn’t expect from Sunday’s race was to come away with a profound thankfulness that God has given me a friend like Carissa.  Over the past year and a half our friendship has grown deeper and stronger with each mile we’ve logged together.  We truly have something special and unique. 

Carissa is a competitor. She sets high goals for herself and then pours everything she has into reaching them.  On race day, something supernatural comes over her and she transforms into a machine – running significantly faster and stronger than the pace that we train at. Carissa sees athletic potential in me that I don’t see in myself.  Her confident determination continually challenges me to rethink what I’m capable of.  This has never been more clearly demonstrated than on Sunday.

Carissa is better at sharing the technical side of things so I’ve asked her to co-write our race story with me.  You’ll get a glimpse into the way her mind works by reading her take on our race, but first let me give you my takeaway from Sunday’s race. 
At the finish.
Carissa is a faster and stronger runner than I am.  The field of racers for this event was fast since many runners were training for Boston, making it extra tough to place in the top three in each division. But Carissa was in the zone on Sunday – she only needed to be two minutes faster to take third place and I know she had it in her.  But she chose - before the race started - to run with me from the second the gun went off until we crossed the finish line.

C'mon Jodi!
Carissa set a pace she knew I could achieve in spite of my huge skepticism. She ran just far enough ahead of me to keep me chasing her, digging deeper into my energy well with each mile.  She chose to listen to my labored breathing and shout encouragement over her shoulder when she knew I was at my breaking point.  Carissa chose to stop when she saw the finish line and wait for me to catch up.  She extended her hand to me and yelled, “C’mon Jodi.  Let’s do it together.”  Carissa selflessly chose friendship over her own personal ambitions.  I can’t even think about this race without getting all choked up.

Ironically, we both placed fourth in our age divisions but placed first in the team division, beating out all the other teams including the teams that had dudes on them.  I think it perfectly sums up how we’re trying to live our lives – Jesus first, us second. I am one lucky girl to have a friend like Carissa.

Here’s Carissa’s take on our race, with a few minor interjections from me (all in italics).

Yesterday, for the fourth time Jodi and I lined up at the starting line of a race together.  Every time previous, though we had wanted to race together, we ended up getting separated.  This race seemed like the perfect one to run out to the end together for a couple of reasons.  We’ve been following the same marathon training schedule and our workouts have been pretty evenly paced.  It was also our first tune-up race: a race run as a practice for another longer race.  Though we both cared about our finishing time this race was a training race and running my own best personal race felt less important.  As we got ready to start Jodi asked what our strategy should be.  I suggested that we stay together unless one of us tanked and begged the other to continue on alone.  Jodi agreed and the plan was set.
finally catching up to Carissa
 The race began and we quickly wove through the crowd.  A smaller venue, this race was easy to navigate into an open space and get settled into our own pace.  The first five miles of the course were flat and I suggested that we try to hit a 7:25 pace based on MY training goals for the Eugene marathon.  I admired Jodi for going out at a pace that was chasing after MY dream and MY goal finish time.  It can be hard to hit an exact pace so that translated into the first 3 miles being 10-15 seconds per mile even faster than my ambitious goal.  It didn’t take long for me to hear in Jodi’s breathing that she was working harder than me, but she kept up the pace and only once suggested that I was “sprinting.”  (Call me crazy but I consider a 6:45 pace at mile two of a 13 mile race sprinting.)
Here we come...
 Our next challenge came in the form of hills.  We spent the next five miles climbing from downtown Portland up Terwilliger Boulevard until we hit the Chart House. (Oregonians should not be allowed to write course descriptions.  The official description read, “the next four miles being a mix of flat, slight upgrades and a few more challenging hills.” It should have read, “Be prepared to climb a mountain and potentially call 9-1-1 if you collapse on the course from the effort you will exert to get to the top.”)  Though Jodi is a strong hill runner I have the reputation between us as being a faster climber.  I knew we needed to take them at a pace that worked for Jodi and didn’t induce her new something-is-blooming- in-the-air wheezing.  As Jodi said, if she started wheezing heavily, the race (from a time standpoint) would be all over.   

At this point of the race I downshifted another notch. I wasn’t working very hard on the flat but was happy to reserve some energy for the hills.  As it turned out I wouldn’t need to tap into those reserves because even though Jodi was continuing to work hard, we were taking the hills at a pace that stayed within my comfort zone.  (When I could catch my breath, I yelled, “You could at least pretend like this was difficult.”  Carissa calmly replied, “I was just wondering if you were telling yourself this was hard.” I hollered back, “I’m not telling myself anything.  This IS hard!”) 

The hills were also the point in the race that I pulled ahead a couple of paces. I could hear Jodi’s breathing (think pregnant cow in labor – I couldn’t catch a full breath almost the entire race thanks to my marvelous wheezing) behind me so I knew not to pull ahead further and lose her.  This was the part of the race that I really began to appreciate her fight.  It would drive me crazy to race outside of my comfort zone, striving continuously to catch up with my buddy who remained a few steps ahead.  I prayed for her breathing.  I prayed for her body to be strong and fast.  I prayed for our effort to be evenly matched, but P.S. God let her effort be easier, not mine harder.  My heart swelled with admiration for Jodi’s perseverance and determination. 

 At mile 10 we hit one of the sweetest parts of the race: the three miles of downhill that would carry us into the finish.  Downhill is Jodi’s specialty.  I am a much faster downhill runner thanks to mimicking her style.  I excitedly picked up the pace and we cruised to the finish at a sub 7 minute/mile pace.  At this point the playful banter picked up.  Jodi said she was going to pummel me when the race was over and I responded that she’d have to catch me first.  I again pulled ahead of Jodi knowing that I wouldn’t lose her.  I kept shouting encouragements over my shoulder, enjoying the ease of the downhill. 
I'm the blue dot in the background, trying to catch Carissa.
Just past the 13-mile marker I spotted our one-woman cheering section.  Tanya was posed to snap some shots and cheer us on.  With .1 mile to go and the finish in sight, I slowed and held out my hand.  “Come on Jodi!” I shouted.  We grabbed hands and ran into the finish together.  In the finishers chute we gave each other a bear hug.  Jodi proclaimed, “I hate you...and I love you!”  I laughed.  I would have felt the same way. (To clarify – Carissa knows I don’t hate her – it was my round-about way of saying thanks for kicking my booty the entire 13.1 miles.)
Thank you Jesus for such an awesome race!
We finished with a PR of 1:38:39.  It wasn’t the 1:37 I was hoping for but it was a PR and we did it together.  I do wonder what I could have accomplished if I had put my own fitness to the test, but I also feel really accomplished to have run a comfortable race at that pace. I feel hopeful (I KNOW Carissa will kill the Eugene marathon) that at the end of our training I can run a great marathon at Eugene.  
With Tanya, our running buddy, who cheered for us on race day
 No hearts were broken at the Heartbreaker Half.  Instead it was a sweet display of our friendship.  Jodi said, “I’ll chase after your dreams with you.  I’ll let you set the pace and do what I can to stay with you.”  Carissa said, “I’ll stay with you when it gets hard and I’ll finish this race with you.”  And that my friends, is a true and happy ending.    

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