Thursday, January 12, 2012

Houston Half Marathon: Am I Ready?

Here it is. My opening event for 2012. The Houston Half Marathon on Sunday. The entire weekend should be a blast as the best pro elites will be running a marathon on Saturday. 300 of the best runners fighting for a couple spots on this year's Olympic team. Some of the best in the world will be running just feet from me on Saturday as I plan to be watching them in person. It is going to be a great thrill to share that experience with one of my friends who has taught me so much in the last year and a half. Jennifer Pfaff. We will both be in Houston as a result of her volunteering to be my race day sighted guide for the half marathon. We shall watch the pros then she will help me attempt to set a new personal best for the 13.1 mile distance.

In February 2008, I ran my first ever half marathon in Fort Lauderdale as a part of Team CDF after founder, Matt Miller contacted me to ask if I wish to run as part of his team. I agreed and took on the challenge even though prior to the race, my longest run was 4.7 miles which I had run just seven days prior to the event. In fact, I always say that I was only given six weeks to get ready. I have always felt that was not enough time. Looking back on it, that was more than enough had I used the weeks wisely to prepare. Instead, I was not ready for the race, but did the best I could to gut it out. Going into the race, I had to goals. Run the entire distance and close the show with a spectacular sprint. I achieved both goals. It took almost three hours to finish, but I did it. The next time I took on that distance was when Michael Crissie guided me in May 2010 at the Chicago Spring Half. His twin brother, Brian, decided to join us. Together, they helped me cross the finish line thirty-three minutes faster than at the AIA Fort Lauderdale race. The goal I have always had was to cross the finish line of a half marathon in under two hours. I have only run two, but I have not been able to reach my goal. When I ran the Chicago Marathon in October 2011 guided by Kimberly Shah and Jennifer Pfaff, I was shocked to learn that I had reached the tenth mile in one hour and thirty minutes and the thirteen mile mark at about two hours and five minutes. This gave me confidence that if I work hard to ready myself, I could break two hours. Realizing that an elite runner of Jennifer's talents would not want to fly to Houston and give up a weekend simply to help me finish a race, I decided to aim higher by targeting a finish time of one hour and thirty five minutes. I did not know if I could and would be ready by the middle of January, but I wanted to try.

I have worked hard running and lifting weights as this weekend neared. I do not know if I can reach said goal. I do know if all goes well, I will beat my personal best for the half marathon distance. I also feel I can cross the finish in under two hours. I believe that I am in wonderful shape to run this half marathon. I just do not know if I am mentally ready to push my body beyond its limits. I can talk to myself in attempts to pump myself up, but come race day when pain and cramps settle in, all those encouraging words go out the window and I ease up just trying to finish. I want to do more than just finish. I want to be special! I want to be the best I can be. I always try to leave something in my tank for a final kick to the finish. It usually takes my guides by surprise which I guess is not right of me nor safe. At last summer's duathlon in Pleasant Prairie, my guide, Todd Smith was taken by surprise as I took off down the final shoot. He later told me, "If you have enough to sprint like that at the end, it means you weren't pushing yourself earlier." That is something I continue to remember and wish to change about how I run in these races. I want to be physically spent when I cross the end yet I am afraid to dare to be great. That is what I hope to strive for on Sunday morning. I want to race this year. I do not just want to show up and participate in events. I wish to race them. Mainly, I hope to destroy all marks I have previously set as my best. I want to race against myself. I want to test the limits of my ability. I admit I am afraid, but maybe the more I surround myself with amazing athletes from whom I can learn, the more likely I will begin to believe in myself and get even hungrier to achieve my best! For today, I get ready to fly to Houston with Jennifer and enjoy a tremendous weekend visiting with old friends and making new ones. I am grateful to David Adame for helping me get on the Team C Different Foundation for this race. I thank Jennifer for being willing to travel to Houston with me and run a half marathon. I hope to enjoy the journey of the distance embracing the people and atmosphere while driving myself to perform well. I look forward to Jennifer supporting me the entire distance. I also trust her to press my buttons to remind me "there is no tomorrow." May I begin to dare to be great.

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