Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Barcelona Half Marathon Recap

I didn’t really have any expectations going into this race. It was a sort of bolet (that’s Catalan for mushroom, something that just pops up) on my racing calendar. I’m actually registered for a half marathon in Granollers, an industrial town about 40 minutes outside the city, for next weekend. The Granollers race always fills up fast and has a reputation for being very well organized. Barcelona’s half is a bit scruffy in comparison. They didn’t even announce the BCN date until right before Christmas and people warned me that the race would be crowded and chaotic, but the start line was a half mile from my house, right at the Arc de Triomf on my regular run route. So, on December 31st, while still in Baltimore, I signed up.

Over Christmas I didn't do any long runs. I ate, I drank, I had some very nice short runs with my dad and some very important conversations with my mom. I also got the best Christmas present ever from my brother and found out that I was starting a new job. When I arrived to Barcelona on January 6th I wasn’t really into half-marathon training—I was in holiday detoxing-ch ch changes- just-trying-to-get-through-each-day-without-a-wardrobe-failure-or-nervous-breakdown mode. Anyhow, in January, I got in three long runs: two sucked and one was fantastic. The week before the BCN half, I broke all the rules: I ate junk, I only slept five hours a night, I started a new job and wore high heels every day.

But, I knew I could PR in the race. Why, I’m not sure, I just felt strong. Still, I resisted making any goals or even thinking about a plan. In the back of my mind, I wanted to aim for a 5:50 per kilometer pace and a negative split, but I tried to keep those thoughts at bay.

The morning of the race was cool and rainy. Of course, I started out too fast. Come on, 8000 runners in my city! Running right by house! I was psyched and I was flying high. Around km 2.5 I passed the 1:50 pacer and whispered, “Jesus!” under my breath. I concentrated on slowing down, trying to keep a 5:50 / km (9:20 / mile) pace. The first 5 kilometers were very crowded. Faster runners, very politely holding their right hand out in front, weaved around me. The first water stop was chaotic and I almost had to walk in order not to fall down, so I crossed the 5k mark at a very reasonable 29 minutes. That’s when it started raining hard, so for a while I just concentrated on jumping over the biggest puddles.

The 10-k mark was back at the start and I saw Charles! I was feeling amazing at that point-- really, really strong. I saw some familiar faces from my run group just ahead of me and remembered how very far ahead they had been in Mataró. “This is different,” I thought, “This is my half!”

At the 11-km mark we began to see the winners nearing the end of their race. I probably wasted some energy here cheering, especially for the first woman who ended up destroying the course record, but hey that buen rollo is well worth a few seconds. This is where the course turned away from the sea, which was nice because we were out of the wind, but slightly frustrating because we kept turning and looping through the industrial parts of the city. I took a gel and tried to concentrate on my music; the race was feeling long, I was in a lull.
Around km 16 I spotted the 2-hour pace bunnies just a few feet ahead of me and I credit them with giving me the focus and resolve to push the last 5 km of this race. As I said, I didn’t have a time goal, although 2:05 had been in my head, but wow 2 hours sounded great. Km 17 was my fastest of the race, I just concentrated on staying under that big white 2-hour pace balloon. However, by km 19 I felt my lack of long runs over the last six weeks. I was out of gas and saw, sadly, the big white 2-hr balloon floating away. And here is where I think not having a goal, and a lofty one, may have been a mistake. A part of me thought, “You’re okay, and no matter what you’re going to PR by pretty much.” That's a slippery slope for me--did that relief mean didn't I push my hardest? That's so easy to think after the fact though isn't it? I did push those last 500 meters, as you can see in my awful photos!

I’m very happy with a 2:02:35 finish, a little sore, but nothing too bad. I was feeling good enough to walk to the beach after the race and eat a huge paella. Can I run Empúries in under 2 hours? We shall see: 13 weeks to train!


  1. Great job! I can relate to what you said though about doubting that you pushed hard enough. I told someone just the other day that my goal for my spring half marathon is to puke at the finish. That way I know I gave it my all. haha

  2. Great job guapa!!!! you finished and did a great time

  3. 2:02 is a great time for that half! Good job.

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