In the theme of fun filled spring running, I signed up for the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. This challenging course runs through the rolling hills of wine country from Santa Ynez through Los Olivos and finishes in downtown Solvang aka Little Denmark in a Sun Globe. Two years ago, I chased Julia Stamps Mallon and finished second in a time of 1:21:35. I won some money, a big bottle of wine, and went home with a smile. I figured it would be “fun” to run it again. I just had one request. One tiny teeny little simple, just a hope really…. Please Running Gods, I just don’t want to…..
Lining up in downtown Santa Ynez, the race announcer repeatedly said my name….OVER….and….OVER…..”Anne-drea McLarty, watch out for that little lady…” Grumble Grumble, It’s ONdrea. “Anne-drea back after placing second two years ago….” Shhhhhh, this is supposed to be fun! Be quiet on that mic! “Sarah McLarty looking ready to run, oh excuse me, Anne-drea, that’s Anne-drea McLarty, not Sarah, Anne-drea McLarty looking ready. Ready Anne-drea?” Ah Hell, I’ll just go with it. Yep, Anne-drea is ready.
How many times is an announcer going to announce my name? I mean…how many MORE times in my life? Exactly. Enjoy. The gun went off and into the cool cloudy mist we headed. The first seven miles ran uphill. Only the seventh mile was truly insulting. The first six just daintily ate at your pace and slowed your legs. I tucked into a pack of six men and waited. Listening to their breathe, I and Me agreed that I would kick all their asses. However, before the official kicking, I would trail and let them lead as long as they could. They did a nice job breaking the wind and then politely falling off to the right while a new male escort drove the train. This cycle continued until I only had Man-In-Blue-With-Puffy-Hair left. I shall name him Blue.
Blue might have had issues with girls. I would creep up behind him and he’d take off only to slip back to my shoulder. He would then punch the gas and rocket out thirty feet. This varied pace wasn’t going to work for me and I let him keep his thirty foot lead. He seemed nice and comfy up there and I watched his body turn into Corkscrew Hill. That’s right, the insulting hill. Corkscrew switch backs and winds up…uP…UP and just when you really cannot take anymore up, you get a big, bold, beautiful slamming down hill. Just don’t hold your nose for the smooth finish. My plan was to let Blue lead to the top and then go by him so fast and hard down the hill that he wouldn’t want to follow this girl anymore. We crested the hill and while Blue slowed up to relax into the descent and catch his breathe, I hit the gas. I hit it hard. Eventually I had to lighten my foot because I started to worry I’d tank at mile 9 if I kept that drive going.
I never looked back to see what happened to Blue because my eyes locked right into Man-In-Red-With-Puffy-Hair. I shall name him Red. Running 50 meters ahead of me, Red did not seem to be driving the downhills as furious as I was. I decided he should also be behind me. Now I can make race plans all day long and more often they do not come true….but…today…it seemed I was getting what I wanted so I figured I would just keep asking. I mean all the Running Gods can say is “No.” Or break my leg, but we shouldn’t even joke.
I snuck up on Red who also would not let me slip cleanly past him. Our pace smoothed out in a perfect match and I drove along side him. I did not have the strength to break away. Repeatedly, Red peered back over his shoulder. Again. And Again. Stop that Red! You are encouraging the hunt! Or as Edna (from The Incredibles) says, “Never look to the past Darling. It distracts from the NOW!”
The NOW was Red running right beside me and Man-In-Black-With-Flat-Hair, I shall name him Black, who was running 50 meters ahead. I had no idea who was back there. I never looked back because I was running in the NOW so hard that if that past catches up to me than I’d have to be a ghost to stick with him anyway.
Eyes up and eyes forward, I needed a finish line before the official red line. We passed mile 11 and bobbed through wave after wave of Gremlin hills. They just kept coming. Red and I pound into each hill driving our arms and frothing like horses pushing off the belief that if we killed this one no more would come. A fool’s cockroach, another bump would roll up and we’d sling ourselves into this tantrum of a terrain. Being a Mom, I know how to handle a tantrum- never give it exactly what it wants, but perhaps strike a compromise. Race Course, I will give you Red. You can have him, but let me go.
As Red and I pushed into yet another dig, we both must have been thinking the same thing- “Alas, the final hill.” I was disappointed to be proven wrong as another hill stood up by its little sister, but if I was disappointed, Red was utterly heartbroken. He exhaled a big, “Arghack.” Red was gone.
My eyes drilled into Black’s back and out loud and I said, “I want him.” I don’t think Halo or Chubbsie heard me on that one or if they did they assumed I’d had my fill. I mean clearly I was about to puke anyway. With 400 meters to go, I knew I was dangerously close to my PR….because Rusty told me. What? You thought I could do math?
Right before I whipped around the final turn, I spied my children sitting on the side line. Children stay close to home, the finish line was near. The thing that was lurking in Red’s and my shadow rocketed around me. Then I saw the clock: 1:20:40. OH COME ON! I pushed off my toes and tried harder to follow the thing: 1:20:50. STOP MOVING THE LINE BACK! I slung my arms back and drove: 1:20:57..58..59.. I stopped looking and punched through the tape with so much force I feared I would run over the camera man. What was it? What was it? My PR stands at 1:21:05.
Clock said? 1:21:03.5! A one and a half second PR! Since you can’t have a half kid and this was Mother’s Day weekend, I rounded that half baby to a full baby and we are saying like it or not that this a TWO SECOND PR! The streak is over! I CAN in fact PR. I am capable! Now I know several men who I run with who have repeatedly stated about their own tiny PR’s that “Oh, another disappointing PR.” As in the PR is not big enough. A Mother would never say such a thing. I love each and every PR individually. Yes, I hope that they grow up to be bigger and better PR’s than they are today, but I feel only love for them. Joy. Second number one, I shall name you P, short for Priscilla. Second number two, my sweet little half baby, I shall name you R, short for Rouel.
These two babies came with the women’s title, a BIG bottle for wine, $600, a hand shake from Bart Yasso Love what you’ve done with the 800′s Bart, and free wine tasting! Now that was a good day’s run.