It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…or maybe in the world of racing, it’s the other way around. We have the bad race, we doubt ourselves, our training our abilities, and then we find the silver lining and register for something else.
Given this introduction, you can deduce that my race this past weekend did not go as well as I had hoped. I’m not completely surprised; I felt like I was going into this one a little more blind than I would have liked, and I wasn’t feeling very confident in the speed work I had done, or rather the speed work I hadn’t done when I was addressing the issue with my foot. I’m not sure if this was the reason I didn’t race as well as I thought I could/would, and honestly there were too many other variables surrounding race morning to know for sure. It could have simply been that the racing stars didn’t align for me, there were enough small snafus that my body couldn’t do what I wanted it to do.
The night before the race I started to get a headache, which is odd for me as I don’t frequently get headaches. Like most of us I am very mindful of my eating and hydration in the days leading up to the race. Translation: I’m 99% sure I wasn’t dehydrated. I tossed and turned the night before the race (also nothing new), though much to my dismay woke up with a worse headache than I had before I went to bed. Breakfast and a little tea didn’t help, nor did the water I sipped before I headed to the start line. I’ve never had this happen to me before a race. Maybe it was the hotel, maybe the weather. The headache was making my stomach hurt, and as I stood in my corral waiting for the race to start I was pleading with my body to pull it together for a comfortable race. I set the bar high: just don’t puke.
I went out in the second wave, and while I’m pretty sure my headache dissipated (or I was too distracted to notice it anymore), I just felt plain off. My first mile was a little too fast for me (exactly 7:00), but it was very crowded and I was trying to get out in front of people to find a comfortable pocket. I pulled back and ran between 7:17 and 7:20 for the next couple of miles, which I would have been very happy to have held onto, but I found with each passing mile I was simply fading. I started inching closer to an 8:00 pace, and that’s where I stayed for the remainder of the race, between 7:45 and 8:00. I don’t have my watch near me right now, so I don’t know my exact mile splits, but I’ll share them as soon as I dig them up.
I also found that I couldn’t gauge my thirst at all, another new and frustrating experience this time around. I blew through the first water station, mostly because it was crowded and I just wanted to keep moving. Perhaps this was a mistake. Temps were in the low 60’s, which made for a warmer race. I took my gel around mile 8 and it felt like a rock in my stomach. In all my long training runs and previous races, this has never, ever happened. It was exactly the same gel, even the same trusty flavor, that I’ve used religiously for the past year. I knew I wasn’t feeling right before I pulled it out, but I also didn’t want to hit the wall so I ate it anyway. I was uncomfortable for a few minutes, but fortunately my stomach pulled itself together. (Muchas gracias, senorita.)
Combine all this with the fact that this race was crowded, insanely so, for the entire 13.1 miles. I’ve run larger races before, but they’ve always thinned out at some point even if the first few miles were tight. Not this race! I felt like I caught up with the first wave very quickly, and literally spent the entire race trying to duck and weave around other people. I’m not sure I could have pushed myself harder even without the crowd, but I also think that I got tired of trying to fight my way around people early on, and just after the half way point I gave up trying.
Around the 8 mile marker, i.e. rock-in-stomach time, I had THE talk with myself. Are you having fun? (No.) Do you feel like shit? (Yes.) Do you want this race to be over? (YES.) But, somehow I didn’t throw in the towel. I tried to hang on to the pace that felt okay (but still way too hard), and tried harder to simply enjoy the rest of the race to the best of my ability, which admittedly was hanging on by a tiny little thread. I knew my husband would be at the finish line, so I tried to give the last mile, okay…the last half mile, everything I had. I almost instantly regretted this, and I think it’s the closest I’ve come to actually vomiting in a race. I laughed when I got the picture below of me crossing the finish line, because I managed to pull it together and to look like I wasn’t secretly gagging a little. This, perhaps, was my one real victory of the day.
After I crossed the finish line I realized that I had persisted, despite not feeling great from the time I got up, despite being frustrated with the crowded course, and despite really, really wanting to give up from about mile 4 on. My official time was 1:41:23 (7:37 pace), and am beyond proud of myself for hanging on. I’m so happy my husband was able to come watch me finish and that he was there to laugh with me about the whole ordeal. Remember that headache? Oy. It came back with a vengeance shortly after the laughter, but after a proper recovery period filled with liquids and hamburgers, it finally left me alone. I haven’t been sore at all, but then again it wasn’t my legs that were holding me back. I decided to take a few days off to regroup and to catch up on some much needed sleep. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll go for my inaugural post-race run, and am pondering a full week off, mostly for a mini mental break.
This wasn’t my fastest race, but it was probably my most tenacious, and a good learning experience no matter what. I’ll be more closely reviewing my training this week to figure out where I’m going next and what resources might help me have a much more comfortable race in the fall (and beyond). I think part of the problem has been racing so infrequently over the past year, reserving myself only for my half marathons, so I’d like to incorporate some shorter races into the next few months to help me work on speed and to help build up some racing confidence.
While I can’t say I’m itching to do this particular race again, I’m glad for the experience, warts and all. Bad days happen. I’m picking myself up by my running shorts and moving on.
Update 5/11/16: Read more about this race in my training data dig.