May 11, 2011

A wave of the sea: My Illinois half-marathon recap

Eleven days ago I ran my first race of the summer season. A 13.1 mile race to be exact. It's actually been four years since I did my last half-marathon, and if I'm going to complete my 5-year plan of becoming a full-Ironman finisher, this was the year to see if my body could still finish 13.1 miles. (Next year is the trek to to half-Iron which includes a half-marathon for the run portion.)

I'll admit right now that my training for the race was horrible. And probably dangerous. In my twelve weeks of lead up, the most I ever ran for my long runs was seven and a half miles. Oh, I was supposed to make it up to twelve about two weeks before the race, but with moving and starting a new job, I just lost my motivation to run. I'm surprised I'm not injured, actually.  I heard once that you should take as many rest days after a race for as many miles as you ran. I still have two rest days to go, yet my triathlon training started yesterday. But I'm not very motivated for that either, and I can't slack on this training because I'm upping my race distance this year. Olympic size. For those who aren't up to race distances, and Olympic is 1500 m of swimming, 24 miles of biking, and 6.2 miles of running. What I'll actually be racing is double the distance I raced the last couple of years. Stepping it up a notch per say.
So far, I don't have a pool to train in. And my run yesterday morning only lasted 15 minutes. Half of what I was supposed to do.
And boy was I slow.
And boy was my heel was really stiff and sore.
I felt like I couldn't even remember how to run.
I'm doubting my ability to train for this race.

Eleven days ago I ran 13.1 miles in under two hours. 1:58.02 to be exact. It was a PR race for me. My goal of 1:45 went out the window with the slack in training, but on race morning, somehow I just knew I could stll run in under two hours, which was my next giant goal. Ok, I didnt' really know for sure if I was even going to finish the race without walking, but I had this huge surge of hope in me that I could run my race in under two hours. And so, I ran.
The morning started off cloudy and chilly, and I was really nervous. My husband wasn't able to make it to the race, but Wonder Woman was there. That's my mom. She's been my number one running fan since I started racing in jr. high, and has rarely missed a race.  It was super encouraging to have her in my corner, and I'm taking her to Kona if I ever qualify. She told me not to worry about the time clock on Saturday, just to go out there and run. Which is the same thing Music Man had been saying to me all week. They both know me, and they both also know how hard it was for me to hear that because I'm my own worst competitor. I wanted to run in 1:45. I at least wanted to beat two hours.
But somehow, that Saturday morning, I didn't worry about time. I lost myself in the race atmosphere and just ran.

The first 5k in I realized I had run all three miles at 9:00 minutes flat. My average pace had NOT been that for a couple of weeks, but I was comfortable. I was pushing myself, but in a strong way. I kept running. Halfway through I picked up some chocolate GU, which was like a shot of frosting, and some reserve physical energy kicked it. I was still running 9:00 minutes flat. I just kept going. And then mile 10 hit--the wall--and a spectator was encouraging us on by reminding us how much we had paid to run this race. I laughed so hard and knew that I could finish. By then, my miles had slowed down by a couple of seconds, but I realized I was on pace to finish in under two hours. That surprised me and encouraged me. So I dug deep.
I still cannot describe the feeling I had running into the stadium knowing I was running a PR when two hours earlier I didn't even think I could finish without walking. I can tell you one thing, and that's that my strength was definitely not my own that morning.

Sometimes, ok a lot of times, I don't believe in myself when it comes to my racing. Sure, I put in the miles and I try to eat right and stretch well, but when I get to the week before the race, everything goes out the window. I doubt myself. I doubt my strength. I doubt my mentality. I doubt my even finishing.
And then I get to the race and realize I'm not the only one. I hear my fellow racers voice their fears about finishing. I hear talk of bad training days, old injuries, new injuries. Fears of walking. And then Saturday, I watched a woman with a knee brace hobble along the race path, half walking-half running, finish the race.
And I thought, that's all of us. We forget sometimes that we aren't the only ones struggling. I'm not the only one with work stress up to my earlobes. I'm not the only one feeling the hurt as I put gas into my tank. I'm not the only one pinching pennies to buy milk every week.
I'm not the only one to think there's no way I can keep going and finish the race I'm in.

There are a lot of doubting people out there. But I also see there are a lot of enduring people out there. Christ calls us to consider our trials pure joy for they will develop perseverence. But he also calls us to ask for wisdom without having doubt. (James 1) Doubt is a joy killer. It's takes away our little moments. I almost let it talk me out of a race I thought I couldn't run, but instead, when I let go of my doubt, I raced the best half-marathon of my life.

When I watched the lady with the knee brace half walk-half run, I realized...she was running the race.
She's wasn't hobbling along. She wasn't half-walking. She wasn't struggling.
She ran with confidence and inner strength.
She ran without doubt.
She was running.
I was running.

And we all finished the race, no matter how long it took. We are running.