April 30, 2012

Illinois Half Marathon race recap

I want to lay the facts all out there first.

Running is hard for me.
Running does not come natural to me.
It has taken me about three years to drop my pace a minute and a half/mile.
I have an injury that between two sports doctors, two physical therapists, and five years, still plagues me.

And it reared it's ugly head at Saturday's race.
So, because of all of the above, I am taking two weeks--two weeks--off from running.

This will probably be super hard for me, but I joined Run to the Finish's yoga challenge  to help with the post-race stretching, and I'm going to try to hit the pool this week to start my tri training and keep up the cardio.
My hope is that this will give my leg some healing time.

I felt it necessary to open with honesty today.

Now. To the recap.

Saturday's race was good--I PR'd--but it was hard. Probably one of the hardest races I've ever run.


  Time: 1:56.46  Overall: 1802/6758  FemalePl: 611/3709 Agediv: 104/618

When I signed up in January, I was hopeful. I'd come off of some therapy and muscle relaxers, and my leg was doing well. So I signed up to run a 1:45 half which landed me in corral B for the race. But, after my training, I went into the race Saturday morning knowing I couldn't hit that pace, but I had a really strong belief that I could still PR. I was nervous Friday night. Just the regular prerace nerves, yet the weather had me jacked up. The outlook was rainy, cold, and stormy. We've had a fairly mild winter/spring up until now, so I didn't do too much training in crazy weather. And the few mornings we had rain or wind, I sort of slept in.

I figured it'd come back to bite me. (New goal: become a non fair weather runner.)

But, I had trained for this. I knew I could still finish, even if it rained on me.
But I was fearful.

Once I got to the starting line Saturday morning, I dropped back to corral C to attach myself to a pace group running for a 1:50 half. I knew I couldn’t hit 1:45, but 8:35 min/miles seemed to be where I could stay. The bulk of my training has been that, so I thought the pace group could really push me to a strong PR.

I started strong...I felt great and being with the pace group kept me from going out too fast.

Mile 1: 8:45

Mile 2: 8:17

First mistake: I pulled away from pace group here. But I still felt good and had 3 more strong miles.

Mile 3: 8:25

Mile 4:8:44

Mile 5: 8:35

Then it hit me. Second mistake: Not hydrated enough. (Time to stock up on Nuun. ) Right before the 10k mark, I started getting a side cramp, which I NEVER get, and my calves seemed to be seriously tight. I ran with my CEP compression sleeves, which were great in my training run last week (11miles) but not so great Saturday.

Mile 6: 8:52

I hit the 10k mark at 51:39, but then it was as if I hit a tiny, just a tiny wall. (You can’t tell by the giant smile and fist pump.) By then, the pace group had caught back up to me and I watched them pass me by. At that point, not only did it feel like I was fighting off cramps, but my core was on fire.
Third mistake: long sleeves under my tee.

I “stopped” at the aid station so I could actually get some water down my throat, and it was at this point that I heard my book club girls cheering for me.
I ended up stripping right around the corner, threw my tshirt back on and tied my long sleeves around my waist.

So glad my friends didn't have to see the show.

But at this point, I really started to falter.

Mile 7: 9:03

I started checking my watch too much. And I was angry at myself for hitting a nine minute mile.

I started thinking about being dehydrated.

I focused on the pain shooting down my leg.

Somehow, I just kept running.

And praying.
I probably repeated Philippians 4:13 a million times.

This part of the course is through a park and in the middle of the loop there is a statue of a woman. Someone had decorated her for the race. She had a pair of tennis shoes hanging from one hand, a space blanket tied around her wrist which was blowing picturesquely in the wind, and a medal hanging from her other hand.
And right after I passed her, I had a gal pass me with Phil 4:13 on the back of her shirt.

Mile 8: 9:05

About mile 9, I knew that if I kept up 9 to 9:30 miles I could still stay on pace to beat my time from last year, so I chugged alone

Mile 9: 9:09

When I came out of the park between 9-10, I had a spectator tell me I was bright! I told him it was so my mom could find me at the finish. It made him laugh and all I could think about at this point was the finish.
The cramps were gone, but my hamstring/IT band was screaming with pain.

Mile 10: 9:25

The jellybeaners were between miles 10 & 11 again, but I didn't grab any. After 3 gu’s, my stomach was a little off. (I had one 15 minutes before, one at 45 min in, the last right at mile 10.)

Mile 11: 9:13

During mile 11, I started almost panicking mentally. I couldn't remember how many miles I had run, if it was 11 or 12. (I missed mile 1 marker, though I heard all the gps watches beeps, but I didn't get mine clicked, so my watch was a lap down. ) I thought for a bit I was going to PR big, and then realized I still had a 1.1 to go. It was a seriously weird moment of race brain confusion.
Then disappointment. Fourth mistake: I let fear in
However, I thought I could still PR. By this point I was shooting for 1:55 because 1:50 was completely out. Too many 9+ minutes miles. There was no way I was about to run a five minute mile or less to PR. My body just couldn’t take it.

Mile 12: 9:21

This part (11.5 to the end) of the course was different from last year so I think that's what started the confusion. I remembered the race course vividy from last year, but being directionally challenge... I had no idea where I was or where I was headed or how much was left.
All I could focus on was the eighty year old guy that passed me, and who I mentally started to race because I wasn’t about to let him beat me.  

As soon as  I got close to the stadium, I started pushing. I was getting close to last year's time (1:58) and I badly wanted to beat it, if only by a minute.

And I did.

By two.

Mile 13.1: 9:47

Finish: 1:56.46

Hitting the stadium was such a great feeling. You get to run out of the shoot, onto the field, and finish at the 50 yd line. I raised my hands triumphantly.. mainly because I wanted to make sure I got a good finish line shot (I always  have weird faces, and I finishlineread somewhere that if you draw attention to yourself, they’ll definitely get a picture of you.) Don’t mind me stopping my watch.

And it turns out my mom saw me pretty well. Even though there were about a gazillion day-glo shirts on the field.
Turns out the 80’s was good.
It’s coming back.


Ultimately, Saturday really was just a mental game, and I spent most of the race in prayer seeking strength. I knew there was no way I could finish on my own.

Am I disappointed in my race?
yes and no.

Yes because I know I am mentally stronger than that. I let fear in. I held myself back.

But, despite the obstacles, I learned from this race (like, I need to STOCK up on Nuun and drink water like it’s my job.)

And I’m choosing to be joyful about my finish because

1. I had a good training cycle …my pace dropped and I became confident because of that

2. Looking at my race pictures, I was smiling. Even if I was hurting, and fearful of not making my goal, I was smiling. Which means it was a good race.

and 3. I ran faster than last year

Even if by only 2 minutes.


A PR is a PR nonetheless.


Choose Joy. Find Strong. Live Faith.

1 comment:

  1. And 4. Your mom is STILL your biggest fan! Awesome job Swiss!