Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Yesterday I was scheduled to do one of my last hard workouts for this training cycle.  Along with a warmup and cool down, I needed to run 14 miles at my goal marathon pace, which is 6:50 per mile. (gulp)  We've had a string of hot and humid days up here in the Boston area and as of last week, Monday was looking no different.  Because of this, I was a little stressed about when and how I was going to get this puppy done.  Given the heat, I would likely need water.  On top of that, I wasn't sure where I could get 14 miles in straight through without having to cross streets and avoid cars but the dreadmill was out of the question.  Add to that my current level of exhaustion, which is at an all time high, and I really didn't think I could pull it off.  Once that doubt seeped in, I couldn't shake it.  But, at the same time, I had to get it done, because, you know, no excuses and stuff.  I needed to come up with a plan B.  Pronto.  So, I got online and googled half marathons in MA on September 9/17 and to my good fortune the 13th Annual Wilmington Half Marathon popped up.  I immediately emailed my coach to see if I could swap out my workout for this race, where I could essentially do the workout but in the company of runfriends and with water stops.  He told me he'd originally wanted me to get a tuneup in before my marathon anyway so this would work perfectly.  Done and done.  I can't put into words how relieved I was.  Races can be stressful and nerve-wracking but knowing that all I had to do was show up and run it as a workout and that I would be supported along the way was huge.  I'd be able knock this final MP workout off my list and carry on with my training.  On Saturday, I emailed my coach for a quick check in regarding my pace plan:
Hey Lowell,
I've been so tired this might not even be an option but, if I do have some extra energy can I push the pace on Sunday or should I stick with 6:50?
Get a few miles in at 6:50 and see how you feel.  I'm not against you going faster but only if you are under control.
Stay in control.  Got it.  No problemo.  Let's do this.

As expected, it was hot and humid on Sunday morning.  But, unlike most race days, I wasn't stressed out about it since I wasn't going for broke.  I said goodbye to my family and headed over to Wilmington, which is a short 15 minute drive from our house.  Closest race ever.  Major bonus.  The race was set to go off at 10:00am so I left around 8:30, making it over to the start easily with plenty of time to deal.  I grabbed my bib and shirt and turned to throw my stuff into the car when I bumped right into my friend, Michelle, one of my Oiselle teammates from NH who was also using this race as a tune up for a marathon.  It was so nice to see a familiar face as I rarely go to races solo and felt a little weird being there without my training partner and wingman, Kirsten, who had family obligations over the weekend.  I headed off for my warmup just as the cars started flowing into the parking lot and the runners along with them.  When I got back I was totally soaked through.  It was at this point that I realized things could get ugly given the weather, but it was out of my control so I tried not to think about it.  I haven't raced in a while and even though I was under no pressure to perform, my nerves were still kicking into high gear.  I sent Kirsten a quick text knowing that she would likely help calm me down.  It's not a race - it's a training run, she said.  Yes, I know.  I responded.  I took a breath, shook it out and walked over to the line.  There were about 400 of us lined up at the start.  The 5K crew would go first and the half marathoners after them.  You can see in the photo below that I'd succeeded at calming down and was feeling nice and relaxed at the start.  Never happens.

Miles 1-3 (6:47, 6:42, 6:41)
The sun was starting to bust through the haze just as we lined up so the temperature went up about 10 degrees as we waited to head off.  I laughed a little.  Turned up my music.  And then we were off.  I wanted to ease into goal pace and give it a few miles before I tried to switch gears.  My first mile was right on target (6:47) and I was feeling good.  I did my best to hold that pace without focusing too much on my watch.  Miles 2 and 3 were a little quicker than I had planned but I was hanging with a group of 3 other runners and felt like we were well matched so I just zoned out a bit and let them lead.
Miles 4-9 (6:27, 6:33, 6:24, 6:37, 6:43, 6:32)
For this next section I decided to push things a bit.  I knew the temp was only going to go up and figured I would bank some faster miles early if I could.  The course had some rolling hills so, again, I just focused on how I felt and didn't worry too much about mile pace.  I had my watch on average pace at this point and I was hovering right around 6:37, which felt good.  I was definitely feeling the heat and making sure to take water at each stop both to drink and to pour over my head.  We wove through a lot of small neighborhoods and had to follow cardboard signs with arrows on them as people weren't out at all the turns.  I did have a couple moments in here when I was solo and had to ask the people who were out on their lawns if I was still on the race course.  These smaller races can be tricky for that reason.

Miles 10-13.1 (6:45, 6:45, 6:47, 6:40, 6:09)
About halfway through mile 10, I was cruising along when I saw a construction worker walking up ahead.  He kept turning his head and looking back at me, which I thought was odd.  Finally, he stopped and said The race doesn't go in this direction.  You're running the wrong way.  To which I replied, OH, SHIT!!!!  I made a hard turn (see photo) and headed back and as I did I saw some of the racers taking the left that I had missed.  Mentally, this was a real blow.  I lost my flow and had to work to find my pace again which was really tough to do given how tired and, now, frustrated I was.  For the record, I would have kept running into the sunset by myself if that guy hadn't been there so I owe him, big time.  My only saving grace was that I now had less than three miles to go, so I told myself to just dig in and get it done.  I was having to focus really hard on the race signs from that point on as I was nervous that I would miss another turn.  That kind of sucked, too.  But, at the same time, it's good to have these challenges thrown at you because, as we all know, no race ever unfolds perfectly.  Finally, I turned to the finish and crossed the line in 1:28:24.

Note: My O top was given to me by my friend & #sisterhero, Sasha Gollish
I was trying hard to channel her awesomeness. Really, I just look like a dork.

The finish was a little anti-climatic for me after the chaos of the final 5K.  But, I was still happy to be done and to have run a decent time despite the situation.  I chatted with a very nice gentleman named Dave for a while and we ended up cooling down together.  Gotta love the running community and the insta-friend vibe.  At this point, it was hot as hell, I was wiped and I was ready to get out the hell out of dodge.  Before I took off I grabbed a quick photo with Michelle who I was happy to find and hang with in the finish area for a bit.

As I made my way over the parking lot I texted my coach to give him the play by play.  I let him know that I'd done what I'd hoped to accomplish but that the missed turn had really messed me up and to be honest, annoyed me.  His response was exactly what I needed to hear.

If the splits tell the tale, then you probably left 30 seconds out there on the course with the wrong turn.  Maybe more.  Doesn't matter at this point, since you got the win and a good workout.  I think I have said this before, but anything faster than goal marathon pace when you are at this point in the training cycle is a good effort.

Right.  Eyes on the prize.  I'd run a good race.  I'd stayed in control until things got out of control.  I reigned it back in.  And I finished.  That's all that mattered.  There was no need for me to focus on this effort as my big race is yet to come.  So I went home and got ice cream with my family, easily moving on and more than ready to finish off this training cycle.  Three weeks to go.  Stay tuned.

Listen to this:
Wake Up by Fialta

1 comment: