"Remember this: no one cares about your running as much as you do. The training, the race results, the pressure, the expectation. It's all created within ourselves. I find that a freeing feeling in itself. Do what is needed to find success on your own path, not success as defined by others."
~ Stephanie Rothstein Bruce
Last week I ran 80 miles. That included a 23 miler on Monday and a double on Wednesday. Then, on Saturday, I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off at the Ocean State Invitational, borderline giddy as I watched the ladies on my high school XC team, 52 of them split up into three different races, run their hearts out. Forgive the humble brag here, but when all was said and done, I was both proud to have gotten through it and more exhausted than I've been in a while as a result of it. So, you can understand why, as I pulled into my driveway around 7pm on Saturday evening, I was feeling pretty anxious about running a half on Sunday morning. Again, I was physically and mentally wiped. On top of that, I hadn't raced since July and hadn't raced hard since my last marathon in April and I was almost a little scared to line up again. My coach always says that fear is a good thing if you can channel it into positive energy on race day. But, this felt different. I had some worry and doubt sprinkled in, which is never a good thing. My family was in CT for my daughter's soccer game on Sunday, so I did my best to relax and remind myself that this was just a tuneup for my upcoming October marathon. Lots of talking out loud to myself on Saturday night.
On Sunday I woke up to a gorgeous morning; crisp, cool and clear. It's been hot and humid here in the MA area for weeks, so this was such a pleasant surprise. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5:00am, not by choice but likely due to my nerves which were already in high gear. For the first time in...well, maybe ever, I woke my dog up and got her out for a walk. Not that she minded. We started in the dark and finished as the sun came up, which I took a moment to appreciate. The race wasn't starting until 10:07am, so I still had LOTS of time. Thus, I planted myself on the porch and enjoyed a cup of coffee as Clover stood on squirrel patrol.
After that I had some breakfast, did some laundry, cleaned up the house a bit and then walked Clover over to my neighbors house for a little playdate. Yes, the one time I had five hours to kill before a race, it was basically happening right next door. The irony was not lost on me. Finally, around 8:30 I gathered all my gear and loaded up the car to head over to Wilmington, a quick and easy 15 minute drive. I parked right next to the start and went to grab my bib before making my way out for a warmup. It was relatively chilly, so I tacked on an extra mile to make sure I was fully awake and (hopefully) firing on all cylinders by the start of the race.
After two miles, I got back to my car, took off some layers, had some water, pinned my number on and changed my shoes. I hadn't laced up in my "fast shoes" in such a long time and, as it usually does, the process got me fired up and helped me mentally shift into race mode, which was good because up until that point I hadn't really been feeling it. Around 9:45, I walked over to the line and did some last minute dynamics and strides as I waited for the 5K runners to take off. We would be taking off 7 minutes after them for the half, hence the odd 10:07 start time. Right around here, I gave myself a little pep talk.
Okay, Rebecca. You are ready for this. Let's run with courage and see what we've got. Go ahead and take a risk today. Trust yourself to lock into goal pace from the get go and see if you can hold on. The only pressure today is your own. You are running for time, not place. To test your fitness and have fun. Don't get caught up in the chaos and stress yourself out any more than you need to.
By the time we were about to get going, I was excited. Nervous as hell. But, really pumped up. I started my music, got my watch ready and, as promised, at 10:07 we were off. I have an Apple Watch and it often takes a good half mile, sometimes longer, before I get an accurate read on pace. Knowing this, I just found a group and settled in while I waited for the pace to sort itself out. Mile 1 came quickly. I checked my watch. 6:20. Oh SHIT. That was not the plan. I pulled back from the group I'd been in and tried to reset. But, my heart was racing and my head immediately started playing games. Clearly, not a good way to start things off. I cruised past mile two at 6:35. Much better. I was trying to hold steady between 6:30-6:40 for this, so I was back on track. I calmed down and tried to find a fresh mental groove. I did not check my watch at mile three. I was trying to run by feel and wanted to stop stressing about time if I could. This was a mistake. At mile four my wheels started to fall off. Mile FOUR. What?? I have had plenty of race meltdowns, but it's rare that it happens this early on the course. Things were bad. I felt really off and my race demons were telling me to stop. Literally. I was thinking things like, I can't do this and I need to drop out and Why do I do this to myself??? Oh, and I'm pretty sure I had the classic I'm never doing another marathon again thought in there, too. But this was a practice run. It wasn't even the main rodeo. I've been training since June for an October marathon. This was a small piece of the puzzle. A fitness test. That was it. Thankfully, a small part of my brain was still able to process this. I convinced myself to calm down, which was much harder than it should have been. Then I told myself that I needed to make it to mile 10. I could ease up on pace if needed. But I was not dropping out. I also reminded myself that I needed a marathon pace workout regardless of the situation I was in so it was pay now or pay later. I was flustered and my doubt was working against me, but I did not want to start this thing over again the next day. So, I forged ahead.
Above you can see my splits. If mile 3 is anywhere near accurate, then it's no wonder that I had a complete meltdown at mile 4. I honestly didn't feel like I was running a 6:09, but I have no idea and clearly I can't trust my watch on pacing.
Why, you ask? Because despite the fact that my watch shows an accurate finish time, the distance is completely off. Which means my average pace is also totally off. So, who knows what was going on. I knew none of this at the time, mind you. And just thought I was running slower than I'd planned given my average pace. Somehow I was able to fight through my fear and doubt and get through miles 5-10. But it was touch and go for a while in there. I did have a gentleman next to me for much of this stretch and we often passed water between us and took turns leading, so that was a huge help. When I got to mile 10, I knew I could finish. As I mentioned, I thought my pace had dropped, so by now I had stopped looking at my watch all together. I was bummed, as I'd really wanted to run well for this race and get a sense of how things stood as I head into my final month of training. But, I also knew that fighting through that rough patch would serve me well down the line so as I was finishing my final 5K I was telling myself that the effort wasn't a complete throwaway. Finally, I got to mile 12 and I was so freaking psyched to be done and put this mess behind me. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I turned the corner and saw the clock at 1:25 and change. What the HELL??? Yes, I knew that's what my watch said for time, but my distance was wrong and thus I thought for sure the clock time was also wrong. Not so. I crossed the line in 1:26:05 and had to double and then triple check the Racewire clocks to make sure I wasn't delusional.
I was thrilled. And completely shocked. It was a great time for me. And I really had thought I'd blown it. I was also pissed, because I put myself through some serious torture that probably could have been avoided. And had I known that I was running a good time all along, I think I would have finished stronger. What a shit show. There's no other way to break it down. I just didn't get it figured out from the get go and never got it back together. Obvisouly, I'm happy about the time. But, the fight was so ugly that it's hard to not see it as a bit of a fail, too. As he always does, my coach gave it to me straight. First, and foremost, I have got to find a way to settle the nerves for the marathon. That first mile probably cost me 20-30 seconds. I won't have that time to spare on game day. And it's definitely going to cost a lot more with a full 26.2 miles to run. Second, his words here, I don't think I can let you call a half marathon PR and "off" day. Yes, it was an awkward battle, but I'd managed to get it together and hold on. And because of this, I should be confident in knowing I can carry out my goal plan for the marathon. And last, but definitely not least, he suggested that I might need to get a new watch or borrow one from someone on race day as no pace data at all is better than wrong data. Okay, so calm down, be sure of myself and get a new watch. The watch is easy. The other two are going to take some work. Any thoughts are suggestions are welcome here. But please make it quick! I have less than four weeks to go. GULP.
Listen to this:
THUNDERCLOUDS - LSD feat. Sia, Diplo, and Labrinth