Love hurts and the sting of a rough race had a bad taste in my mouth...I started this week ready to tackle the next dream and leave the “failure” behind. Because I get to write my story, and my heart knows great things lie ahead. So I put my head down and get to work!
~ Becki Spellman
New Bedford half marathon. I kind of hate this race, primarily because it's always, without fail, brutally windy for the second half. It's also a tough course with some big hills in the beginning and at the end. When you add those two factors together, well, it kind of speaks for itself. And yet, I do it often. Because it's relatively close by. Because it's perfect timing for a spring tuneup. And because I'm a little crazy and I like to go back each year to see if I can best my time from the year before. Plus, this year, for the first time, I was running as a member of the Whirlaway Team, a local running club that I joined up with last month, and we'd be going for the Women's Masters team win. So, that was kind of cool and different and a new reason to go back to the beast. So, it's more of a love/hate I suppose, love being a relative term. The night before the race my 12 year old was having a sleepover. Fine, no big deal. But, oddly, I broke from routine, mainly because I was distracted by the girls. I didn't lay out my outfit & gear as I usually do, so I don't have my standard 'Flat Trax' photo. I went to bed at a decent hour but got woken up by laughter around 10:30pm and had to get up and tell Grace and her friend to zip it.
Whatever. I did have the above poem waiting for me on my computer when I got up the next morning which totally melted my heart and resulted in instant forgiveness. Damn, she's good. The Friday before I'd chatted with my coach about pacing for this one, my second race of the season. He suggested I aim for 6:30-6:40 and to go for the PR (sub 1:26) because, why not? Of course, I was game. But, I also wasn't fooling myself and if it was going to be windy as usual, the PR would likely not be in the cards. So the 'A' goal was to run a personal best. My 'B' goal was to run a better time than last year (sub 1:29). And my 'C' goal was simply to run hard, try and have a good time and place well for the Whirlaway Masters women.
When I woke up around 6:30 on Sunday the temp was in the 30s. Not great, not bad. I made coffee but did not go out out to the porch for my usual pre-race chill session with Clover as it was way too cold. The dogs, however, sat out there and enjoyed the sun, which we were all happy to see. I got myself organized, (not gonna lie, wish I'd done more the night before, but oh well) and left the house around 8:15. The race didn't start until 11, but the Whirlaway team always meets in the same lot beforehand and I was told that if I didn't arrive at least 90 minutes ahead of time that there wouldn't be any spots left. Well, I sure as hell wasn't going to be the new team member who showed up late and couldn't find a spot or anyone on the team for that matter. No need to make things more awkward for the new kid than they already were. It was a beautiful morning and I was cautiously optimistic about the weather despite the cold. About 30 minutes into my drive I began debating getting off and grabbing a second cup of coffee. I mean the effects of my first cup were long gone at this point. But, then, I never have 2 pre-race cups, primarily because races don't tend to start this late in the morning, so I worried that I'd mess up my stomach or get a cramp and decided it wasn't worth trying something new. It was a really tough decision as I really wanted it, these being the things runners debate on a regular basis. I got to the parking lot easily, found Dave, the team's manager and met a few other people before making my way over to the YMCA to grab my number and shirt. Right on cue, the wind picked up and started whipping in all directions as we walked. So much for my cautious optimism. We gathered as a team inside the 'Y' and I met and chatted with some more people but then started to get anxious because I needed a warmup so I broke from the group and walked back to the car. When I got there I saw Kassandra Marin, who was there with her Mom. Fun fact, Kasey finished right before me at the Baystate Marathon and congratulated me as I slobbered in my tears of joy. She also recently joined the Whirlaway crew. Small world. There were a lot of team members mulling around but I didn't know anyone very well so I just took off for my warmup on my own. When I got back I had just enough time to ditch some layers and then to find a spot on the line with the other 2000+ runners. We were crammed in pretty tight together, the upside being that I was no longer cold. I ended up finding my friend and Oiselle teammate, Leah O, and we chatted a bit and traded goals as we waited, which was a great way to ease the tension. After the National Anthem we wished each other well and we were off. Again, I broke tradition with no pre-race photo, mainly because I didn't want to get my phone out. Sort of a bummer that I didn't grab one with Leah, but it wasn't worth the stress.
Miles 1-4 (6:33, 6:44, 6:54, 6:54)
You can see the cluster***k that we were dealing with in the above photo. I didn't cross the line until about 30 seconds after the start. Then I had to bob and weave for a while before things finally started to space out. It took a little more time than usual for me to get into a groove, but I started to feel settled by the second mile. And then we had some climbing to do. There were some solid hills at miles 3 and 4 and I didn't want to use too much energy on them and then have nothing left to fight the wind so I was pretty reserved. In the end, too reserved, but we'll get to that later.
Mile 5-8 (6:30, 6:36, 6:32, 6:38)
For miles 5-8 I was in cruise control. In my mind I was breaking the race up into sections of 4 miles so this was part 2. I have been doing a lot of interval work in the 6:30-6:35 pace range and I felt like my body was recognizing this pace and comfortable working in it. I was psyched. I was also really happy that the wind hadn't been a big factor yet as this was not the case the year before. My mantra here was glide and fly, which I'd pulled from Grace's poem. Looking back on the race, it's here that I could have turned it on a little and gotten a bit gutsier with a faster pace. I realize now that I was too comfortable and could have given more. Second lesson of the day.
Miles 9-12 (6:47, 6:38. 6:58, 6:52)
Honestly, I'm not really sure what happened at mile 9. I think I just zoned out a little and as a result I fell off pace. For no good reason. I wasn't struggling and the wind was still at bay. One of the things I need to work on in my racing is being more present and in the moment while I'm out on the course. This is why. It happens at least once during every race. It's not a huge deal during the marathon when there is more time on the road, but for shorter stuff it messes up my overall time, so, again, it's something to work on. Lesson number 3. As expected, the wind was now in full force. I knew it was coming, but you always forget how much it works against you until you're back in it. The woman in the pink pants above kept me going. I just tried to hunker down, keep her in focus and power through.
Mile 12 is uphill. All of it. With the wind blowing in your face, it's brutal. Dave was standing at the top and told me to 'go get it', so I found a new gear and pushed through the final stretch. I finished in 1:27:57. It's an okay time for me. Not great. I wanted the PR. I didn't get it. But, I did set a personal record on the New Bedford course, which was very satisfying. When I crossed the line I was...well, I was tired, but also kind of okay. Pretty soon after the finish, I began to wonder if I'd given it everything I could have. Later, after some analysis, I realized the answer was a definite 'no'. Honestly, I think I was too cautious, particularly on the hills and in the middle of the race. I knew it because I felt too good once the dust settled, something that never happens. And because of that, I was a little annoyed with myself. Ok, a lot annoyed. It didn't help that I got back to the parking lot and starting comparing my time to those of my teammates, many of whom had done incredibly well, running much faster than me. Such a thief, comparison is. I cooled down with a few teammates and then broke off to get myself a coffee which I enjoyed while we all chatted and hung out before we said our goodbyes. Overall, an okay day. I hit my 'B' goal with the New Bedford personal best. I also hit my "C" goal as I managed to have fun and work hard for the team. But, I know I have a lot more in me. My coach, who I spoke with later in the day via text, confirmed this based solely on my workouts over the past few months. Yes, I might need better conditions and perhaps a less challenging course for the PR. But, really, I need to get my head in the game and find the courage to take some risks. My window of time to run at this level is getting smaller each year. If I'm going to do it, I have to do it now. When all was said and done, I decided I didn't want to end my day with negative thoughts and energy. I'd worked hard and I owed it to myself to focus on the positive. Just before I shut down my phone I sent the below note to my coach.
The last thing I'll say is that I had more confidence in my strength today. It didn't show in my time. But I felt a flow that I didn't have down in Jax (my last race). And I ran a better time in a much tougher situation - both weather and course. So, I'll check that off as today's progress. And start back up again tomorrow.
Tomorrow is now. This race is history. I'm back at it. Focused on the next one. And fired up. Stay tuned.
Listen to this:
Grit Your Teeth - Martin Luke Brown