We ran three different teams (Freshman, Varsity A and Varsity B) and all three of them took the win. It was totally unexpected and such a thrill for us. It also happened to be about 85 degrees out and I ran around like a banshee from 9am until we left around two in the afternoon. Both of these factors would have a significant impact on my race the next day, not that I cared or event thought about it at the time. This group of ladies is so tight and works together so beautifully. They are such a joy to coach. Okay, sorry, just had to throw that in there. Not really sorry, though. By the time I got back to the house I was toast. I did nothing but chill for the rest of the afternoon as I wanted to try and recover as much as possible before the next day. As usual, I woke up stupidly early on Sunday. I made coffee and went outside for a porch session with Clover. Our new dog, Enzo, prefers to stay in bed a little longer than his sister.
It was a gorgeous, crisp, cool morning. I cried a little inside knowing that the temperature, which was in the fifties at the time, was going to get up to the eighties as it had the day before and that our race wasn't starting until 10:00am so we'd be finishing in that sweet heat. Whatever. My Chicago training has gone really, really well. I've logged more miles than ever this time around. I've hit most of my workouts. I've stayed relatively injury-free aside from a pesky plantar fascia. I've been super lucky. I also feel stronger than I have at the end of past buildups, so I was expecting to run well on race day, and to possibly cross the line with a new PR. My coach agreed that both a strong race and a PR were in the cards if things went well. Once I learned how hot it was going to be, I knew the PR goal would be more challenging to achieve, though I still thought I had it in me and wasn't throwing it out the window quite yet. I did come up with a B and C goal just so I didn't totally set up myself up for disappointment. Steve came over around 8am and all three of us headed up to Manchester together. It was a smooth and mellow trek and we parked easily and grabbed our numbers without any issues. Jeff doesn't warmup and Steve was only doing a short one, so I took off on my own for a couple miles. I was feeling heavy and tired and, naturally, this made me nervous but I tried ignore it and remind myself that I often feel this way and still manage to power through a hard workout.
When I got back, I found Jeff stretching in the shade. The heat was now in full force. We knew it would be, but it was still a bummer to know we'd be battling it. We made our way over to the line, Steve and I jumping in the front and Jeff settling in a little further back, wished each other good luck, and got ready to go.
My race plan was to run right around 6:30/mile pace for the majority of it and then to pick it up at the end with whatever I had left in the tank. I'd done a couple workouts in this pace range in the weeks leading up to it, so I felt confident that this was manageable. Steve was along for the ride, hoping to work with me and follow the same strategy so he didn't go out too fast and bonk at the end. He's more of a mid-distance kid and he's wicked fast on the track so starting out guns blazing was both likely to happen and not going to end well for him. We hit our first mile right on pace in 6:32. At mile 2, though, we'd slid back to 6:40. My GPS was off so my pace was now inaccurate and Steve, having a good old fashioned timer going, called out our split. I told myself not to panic, just to pick it up and find my groove again. Steve, however, went right ahead and panicked and threw down a 5:55 for his 3rd mile. Obviously, I did not go with him. And that was it for our team strategy. I was now on my own and he was flying solo ahead of me. After his third mile, he reigned it back in, so I was able to keep him in sight for the next few miles, which was really helpful. My watch was all over the place and I had no one with me, so I felt that if I could just hold on and keep him in sight I'd be okay. I was taking water at every stop, sipping and then pouring the rest over my head. The course was beautiful, some of it on a dirt path along the water with gorgeous views. Once I'd settled in to what I thought was a decent pace, I was able to look around and enjoy myself. There were long stretches with no one in sight, so when I did see people, particularly the young girls who were watching, I made an effort to wave or high-five to get an extra jolt of energy. The course looped around and we ran back along the same stretch with the runners who were behind us now coming towards us on their way to the turn. I saw Jeff and gave him a high five which I really needed because I could feel myself fading a little about 8 miles in. I truly had no idea what pace I was running because my distance was off by 3/4 of a mile and my average pace was off because of that. Around mile 10, Steve was no longer in site and I got passed by a couple guys who were smooth sailing to the finish. One of them tried to get me to stay with him, pointing to the ground next to him and waving me along. Yes, I thought, I do want to follow you. But my legs are having their own party and neither of us are invited. It was good that he was there as I was now trying to keep the gap between the two of us as small as possible until the finish. Finally, I made it to mile 11 and I was able to pick it up knowing that I was almost done. I came around the bend and up the hill to finish in 1:27 and change.
I did not hit my A (PR), B (1:25/26) or C (run hard and have fun) goal. I mean, yes, I'd run hard and parts of it were fun, but the for majority of it, I'd felt sluggish and off and I did not have the drive that I had expected, so I was really bummed. I found Steve, who'd crushed it with a 1:23, and sat down. Nothing hurt. I was just so, so tired. Really psyched for him, though. He was already talking marathon. That was fast. But I wasn't surprised at all.
Steve and I got a quick...or, not so quick actually, cool down mile in and then found Jeff who'd also done really well despite the heat. Something must have clicked for Jeff, too because he was already talking about signing up for his next one before we got in the car to head home. I love that. We stuck around for the awards because Steve and I had both taken second overall for men and women and they were giving out some sweet swag including Bombas socks and COFFEE FLAVORED energy squares. What??!! Sadly, the socks were too big for me, so Steve and I swapped my socks for his coffee squares as he doesn't do coffee. All good. More coffee for me.
As we were waiting for the awards I texted my coach and we hashed it out.
Me:1:27. Not what I wanted.
Lowell: Too hot.
Me: Think that was it?
Lowell: Timing a race right now in Concord and it is toasty.
Me: Ok, I'll go with that. But I really thought I had more in my legs.
.... then a few hours later, after I'd had time to process the race a little more I texted again....
Me: Thinking more. Ran around in the heat yesterday for hours. Probably impacted me more than I realized. Also logged 90 miles last week. So, between that and the the temp today, a PR was probably not realistic. All that said, do you think my marathon goal is still within reach. Yes, I'm overanalyzing. Can't help it.
Lowell: That is a bunch of things working against you today. Your marathon goal is absolutely still within reach.
Me: Okay, I'm done. Thanks.
Lowell: If you were content easily you wouldn't be successful and you wouldn't be doing what you're doing.
Me: That's true. Thanks again.
I can't lie. Even after this conversation and some words of encouragement from Steve and Jeff I was still disappointed. I'm always telling my high school athletes that every race has a purpose. That every race makes them stronger regardless of the outcome. And if it doesn't happen to go the way they wanted, that they have to accept it and move on. Because dwelling on it doesn't do anyone any good. So, I'm working hard to practice what I preach and tell myself the same thing. I put in a good effort with this half. It was solid work. Miles in the bank. It's over. Time to reset and focus on the big kahuna. Chicago or bust.
Listen to this:
It's Gettin' Hectic - Brand New Heavies