Finally. Five months after the Soldier Field 10, I raced again. And I can honestly say, I have never put so much focused work into one performance-related goal. And due to that, I can also say I was SO glad the day was finally here – time to tie a bow on my endurance season.
This year has been my year to become a “runner.” Joining a track team, focused goals for each run, learning to pace. It’s been hard work. While I may not be an elite athlete who wins races, I trained like one, working towards MY personal best at every workout. Because last year was only my first year returning to serious running after a 7 year hiatus from marathons & middle-distance stuff, it was all about getting my feet wet again. This year? Get better, and achieve some personal records in the half marathon.
I don’t waste time with training. The workouts are getting me to some goal. If not, they’re boring to me – I am a personal trainer after all. I program design toward some “goal” for my athletes every day – we make fun within those workouts, but they still have a direction & a focus. I do the same thing for myself.
Changing certain variables to net a planned result. Over-reaching in key workouts to ‘raise the bar’ of what I’m capable of & what I can handle. Eating for performance – having gone fully Paleo this year – sleeping enough despite leaving the “employee” world and starting a business. Foam rolling, taking the right supplements, getting deep tissue massage, strength training to ensure I have muscular endurance/do not develop imbalances/build glycogen stores so I have larger energy stores while racing than non-strength training folks. All my energy was committed to getting better as a runner.
So come race week – I was READY to put it into play! That doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous, I didn’t know if I’d make the time goal I set for myself & the thought of not making it after all that work did not sit well with me. My last 1/2 marathon – 2:05 on a hilly course. Goal for this one – sub-2 hours, also on a hilly course. This was the 1st time I felt the weight of the goal I’d set for myself. I truly didn’t know if I’d achieve it.
The Batavia 1/2 Marathon course is full of hills. In fact, miles 4 1/2 – 10 is one long steady uphill climb with 2 VERY large hills thrown into the mix. I woke up that morning with a nauseated stomach. I’m not usually nauseous before races. suuuuuuper. Normally I eat a medium sized sweet potato topped w/ 2Tbsp unsweetened applesauce & cinnamon + a protein shake for pre-race breakfast. I could barely choke any of it down race morning thanks to the nausea. Dang. I need this fuel but may very well get sick if I eat it – damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
Parked at the race site & walking to the start, half my breakfast was left uneaten in the car. I’d decided I’d rather go slightly hungered during the race & rely on gels than eat the food & have to make bathroom stops. I ran into some running friends, said my ‘good lucks’ and made my way to an open bit of space to warm up. Nerves nerves nerves were agitating me. I have never been THIS nervous before! Time to line up to start. As soon as I took my place in line around the other runners, the nerves changed to pure excitement.
I love running in races. Being around other like-minded folks, all going for their ‘best’ that day. What a feeling! The horn sounded & we were off – straight up a hill. Gotta love mile 1 being a hill. ‘No faster than 9 min miles for the 1st 2 miles Kate’ were the directions I’d been given. Mile 2 – 8:30 – oh. I was going that fast huh? Ok, settle in, we have a ways to go here.
With each mile Garmin beeped & showed me sub-9 min splits. To go sub-2 hours, I had to average 9:05/mile the whole way. Each of those sub-9 splits tallied up extra seconds I could use later on if the hills got rough & I slowed down. So taking a cue from one of my elite triathletes – if it’s a hard pace & you can hang on to it, hold it as long as you can – & hang on I did. To do this, you have to know what you can sustain, & knowing how to pace is fairly handy too. Thanks to my track team workouts, I had experience in ‘uncomfortable but do-able’ & in pacing.
While I could hang on to that pace, it was tough. If Iceland was a fun pace, and Cary was a fun but challenging pace, this was simply challenging. Starting around mile 5 I had a mantra that I started repeating in my head. “You are amazing. You are great. You can do this.” Cheesy, but thoughts hold energy and you can feed off that energy. And when you’re uncomfortable, it’s really easy for 1 negative thought to get in and take hold of your whole brain. Can’t have that when going for a PR.
I didn’t stop repeating that mantra for the rest of the race. Literally non-stop stream of words repeated over & over & over in my head. If miles 1-9 were “challenging”, miles 10+ hurt like hell. At mile 10, everyone says, “just a 5K left (3.1 miles) piece of cake!” Of course, it’s NOT a piece of cake but, you know, mind games and all…if I’m going to kick it into high gear, now would be the time to start edging that way.
Mile 10 – sub 8:30 pace. Mile 11 – ohhh man, starting to feel like there’s very little left in the tank. Your legs start to feel funny at this point. Like you’re barely in control of them, the muscles contracting in ways unlike your normal run stride. Gotta make a decision. Take a gel and get needed energy into my bloodstream and risk my stomach knotting up – or skip it and potentially pass out. It only took a minute to decide that passing out would be a terrible way to end this race so I took a gel and that helped a tiny bit. I didn’t feel like I was out of control anymore.
Mile 13 – sheesh, WHERE is the turn off this course & towards the finish line?? Thank God for the two girls in matching pink in front of me who just kept trucking along. Hang on to them, keep focused on them, do nothing else but follow the pink. We turned a corner and finally saw the finish chute ahead. Over 2 bridges and then sprint to the finish. Funny thing though, in middle and long distance races, you totally feel like you’re sprinting towards that finish line. But you are majorly NOT sprinting. The effort feels immense, but if someone looked at you, they’d certainly not think “sprinter!”
So did I get the result I wanted ? Did I make my goal?
This girl sure did! 1:54:13
It took a while to even care that I’d made it because I felt so beaten-to-death by the race. But once the waves of cramping, nausea & foggy brain cleared, it started to sink in. I’m getting faster. My work is paying off. How awesome. So what’s next? More races? Nope.
I’m done racing for the year. My goals are shifting, and I’m excited for them! More on what that is in future posts…I’ll be documenting what I’m designing for myself as ‘personal trainer Kate’ needs to kick into gear again to start planning workouts that will get me to my next goal.
I ended up getting the result I was planning for from this race and my training program. Having a plan. And sticking to it. Two keys for success, the latter more so than the former, in my opinion.