This weekend, I ran a much-needed redemption race. I know a lot of people will shake their heads in disbelief that I said that, but it is true. I’ve been struggling mentally, off and on, since dealing with my psoas issues that started in April – I’m not going to rehash it again. I’ve beat that dead horse enough.
After I finally got myself together mentally, I began looking toward this little race as a BIG chance to redeem myself. I reflected on my race performances over the past few months to see what I could improve upon and I came up with a few things to practice during this race.
First, I wanted to get out of aid stations more quickly. The last half of Rochester, my walks through the aid stations got longer and longer – too long. Even though a half isn’t the same kind of beast as a full, I knew I could use practice getting in and out of the aid stations as fast as possible. I can’t run and drink from a cup. PERIOD. I realized after Rochester that the temptation to slow down while walking through the aid station is too great – especially when I am tired and in the last stages of the race. I decided to try stopping, downing the water and immediately moving on. It worked in this race, but the temps were favorable and cooler and obviously I didn’t have to contend with mile 20. Regardless, I’m sticking with this plan. It seemed to work.
Second, I wanted to race aggressively. Last Spring, I was finally learning how to manage taking risks during races but then – psoas happened. I had to baby it and take it easy and not push too hard. For MONTHS. My personality is to stay in the safe zone anyway, so I didn’t need any encouragement to take it easy. I have to constantly remind myself to get out of the comfort zone. So my plan for the race was to warm up, keep my heart rate in mid-high 160s and then increase from there. I executed this part perfectly!! (Although I may have had some help from the steroids that I’m currently taking for my shoulder. LOL!!) Honestly, I was afraid that I started out too fast, but my HR settled into the zone that I wanted by mile 2, so I decided to stick with it as long as I felt OK. I was still feeling really strong at the halfway point. I knew I was sitting at 15th female overall because it was an out and back course and I had counted the women ahead of me. I was a little (OK..A LOT) ticked that I was in 15th, so I used that as motivation for kicking it up at the half. I cranked it up and ran in the upper 170s until the 10-mile mark. I passed 3 women (and a handful of men), so I was sitting in 12th at this point. Number 11 female was still a ways off with her pink pullover and her ponytail braid. I didn’t really think I had a chance to catch her but figured I might as well keep trying to close the gap.
Side note: at mile 9, I began calculating what my expected finish time would be if I could maintain my pace. (Disclaimer: I am HORRIBLE at run math!!) I was on track for 1:45 at the half and I knew I hadn’t slowed, so I was expecting to still be on track for 1:45. I was at 1:12 and started calculating in my head. I was running 8 minute miles, on average, so I multiplied….forty minutes to go would put me at the finish at 1:52. WAIT…HOW is that possible?? I spent an entire mile trying to figure out how I was suddenly so far behind and FINALLY realized that I multiplied by 5 instead of 4. THIS is why I just run by heart rate!
My third and final goal was to spend the last 5k in the pain zone. Like I said earlier, I usually play it too safe and end up still having a lot of energy at the end of the race. It works well for negative splits, but I’m always left wondering if I could have done more. My goal was to cross the finish line on empty, leaving NO doubt about whether or not I could have pushed harder. Mile 10 came and I gave it all that I had, which seemed like a lot but didn’t really reflect in my splits. Miles 12 and 13 were THE MOST PAINFUL miles I’ve ever run or raced. I was getting close to pink ponytail braid girl, but I was right in the middle of the pain zone so I didn’t feel like I had any extra to give at that point. I also felt like I was slowing down and really thought I ran mile 13 at an 8:30 pace (until I went back and looked at the splits and saw that it was 8:10). My Garmin pace was all over the place even when I knew I hadn’t changed pace *that* much – this may explain why the course measured short on my watch. Even through all this pain, I never entertained the idea to slow down or walk, which was a BIG battle won!!
Regardless of my time, I managed to meet all the goals that I set for myself so this race was a big mental boost. Speaking of time…..I ran this race in 1:45:11!!! Going into the race, I felt pretty confident that I could run a 1:45, but I was trying to focus more on the processes which needed improvement as opposed to the end result. However, I was VERY excited to cross the finish with that time!! I was pretty sure that I placed in my age group, but had to wait around for what seemed like forever for any race results to be posted. I did end up 2nd in my age group. I missed first place by only 21 seconds and…..pink ponytail girl was the one that snagged 1st!! So close! LOL
One issue that I have is how to handle these super flat races, as Houston will also be pretty flat. It does make it easier to manage running even splits, but I ALWAYS think that I am going up! I seriously thought I was going up virtually the entire first half and was looking so forward to the second “downhill” half. But then when I actually got into the second half, I still thought that I was going uphill. And even though going up hills slows me down, I can still make up some time and get my heart rate down on the downhills. I’ll be working on wrapping my mind around how best to handle this so I can be as mentally prepared as possible at flat Houston!
Happy Tuesday!! Its TRACK day!! <squeals>