RnR Dallas Race Recap: Finding the Sweet Spot

First, I want to apologize for this post being so lengthy.  I try to keep my posts short and sweet, but I just couldn’t condense this much – plus I mostly write these for myself so when it shows up on TimeHop next year I will be able to relive the day in its full glory.  I’m not quite sure why I am attempting to write this now, so soon after the race.  I’m still trying to process the whole amazing experience.

Last week as the weather forecast became more and more favorable, I started gaining confidence that I would be able to hit my goal of 1:50.  Still, I tend to doubt myself and my abilities and I just didn’t know if I would be able to run as hard as I needed to without having my teammates drag me along during the race.  Running with them at Cowtown was instrumental to my success in that race, but I learned a lot, too, and hoped I could capitalize on that at RnR.

Crazy Jen always finds a way to escape

People laugh when I talk about Crazy Jen, but she is a real part of my personality, on the running side anyway.  I can’t actually say that I have done anything spectacular to keep her at bay – when I just stick to the plan and do the workouts my coach gives me, she stays hidden.

But taper…..taper is a time when the craziness emerges and even the most sensible people do un-sensible things (I am NOT sensible, even when I am not tapering).  I was so proud of myself earlier in the week when I made the wise decision NOT to try Bulgarian Squats.  I have tried new exercises during taper before and, to no one’s surprise except mine, it did not turn out well.  So I was batting 1.000 for Smart Jen. <smiley face>

It takes a lot of energy to resist all the taper temptations, however, and I was completely exhausted by Saturday evening.  All of a sudden, I felt anxious about not having hydrated enough during the day and went straight to work to try to remedy that situation.  (Hint: the breakdown had begun.)  I decided to try this “new” drink mix (called ZipFizz) that I bought at the expo.  It was supposedly full of electrolytes, and of course I needed electrolytes!!  At the expo, I had tried a “cocktail” of Blueberry/Raspberry and Citrus.  It was sooooo tasty!!  I decided this was what I should drink.  Each tube is one-16 oz serving, so I made a 32 oz bottle in order to mix both of them in.  When I had downed, oh, about 24 oz of this fizzy goodness – just as I was getting ready to crawl into bed,  I remembered that it was also touted as an energy drink and was FULL of B12!  I yelled at myself – WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!?  I was hoping that it wouldn’t affect me, and I can’t say for certain that it did, but I was awake for about 1 1/2 hours between 11:00-12:30.  I wasn’t stressed at all about the fact that I was to get up at 4:00AM!  LOLimg_7879

Sadly, the madness didn’t stop there.  I didn’t have a hard and fast race plan, so naturally I started stressing about that around 8:30.  I had a gut feeling that I was going to be able to hit 1:50, but hadn’t really set out about mentally preparing for what that would look like during the race.  I pulled up the splits for a 1:49 half marathon (because what’s the use unless you can get under 1:50?) and then…..I PANICKED.  Like literally panicked to the point that I had to tell myself to STOP THINKING.  This probably contributed to my middle-of-the-night insomnia.  I did revise my race strategy, though, by deciding to go out a little faster in the beginning than I had planned.

Race day jitters

In spite of the difficulty finding sleep early on, I managed to get some quality winks in before my alarm went off.  I got up easily enough with plenty of time to meet my friends Erica and Dara in McKinney for my car pool ride to the race.  I was increasingly nervous the closer we got to the race.  I seriously thought I was going to throw up from nerves by the time we parked!   Luckily, the feeling subsided after I got out of the car….kind of.

Erica talked me into paying for VIP, which I thought was ridiculous and stupid and never imagined I would be confessing that purchase to anyone.  I’m so glad she did because parking was close and more importantly, we were able to wait inside until time to head to the corrals AND….bathrooms.  Not port-o-pottys.  REAL bathrooms.

Finding that “sweet spot”

It seemed like no time had passed before it was time to head to the corrals.  I wanted to meet up with Lauren, a Renegade Endurance teammate of mine, then head to find my friend Rebecca in our corral.

Lauren, my fellow Renegade!!
Lauren, my fellow Renegade!!
Rebecca has turned out to be a good friend and an inspiration! Love being at all these races with her!!
Rebecca has turned out to be a good friend and an inspiration! Love being at all these races with her!!

Before I could blink, the National Anthem was being sung and the gun was off for corral 1.  Rebecca and I were in corral 2, and luckily there was only 1 minute between each corral.  This would prove helpful later in the race, because I knew I wasn’t much over 1:00 off the gun clock – I ended up using the clocks to see how close I really was to my goal.

I didn’t have much choice in starting out fast at Cowtown because I was running with my speedy teammates, but that experience taught me a lot about my heart rate.  I was able to realize that I have been starting out too slow, waiting on my heart rate to get settled.  I now know that I can run a faster pace and my heart will settle down after the first couple miles.

Originally, I planned to run the first mile at 8:40, then decide where to go from there.  After looking up the splits on a 1:49, I knew there was NO WAY I could do that and hope to make it up.  I revised my plan to run 8:30 the first couple of miles, then settle in and run with my heart rate around 160.

Mile 1 came in at 8:33 while mile 2 came in a bit faster at 8:19 – I am pretty sure there were some downhills involved there!  My heart settled into a steady pace in the high 150s and mile 3 came in at 8:23.  I was feeling really good, the weather was AMAZING, but I knew that I still had A LOT of race to go.  Mile 4 came in at 7:55 because it was ALL downhill through downtown.  My left calf got a little crampy about halfway through – kind of ticked me off because I was going DOWNHILL, but I decided not to give it any mental energy, told it to stop and luckily it settled down.  I kept rocking right along with mile 5 at 8:06, but running up the on-ramp to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge slowed my mile 6 pace to 8:27.

At the 10k mark, I was right on track to run 1:49.  I knew this because I had written the times I needed to hit for 6, 9, 10, 11, & 12 miles.   I did this, because I never really know what to expect as far as finishing time and it just takes too much mental effort to try to figure mid-race (and I never figure it correctly anyway).  But I was afraid to get too excited and too ahead of myself, because the mile 9 hill was still looming ahead.  There was still so much left to race.

My VIP bracelet, which doubled as a homemade "Pace Band"
My VIP bracelet, which doubled as a homemade “Pace Band”

I decided to go ahead and take a gel just before the mile 7 aid station.  After getting through the station, I realized that I was starting to get hot.  The sun was up and I was in an area that didn’t allow for much wind to pass through.  After I cleared the water stop, I peeled off my arm sleeves – I considered peeling off my shirt as well, but then I wouldn’t have been reppin’ my club! LOL  Miles 7 & 8 came in at 8:05 and 8:16.

Then….I hit the MILE 9 HILL.  Can I say that by this point I was SO OVER THE HILLS?!?!  I made it up the hill, mentally and physically drained and then THERE WAS ANOTHER HILL.  I was so tired.  And I was getting so hot.  Luckily, the aid station was right there and I poured a few cups of water on myself to try to cool down.  Mile 9 came in at 8:38 – the hill really slowed me down.  Honestly, at this point, I was starting to get very tired.  Even so, I still managed to maintain my pace somewhat with mile 10 clocking in at 8:31. Mile 11 – ahhhhhh – downhill.  Wheeeeeeeee!!  This was my second and last sub-8 mile of the race AND the fastest at 7:51.  Boy, did I ever need that mental break!  Mile 12 evened back out at 8:11 before I SLAMMED into mile 13.

MILE 13.  I can’t even think about it now without curling into the fetal position.  IT. WAS. SOOOOO. BAD.  It was over a bridge that *seemed* flat, but was NOT flat.  It was a gentle, LONG, incline.  I may have hallucinated or seen mirages.  It was seriously like being stuck out in a desert.  Every time I thought it looked like I was getting close to the end, MORE BRIDGE would come into view.  To make things worse, I was so close to the finish line at this point, I could hear the finish line announcer and music.  Torture.  PURE TORTURE.  To add to my despair, I was EXHAUSTED.  I was starting to get side stitches (I rarely get side stitches) and I think I would have felt better if I could have puked on the side of the road.  I wanted to stop right there and walk it in.  I questioned my sanity and wondered WHY I voluntarily put myself into this situation.  I even considered canceling all my upcoming races.  And the thought that propelled me to the next phase – WHY do you think you have a chance at a 3:45 marathon??

I got PISSED.  I was mad at myself for allowing that negative talk in my head.  I was mad that I wanted to quit.  I reminded myself that these few moments of pain were NOTHING compared to the regret and disappointment I would feel if I ended up missing this sub-1:50 goal because I quit on myself.  I reminded myself that I have bigger goals than a sub-1:50, and this is just one more step in the ladder on my way to those goals.  I started repeating the quote: Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.  I was in pain, but I DIDN’T have to suffer – suffering is mental.  Thank goodness this was enough to pull me out of my funk.  I was elated when I finally reached the end of that bridge!!  Now it would be downhill to the finish line, and the finish line was not much more that .10 away!!

Errrrrr….that’s what I thought anyway.  I had a nice little downhill happy rush only to round a corner and realize that I had to not only go UP to the finish, but I had to turn a corner AND go UP an even steeper incline as well!!  I WAS SO MAD because I WAS IN PAIN and race finishes should be DOWNHILL.  But when I rounded that corner, I caught a glimpse of the clock and knew that I still had a shot at my time goal, so I ran as hard as I could for those last yards.

I stopped my Garmin and was so tired and happy to be finished that I didn’t even think to look at it.  As I walked to pick up my medal, I was so overcome with emotion that I started sobbing and I nearly shed a tear…nearly.  I had just gotten my phone out when I got a text from one of my best friends.  The first text was, “Oh my so close!”  My heart sank.  I had been so sure that I made it under 1:50.  THEN the next ones came through…I was still so emotional – I was still sobbing.  I ran that race with my heart and soul and the end was SO HARD.  I sat down on the curb just trying to process the last hour and 50 minutes of my life.  I was overwhemed with emotion.img_7891

After the race, I stumbled around aimlessly, freezing, looking for beer (which was terrible, by the way) until I remembered that I BOUGHT VIP!!!img_7867

It was quite the obstacle course getting over there, but it was sooooo warm and there was food! The food didn’t really matter because I tried to eat and it made me sick to my stomach.  Having a seat at a table in warm space was well worth the extra money I paid.  I waited there, still trying to process my accomplishment, while I waited on Erica and Dara to finish.

I realized later that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were performing at the finish line.  In my state of extreme pain, I developed tunnel vision for the finish line and had NO idea they were there!

Here I sit, one day later, so proud of my performance.  I think I finally found that sweet spot of pushing just hard enough to finish my best.  I have some pretty lofty goals, and meeting those goals will require me managing the pain of races and I think I did that pretty well, too.  For the first time EVER, I am satisfied….for now 🙂