After a heartbreaking spring racing season during which I barely missing my sub 1:30 goal in the ½ marathon during 2 different races, I decided I still had a bone to pick with this crazy distance.
Because summers in Tennessee are literally hotter than the pits of hades, Beth, Julia and I decided on Rock’n’Roll Chicago. Flat fast course, weather cooler than Tennessee, and a fun girls’ road trip all made me really excited for this race. I worked hard this spring and summer, and I thought I could probably go sub 1:30 if the conditions were right. I was ready.
Leading up to the race, I put in a lot of solo training. From our two week road trip out west, to moving to a new city, I did pretty much all my workouts by myself, and as a result, felt really mentally strong. I had no idea what I was capable of, but I had a quick chat with my coach on Thursday leading up to the race. He knew the paces I was hitting in the workouts; he encouraged me to “be conservative and go out at 1:28 pace.” HA. Conservative?! “I haven’t even broken 1:30 yet!” He told me it didn’t matter because he knew I was definitely capable of that, and he wouldn’t lead me astray. So, that was my plan going into it.
Beth, Julia and I hopped into the car after work on Friday, and drove through the night to Chi-town. Man, I miss those girls. We caught up, snacked on our favorite foods, drank coffee and chugged water while we figured out our strategies for Sunday. It was a fun drive. When we got to Chicago, we met up with Blanche, my best friend and resident of Chicago. We owe her all credit for the great day we had Saturday.
To give you a little background info, Beth has a pretty fast half-marathon time (1:25), so we talked about pacing each other for the race. We kind of went back and forth on whether we should each just race by ourselves or run together. Ultimately, we decided she would run with me and help me get under the stupid 1:30 barrier.
Race morning was ideal. Perfect weather (60 degrees) and I honestly felt great. We jogged about a mile from the hotel to the starting line; I did my typical dynamic stretching, used the bathroom, and met Beth at the start of corral 1 (Julia’s goal that day was to go sub 1:50, so she was a little ways back).
My personal plan for the race was really just to go off effort. Like I said, I trained the majority of the time by myself this summer, and I think when you do that, your perceived effort becomes pretty spot on. Your senses are heightened because you have no distraction or anyone to talk to. I knew what 6:45 pace felt like, and that was what I planned on running for at least the first 6 or 7 miles. Beth was on board for the pace, and we said we would just see where we were after the first mile, and dial into that effort together. We agreed we would stick together.
Before we knew it, we were off! Let’s rock’n’roll!
And here is where everything fell apart. Yep. Mile 1. Ha.
I told myself I was only going to look at my watch once during the race. I said I would make sure I wasn’t going out too hard by glancing at it towards the end of mile 1, and then I would relax and run the race at what felt good. Now, before I tell you the story, let me ask you a question. Be honest with yourself:
What if you were in my position, the official mile 1 race marker was off and your Garmin lost satellite due to all the skyscrapers? What would you do? Be honest.
That’s exactly what happened. Part of the first mile was under bridges and through tunnels, and the Garmin lost satellite. I wasn’t too concerned, and in fact I suspected that would happen, but what about when you get to what is supposed to be the first mile, you feel great and feel as though you are going to have an awesome race, and the large official race clock says this:
What would you do? Would you speed up? Would you brush it off and tell yourself the distance must be off and to keep your effort the same? You have to decide fast. Maybe this has happened to you before. WHAT DID YOU DO???
And this is one of the lessons I learned. YOU HAVE TO GO BY EFFORT IN A RACE. You can’t worry about your watch, you have to let external factors be nonexistent, and you have to focus on YOU. I don’t remember much, but Beth and I sped up. A lot. In my head, I became so obsessed with the fact that we were behind goal pace, I literally just started sprinting. Rookie mistake FO SHO.
Yikes. Way too fast. At that point, I was majorly freaking out in my head, knowing I was a dumb ass for doing that. Why didn’t I trust myself during that first mile?
And then the doubts rushed in.
“You aren’t going to be able to do this now that you ran a 6:10 mile. Katie, do you realize that’s your 5k pace? You are doomed. Race is done.”
Next? I developed the worst side cramp of my life. Literally. I know it’s because I was anxious, nervous, freaking out in my head, probably not breathing deep enough. Let’s just call it a mild panic attack for the fun of it, shall we?
Wanna’ know how the next 11 miles went? The next 11 miles I had a debilitating cramp. I couldn’t get my breathing under control, I had negative thoughts, I kept looking at my watch while I witnessed my pace get slower and slower and slower, and then finally, at mile 7, I sat down at an aid station and cried. LOL. We’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?
If you haven’t, don’t tell me.
Miles 8-13 were pretty much a blur, because by that point, the 1:30 pace group passed me, and I knew my goal was out of reach. I sulked as I trudged (read: JOGGED WITH AN ATTITUDE LIKE A TODDLER) the next 5 miles. I was pissed and being overly dramatic. By mile 10, my sulk-fest was over, and Beth was still with me even though she felt fine and could have gone on (I know I know, what a friend), and we laughed about how dumb we can be during races, and decided to let this one roll off, because my wedding was in less than a week, and who had time to be sad during such an exciting time?
Once again, like the last three half-marathons I’ve ran, I swore off this distance again. Ha. I know all you marathoners think I’m crazy, but really, this distance is so hard for me. I know it takes time and patience, but the half-marathon race is one of those about which I have a mental block. I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ll keep working until I do.
So, in closing, what did I take away from this race? I think there is ALWAYS something to be learned from each life experience, some more than others. This one I learned a LOT. I’ll put it in bullet points :)
- The first mile in a 13 mile race does not in any way determine your final outcome. (I mean, if you walk, yes it probably will, but if you’re off by a few seconds as in my case, then you.will.be.fine)
- The watch/clock can be your greatest enemy if you let it. Since this race, I’ve actually not depended on my watch much, especially in races (spoiler alert: I ran a great 5 miler a few weeks after this half while NOT having my gps watch turned on, and had a phenomenal race…recap to come ;))
- It’s obviously clear my stomach cramps are related to nerves in some way. Understanding that and taking steps to prevent those unnecessary fears and doubts is important for me. This may come in the form of pre-race meditating (this is one on YouTube I’ve been enjoying lately). Additionally, for me personally, I can’t feed too much off of someone else’s energy. This includes those around me in a race. Beth was an amazing friend that day; she stuck with me through it all. But I think we both got carried away with worrying about everyone around us speeding up or slowing down because of the incorrect clocks.
There are probably other things I learned and still learning about that day. It’s a learning process, right!? This was one day, one race, and there will be more. I think it’s important to recap not only the great days but also the crappy ones, too. We seem to learn a lot from the crappy ones. :) Pura Vida :)