I know it seems like I’ve become delusional and only post about races like I’m a running blogger, but I swear there will be a healthy break from that starting yesterday.
I registered for the Florida Holiday Halfathon simply because I did not want to throw away three months of training, which is what I felt like I’d done at the St. Augustine Half Marathon. I knew I could run faster, but, more importantly, I knew I was mentally tougher than what I’d shown in that race.
As the days passed, though, my body began to let me know that this training cycle was nearing its end whether I liked it or not. I started getting more sore and achy after my runs, and my knees started hurting during every long run. I added more icing, more meds, more foam rolling and more prayers to my regimen, getting increasingly nervous that my legs might not be able to give me the redemptive race I wanted.
While I rode a PR high for a solid week after the turkey day 5k, it probably wasn’t the best plan to throw that into the mix between half marathons, either.
All this to say, by the time race weekend came around I was not feelin’ it. At all. I was prepared for absolute disaster. In addition to the breakdown of my hips and knees, Addison and Clayton shared their colds with me the week before the race. I hosted a cookie exchange the weekend prior and had been feasting on sugar-filled garbage ever since. My “easy” two-mile shake-out run the day before the race was a horrendous, gasping-for-air mess that I cut a quarter mile short.
So a new plan emerged that gave me an out if I needed it. Saturday, the fam and I drove over to pick up my packet and–veteran alert–actually drove the race course. We scouted a spot near mile 8.5 where Clayton could park and either 1. hop into the race with the jogging stroller and run the last leg with me or, most likely, 2. pick my lifeless body up off the course, throw me into the car and take me somewhere that served giant pancakes. I had made my peace with either ending.
When my alarm went off Sunday morning, I immediately decided I didn’t want to run, turned it off and went back to sleep. Probably the most decisive I’ve been in my entire life. Luckily I’d anticipated this morning mind game and set a second alarm, which did the trick. I had paid for this thing, after all.
I was more nervous getting ready and driving over to the start than ever before. Maybe more so than the day of my wedding. Clayton getting a ticket for an expired tag (true story) actually broke the ice and provided a much appreciated distraction. Don’t worry; I intend to invoke obligatory nagging about it later.
That little hiccup did put us behind schedule, but I still had enough time for a brief warm up and Winn Dixie bathroom stop since, again, I half read race info and the start was 7:35 a.m., not 7:30 a.m. I should have known things were looking up when all these miscues were turning out to be positives, but I was mainly focused on not vomiting on other runners’ cute Christmas outfits. Seriously.
Magically, my nerves completely subsided when I lined up and turned on my brand new playlist. From the very first few steps, I felt immensely better about this race. There’s not much to talk about from the race itself because it flew by. It helped that I knew I had friendly faces and a vehicle waiting for me at mile 8. I started out telling myself to just make it that far, no pressure. If I decided to keep going, it meant I was having a good race. If I stopped, it meant I didn’t have to trudge through 5 more miserable miles. Both victories.
Well, guess who was nowhere to be found at the clearly marked meet-up spot? My hubs. I was still feeling strong and had spent about two miles trying to come up with a clever way to tell him to start running and not warming up the car. But all that work went to waste. In his defense, he had texted me, but I’d decided about three steps into the race that my phone was staying out of sight. I glanced each direction twice, didn’t see him, and kept right on going. A part of me knew that I reached this point earlier than expected by a tad, and that felt pretty dang exciting. There was no chance I was stopping to wait for him.
Since we drove the course together, I figured there were a few more spots where I might see him. As I passed each of those intersections expectantly, it became both confounding and a little hilarious that we still hadn’t met up. Mentally, it was a nice distraction up until the “if all else fails, he’ll be here” location, where he was still MIA. That was mile 11, and I’d been struggling in my head a little between miles 9 and 11 (even though these were some of my fastest). I began counting down until mile 11, when I was certain I would see Clayton, Addison and my sister in law. But I saw nothing familiar, except the huge lake I knew I had to run around before finishing.
I was able to shake off the fact that I would not be finishing with Clayton and became very thankful that I didn’t actually feel like I needed him at that point. I knew this was going to be (and already was) an awesome race, and I had enough to finish well. Much like missing me at the initial meet-up, I got a thrill thinking that maybe he kept missing me because I was so ahead of schedule. Look, you’ve got to keep your head in the game out there somehow; if it’s all lies, so be it.
I had a decent sprint through the finish chute and, as usual, couldn’t stop when everyone was yelling at me to. It’s so crazy to me that all the runners can just come to a complete stop after that final sprint without keeling over. Mama has to cool down for at least five minutes before hoisting my foot up into your lap. Deal with it.
Still not seeing Clayton, I sent him a profane text (funny cursing, not angry cursing) and finally located the support team. They missed the finish, but I was too high on endorphins and dehydration to notice.
It was a 16-minute PR. Holy. Crap.
And that’s it, gang. I am so content with that race and my time. I finished with just a little nausea brewing, so I know that I worked hard up until the very end. On the conservative to ambitious goal spectrum, it was right in the ambitious zone, and I could not be happier with my paces for every single mile. Plus, it was the first time I used two Gu packs, and they didn’t send me hurling into the bushes. Success!
Mandated by my knees and IT band, a necessary, much anticipated break from pounding the pavement is in full effect. It’s scary to think I’ll lose all of these gains, but I know I won’t get anywhere except an orthopedic office if I try to maintain this schedule. Any advice for not completely sacrificing your speed improvements during a break in training is welcome! Do I have to re-rejoin the gym? And while we’re on the advice train, I’ve been cramping nonstop since I got home Sunday. Going on three days. Totes worth it, but still curious if this happens to anyone else?
I am being very intentional about not browsing races while still ridiculously euphoric. I’m not even able to stand upright yet, but still very likely to do something utterly ridiculous like register for a 15k in February. (But just to get a head count, anyone considering Gasparilla?)