Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Race Recap: 2013 Park 2 Park 5-miler

My oh my, it's the Fourth of July!
This may be my worst race photo yet, but there you have it:  This is about 1/4-mile from the end of a 5-mile race on 7/4/13.  Once again I am posting a race recap long after the race actually was run, but I have written bits and pieces of this post in fits and starts over the past 6 weeks or so, and I decided it was still worth posting.
 Park to Park is always a very challenging race.  There aren't a lot of hills, but the course is a very steady, slow incline from start to finish, and there is not a lot of shade to be found along the course, so when I think of a hot, sticky mess of a race, this is the one that comes to mind.

The gods graced us with a bit less humidity this year, and that was a blessing.  It was still quite warm and getting warmer as the morning went on, thought, which explains in part the meek, slightly desperate look on my face in the above photo!

My race strategy was pretty simple: run one mile at a time, and take a 30-60 second walk break at each mile marker. With the heat, they plan out a water stop at each mile, so in general, this meant Walk the Water Stops.

I've run this race four times before and I was determined to finish in under an hour this time around.  I've been training hard - working with my physical therapist to resolve some hip and back pain issues has caused some slowing in my pace - but I've been working to get my speed back up with this race in mind. 

I got all my stretching in before the race started, even a pre-race warmup of about a 1/2-mile, followed by, yes, more stretching. 

The first two miles were right on pace at 11:30 and 11:45. I was chasing my friend Donna throughout, which was fun. Once I caught up to her, we ran together for a while during mile 3. I struggled there and had a couple of "unplanned" walk breaks - perhaps 30 seconds each, but we pushed each other to keep on. 

here I am, following Donna early on.


Eventually we parted ways, though I can't remember if she went ahead of me or the other way around... In any case I was on my own for most of mile 4, and that was a tough time.  My mental strength was leaving me.  I kept trying to calculate in my head whether or not I was going to meet my goal of finishing under 60 minutes, and the math was NOT working.  About a 1/2-mile from the finish line, I realized there was just NO WAY I could do it.  I had 8 minutes to go and too much distance to the end, it wasn't going to happen.  I felt so defeated, I nearly decided to stop running entirely and walk the rest of the way.  It's SO HOT, and dammit you slowed down too much in the past two miles, you'll never make it now.  I felt utterly defeated and ready to quit.  I wanted to cry, I was that disappointed.

Awesome photo of my friend Donna!
Still feeling good around mile 2

Slow, and slower for miles 3 and 4...

But I did NOT quit.  I reminded myself how HARD I had worked.  How much improved my time is in comparison to all the other Park 2 Park races I've run.  I re-ran the numbers and reminded myself that even if I don't meet my 60-minute goal, this was STILL going to be a PR for me, just not the PR I wanted. How can you be upset with a new PR, for crying out loud!?!  SHUT UP AND RUN!  There's less than a half-mile to go and YOU CAN FINISH STRONG!  How DARE you question your ability and feel defeated - you're in the middle of a race!  Now get off your pity-party and GET it DONE.
End of pity party.  I kept running, and I knew I had made the right decision.
 That's when I came across the photographer that took the first photo above.  I was too frustrated and distracted about my time to try and "pose" - I was just focused on keeping my legs moving and NOT GIVING UP.   
Then I neared the finish line (you run into a local baseball ballpark and the finish line is on the pitcher's mound) and just before I turned into the ballpark...
My Garmin chimed!  Indicating Mile 5 was complete.  I wasn't at the finish line yet, but my 5 miles were done. 
And the time was 59:36.
I FELT like this woman actually LOOKED:

Why can't we all look like this mid-race?

I had done it after all!  It turns out, even if you're an accountant, you should NEVER do math in your head during a race!!  My stupid brain was trying to convince me it couldn't be done - MATHEMATICAL IMPOSSIBILITY it told me!
SIDENOTE:  As soon as I crossed the finish line, I immediately felt like I might vomit.  That was a first for me.  I took full advantage of the water and Gatorade at each water stop, but I may have been dehydrated, despite my best efforts to avoid it.  I didn't end up losing whatever may have been left of my breakfast, but it was several minutes of pacing and wandering off on the field wondering if I was going to throw up or not... before I was able to join my husband on the sidelines who was there to cheer me across the finish.
The race is not chip-timed, only gun-start and chip-finish.  My official race time was 1:00:57.3 for a pace of 12:11 but my Garmin showed 1:00:16 for a pace of exactly 12:00.  Full Garmin stats here.
I'm so proud of that awful picture. I look at it and I can FEEL how awful I felt in that moment, how CRUSHED, and then I remember that I overcame such a huge mental obstacle that day, and went on to meet my goal after all.  Don't give up.  Not even when everything you think you know tells you it's impossible.  It's not true.  Even your own mind can betray you under the right stresses and circumstances.  Don't believe it when your silly, weak little brain sometimes whispers: It can't be done.  Wait it out, drown it out, and never give up.
Lesson for the day (which I re-learn nearly every race):
Don't trust your brain.
Do the work, trust your training.