Tales of Running: A Miss And an Epic Win

The running is going forward at full steam now with regular races and the forthcoming Bay State Marathon on Sunday, October 20.

This past Labor Day, I was supposed to run the 25K Around the Cape.  I ran this race last year and it took me just over 2 hours 50 minutes.  So how did this year's race go for me?  Spoiler alert:  I didn't do it.  On the morning of the race, it was raining fairly significantly.  It continues to rain up until about 20 minutes before the race and the weather forecast called for even more rain during the race.  Overall, I'm ok with running in the rain if it isn't too intense, but the rain just didn't sit right with me.  The challenge wasn't just the rain, but it was the rain coupled with the hills and my vibrams whose soles were wearing down and I was losing some grip on.  I had it fixed in my head that particularly during the second half of the hilly course, it would leave me vulnerable for injury.  In the end, I made the decision to skip the run, despite having showed up for it.  Of course, there was some regret when a half hour later the sun was poking its head out and I didn't run into any rain throughout the rest of the time that I would have been running.

After that dismal affair, I was hoping and rallying myself for an epic win and the following weekend at the AppleCrest Half-Marathon, I got just that!  The race results are here and you can see that I've had a personal best in comparison to many of my other races.  In total, it took me 2 hours 8 minutes, 21 seconds which turned into 9:48 miles and placed me at 245 out of 410 people (at the 60% mark).

Breaking 10 minute miles for a prolonged run was really important to me.  I definitely cried towards the end of the race as I came down the last .5 miles realizing that I was going to make it to the finish line in under 2 hours and 10 minutes.  Just prior to the race, I told my partner that my low goal was 2 hours and 20 minutes and my high goal was 2 hours and 10 minutes.  But I didn't think I would come in a full 1.5 minutes under that.

Yeah, I did it!
My pre-race thoughts were mixed.  I believed I could do it in under 2 hours 20 minutes, but I had my doubts. I felt it was within my grasp but only barely.  Meanwhile, I thought the 2 hours 10 minutes was just a pipe dream to some degree.

So what happened?  Again, if I look at the breakdown, I had a few things going for me regardless of what I did.  The weather was beautiful.  Partly cloudly and cool.  The route was reasonable.  Yes, a few yucky hills but most of it flat or rolling hills.  The route only had 2 rock paths both of which were short in total.

What did I do right?  I made sure I had plenty of fuel in the morning.

  • 1/2 cup of peanuts, 
  • 1 tablespoon of soaked & grinded chia seeds, 
  • 1 orange
  • 1 pear
  • 12oz of ice coffee
  • 8oz of peach & ginger ice tea

At every water stop, I stopped, walked for at least 20 seconds, and drank about 2-3 cups of liquids (either 2 cups of water, or 2 cups of water and 1 cup of gatorade).  I also packed my Honey Stinger gels that I had at the 6 mile mark.  This helped keep my hydrated and feeling fully aware.

Finished & feeling awesome!
In order to keep my pace steady throughout, I relied on several different things.  The first was just breathing in rhythm with my running and continually returning to it every time I hit a wall.  I also revised my music playlist; removed some older songs that didn't pack as much punch while adding some new ones. Finally, I ran the race in my head several times throughout the week before ever coming to the starting line.  I was recently reading a book (A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics) that discussed an interesting study.  The study was examine how the brain distinguishes between thinking about an action and actually performing it.  The end result was that people could improve their physical results not just by the exercise itself but by spending time thinking about it.  This is not entirely surprising.  After all, we talk about visualizing our goals and achievements and this is just an extension of that.  So in the week leading up to the race, I regularly returned to visualizing running the race and the various elements therein.  I thought about how I would push through the tiredness and how I would rally up the hills as well as how I would finish the last mile.  But more than just visualize it, I pushed my mind to actually feel my body doing it, even through it wasn't actually doing it just yet.  In truth, I don't know how much of an impact this had but I had yet to do any run of 9 miles or more where I was under the 10 minute mile mark.

Finally, what was also really helpful on the run?  Everyone that I have been engaged with in my quest for running.  That especially includes my partner who has been supportive emotionally as well as physically with stretching and muscle care.  But also, my friends who asked about the training or who encourage the training as best they can through encouraging comments on Facebook or elsewhere (such as my DailyMile profile).  I carry the comments and encouragement on every run, but particularly on the races where I'm pushing to break new barriers.  So I'm always thankful for the support (and that includes my readers too!).

Back to the running.  I've got a marathon to prepare for!

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