I did a short run mid-last week. It didn’t feel bad. But everything felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on what – but I chalked it up to being tired after a long annoying day at work. I briefly wondered if I should bag this run – and do another one in about a month. But, I had already paid my money – so figured I should just go for it.
Last night, we got a call before we went to camp on the property of a family friend. The race was being held on an island – where there is one way on and off of it – a single lane each direction. On top of it, it’s a farming community – so it is easy to get a traffic jam with a few too many cars. Our friends called and told us they were fixing up their guest rooms. They both could not let us sleep outside before my race. Cool. That was good news.
I slept okay. But that’s typical as I cannot shut my mind off the night before a race. I had expected it. But I woke up with my back being sore. The mattress wasn’t great….and my lower back was telling me that.
I stretched it out. I hydrated because while the temperature was cool, the sun was shining quite bright. I knew on the open road (with no shade) it was going to feel much warmer running. I ate what I usually eat – what little I can eat before a race – and got my stuff pulled together.
The half marathon started 30 minutes later than predicted. The traffic jam had prevented people from getting onto the island on time, so they held the start to try to get as many people started at once as possible. When you use performance “foods” if you will, timing is everything. You usually consume about 10-15 minutes before the start. I went back and forth on taking in a few more calories before we started, but decided against it because we were still unsure exactly when we would start.
We finally got started. I ran with a friend of mine who runs about a minute slower than I do. I found last time that running with him makes sure I do not start off too fast. Also, it is a good warm up for about the first two miles. And the plan worked well. I was finding a great stride. And when we parted ways, all was good.
But, I started realizing something…..I had nothing going on in my head. I don’t listen to music because I usually spend more time fucking around with the “guaranteed not to slip” headphones – and it pisses me off eventually, so I got rid of them. Also, I realized that I need to hear my pace – my feet hitting the pavement – my breathing – my body’s running rhythm. BUT – I do need to have something – a song or something – going in my head as I run. Usually it’s a song…..that replays over and over and over again for 13 miles. But, as I was hitting 5 miles, I realized I had nothing. FUCK.
What did this mean? It meant all I had going through my head was how slow I felt like I was going. Or how far I had left to run. Or how hot it was. Or how much my back was hurting……I got to focus on all of the wrong things – the things that start mentally fucking with you at about mile 8……like it did me.
No matter how many times I reminded myself at mile 8 that I only had 5 miles left – my body was not convinced. My back hurt. My knee started hurting again. I wasn’t getting enough water – so I finally had to walk for a few minutes so I could make sure I was drinking enough. Walking to get water was a good decision, but only made me realize how sore my knee was feeling when I started again.
I had some Gu to get some more calories into my body. I was starting to need it, but my knee and back were not happy. So, I started negotiating with myself. If I get to this point, I’ll grab some water and walk a bit. This continued until the end of the race.
Oh, but I can’t forget what happened to me at about mile 9. I got dizzy for a few seconds, and felt myself drifting as I ran. Thankfully I had just swapped water bottles with my husband, so I had a fresh, full bottle of electrolytes. And yes, I took a moment to drink some. It made it pass, but it just added to my mental fight.
And that was the downside of the race. I mentally had to get myself across the finish line. My knee hurt – I was mentally done – and I was pissed at myself.
For those who know me, that last part shouldn’t surprise anyone. I will always after a situation like this one think about all of the things that went wrong. And how I should have done something differently. And in this case, I made myself quite a list. Hell, no song or anything else going through my head – I feel like crap while running – what’s left to do but make a list of how you got there. Or at least that’s what you do when you are me.
I crossed the finish line only 10 minutes past my last year’s half marathon time. I was surprised to be honest. It felt longer. But it didn’t matter. I was pissed at myself. My knee hurt. My back hurt. I was just done. I felt like I had let myself down. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds considering I had a hurt knee. But, to me, that’s not an excuse. (I’m a freak. I know I am. A competitive freak.)
My friend (who I started the race with) finished about 15 minutes after I did. He had a similar race. No pain, but was mentally out of it. Nothing seemed to go right for him either. He even described it as feeling off. And he ended up finishing about 10 minutes past his last half-marathon time. I guess it was one of those days for many of us. Still doesn’t make me feel better. I swear, with things like this, I’m my own worst critic.
So, it is done. I need to figure out what’s going on with my knee so I can get back on track again. I train for my next one starting in a few weeks. Thankfully, it’s a restart meaning – back to small distances. A chance, I see, to have a do-over.
Excuse me now, I’m going to go take a nap and get ready to drink beer tonight at the ball game. I mean, beer is a good recovery drink, right? Or at least for the mental recovery.