When I initially signed up for Worcester, I signed up for the full marathon…I was 6 months pregnant with Mr. Man at the time and in my deluded state thought that my return to racing would be so easy that a full was well within my grasp. Come March, when my return to running really got serious, I opted to drop down to the ½ distance. I dropped down, not because I wouldn’t be able to run the distance, but rather because I wouldn’t be able to run it well. I am a perfectionist and I demand the best out of myself, so why run a full and settle for a sub-par time when I could race a ½marathon and more than likely set a PR?
One month out of Worcester I ran an unplanned ½ marathon inProvidence. I went in running it with The Hubs as a “fun run”—the first leg of a new event being held in Rhode Island—The Triple Crown ½ Marathon Series. I went into that race with no plan or goal—no pacing strategy. I PR’ed that day; I did it in the ugliest of manners possible. My pace was all over the place from the start, which was too fast. I found myself at the halfway point saying to my husband words that I have never uttered during a run before—I can’t do it. NEVER have I used the words “I can’t” before in any run—let alone a race. So while I managed to squeak out a 20-second PR, it was not a PR with which I was proud.
June 3 rolled around and in the days leading up toWorcesterI was nervous—nervous that I would either fail to reach my PR or maybe more so, nervous that my performance would be a dismal as the last and those words “I can’t” would again be spoken. I was very prepared for this race—the race I trained for. I had logged the miles; I had done the cross training; I had taken the rest days prescribed by my coach. “I can’t” shouldn’t be a phrase that needed to be uttered, yet I was still afraid of saying them.
Saturday late afternoon, me and The Hubs packed up the kiddos and headed out to Pam’s house where I’d be spending the night since she is relatively close by race. Saturday’s weather was abysmal. The torrential downpours were projected to last into the morning of the race, though be a slow light rain. With the weather a relative question mark I knew my potential to PR was no longer in my hands. I could run the best race I could the next day, but if the weather didn’t cooperate there was nothing that I could do about it. That might have helped me sleep that night—letting go of that self doubt.
The morning of the race turned out to be perfect—beautiful blue skies with white puffy clouds; perfect temperatures in the low 50’s, a slight breeze. After meeting up with another of our running buddies, Christine, we opted to ditch the potty line and head to the start. There were a total of 4-potties with a massive line—not nearly enough for the amount of people in the race. Thankfully for me, I was able to ditch and know that it didn’t matter much because it was more than likely nerves and as soon as that gun sounded I’d be fine. However, not having enough potties was definitely and issue for my friends, they had to stop on the race route and use the potty which ultimately was the deciding factor between a PR and not setting one. Big fail on the race director’s part.
The race didn’t start on time—close to 10-minutes late, potentially due to the fact that there were so many people in the potty line. For me that mean 10-more minutes of nerves and anxiety—I just want to run!!!!!! Finally the gun was sounded and the racers were off; nerves went away and I ended up in a zone, so much so that I realized about ¼ of a mile into the race that I didn’t even wish my friends luck on their race. The start was congested, as most races are, but with the road conditions (large pot holes) and parked cars my thoughts of PRin, despite the weather went on the back burner. My goal was to simply run the best race I knew how and hope that it was enough.
The hills started almost right from the start, my goal was to focus on running them aggressively, yet holding enough back so that at the top my legs weren’t burning. Mile 2 approached quickly and I was feeling strong. By the time mile 3.5-4 came along I was ready for The Hill—I had viewed the course elevation chart a few times in the days leading up to the race and knew that it was fairly significant. I simply put my head down and ran. My pace slowed to a crawl (10:41 was what I remember seeing on my Garmin, Tim Gunn) but I was passing people. My legs were on fire, but I started to bargain with myself—pass the girl in the pink shoes, get that guy wearing the black shirt…next thing I knew I was cresting the hill and on my way down the back side.
At the full/half split, the race volunteers were great, lots of signage indicating which direction you were to go and lots of course directors yelling and pointing half to the left, full to the right. It was after the split that the course conditions started to get slightly more ridiculous. I understand that not all courses can be closed courses but I would at least expect that there be a significant amount of cones clearly defining the running course from the cars speeding by. There were a good number of police along the course at intersections which was great, however at one point I found myself on the wrong side of the course and needing to dart across two lanes of opposing traffic in order to make the turn on the course. The water stations were fairly regular, almost every 2-miles, but there were no gels being offered along the course (thankfully I never rely only on race course fuel so it didn’t affect me too much).
At one point I saw the sign for the 19-mile marker on the full and thought to myself, “thank god I’m not running the full today”…it’s not that I was hurting because I actually felt pretty great at that point. My legs were on autopilot and my breathing was constant and not labored. At that point I started to try and do some mental math to see how likely the PR was. I couldn’t rely on watching my Tim Gunn Garmin pace due to the hills—the ups and downs were clearly showing that at one point I might be running a 9:30 but then at another point it might be a 7:30. I knew based on some quick mental math that I was going to be close to a PR and that easing up was not an option. I needed to continue to run the best I could and know that whatever the outcome I gave it my all that day.
With a little over 3-miles to go I saw a girl go down, and thankfully it was in front of emergency personnel because there was a stretch shortly after that were there was no one; no spectators, no police, no race course volunteers. It was a little frightening to be honest. To get my mind off of what I had just seen, the mental math started again. Roughly 2 ½ miles left and it was close, close on the side of missing the PR. I asked myself, “how bad do you want it?” and my inner response was “BAD—RUN and run hard.” I started to chant inner mantras—“make it work,” “THIS it what tough looks like,” “nothing worth being proud of ever comes easy.” Along with my inner mantras the perfect song came up on my iPhone—“Pump It” by BEPs. I actually think I said, “Pump It” out loud when it came on because the guy in front of me kind of turned around and looked at me. It was then that I decided to pick off every person that lay ahead of me. One by one, I approached each person and passed them. I had my eyes set on one guy that I had been following for about 4-miles and was going to “chick” him. As I came up to his side he just stopped. Stopped dead in his tracks—I was SO angry. I looked at him as I passed him and said to him “come on—let’s go you’re almost there.” He never caught back up.
My legs were flying and Tim Gunn was beeping at me that my pace was faster than the 8-minute miles that I had it set to alarm at. My glances down to Tim Gunn to see my time kept my mental math going—I was close. With the 13-mile marker quickly approaching I knew I was about to turn the corner to the final straightaway and see The Hubs and the kids. This was what I was running towards—not the finish line, but my family. I knew then that I had a PR, but I was running to my family, not the finish line. I was running to show my children that “hard work, dedication” always paid off. As I turned the corner, there was The Hubs with my kiddos along side Pam’s family. I screamed and pointed at them and ran my butt off to cross that finish line. THIS is what tough looks like! I stopped Tim Gunn at 1:48:37—a PR by about 01:30-seconds and a 5th place age group finish! To say I was elated would be an understatement—5 months post-partum and a new ½ marathon PR!! I had sought out to run a sub 1:50 and I had accomplished that. I felt amazing the entire race—my legs did not fail, nor did my lungs, nor did my mental game. I grabbed my medal and walked towards where the family was waiting for me and saw Lil One running towards me with her arms outstretched cheering “MUMMY!!!!!” I bent down and hugged her—she looked at me and said, “I’m so proud of you for running fast mumma!” My heart melted—hard work, dedication. She is the reason I run and in that moment, my success was her success.
We waited for Pam and Christine to finish not too long after and headed to the athlete recovery area, which could have been better. There wasn’t much in terms of recovery food that was not prepackaged junk food—just some bananas. I was at least hoping for some yogurt or oranges. In the end, whileWorcesteris now my PR course, it’s more than likely not a course that I’d run again. The police presence was great, but the lack of clear course markings or cones, some of the road conditions, the late race start, lack of potties, and issues with race packet pick-up and shirts (they ran out of size small—a size that I had clearly marked as being requested 1-year ago at registration) I will more than likely not be running it again. It was a small local race and along with that comes associated glitches, but having run other small local ½ marathons with better overall experiences, it’s not a race I will likely scramble to include in my race schedule.
Next up—a couple weeks of rest followed up the start of marathon training. It’s going to be a long summer of training, but again, hard work, dedication!!