Despite my worries and the gloomy weather forecast
the weather turned out not to be the story of this race. Actually, the weather was nearly perfect for me–cool with a light drizzle. I’d much rather run under those conditions than on a bright, sunny day.
Nevertheless, my husband made sure I was prepared for rain at the start. He was very proud of the perfectly-sized neck hole he cut for me in one of our pretty blue yard trashbags!
As you can tell, I decided not to wear my lightweight jacket. I figured I was more likely to regret having it than not having it, and it was the right decision. I was never cold or even very wet.
The real story of this race was my mental attitude. Maybe because this was my third race in six weeks, or maybe because my friends had bailed once again, but I just wasn’t very excited about it. I did all the right things to prepare for race day, but as my husband was driving me to the race, I commented on my lack of enthusiasm. Even when I was lined up at the start I felt more calm and relaxed than pumped up. Maybe that’s not a bad way to start a race, but it’s unusual for me.
I had just read David’s post about his experience at the Blue Ridge Half Marathon and was struck by his comment that approaching a race without a goal didn’t really work for him, so I set myself a goal of maintaining an 8:30-ish pace. I had no idea what finish time that would translate to, but I figured it was a reasonable goal given my recent times in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and the Rock’n’Roll USA Half Marathon.
I made a last-minute decision to hit the porta-potty and then lined up in the 8:00-8:30 pace group just a few minutes before the start time.
The start was a bit crowded, but the first mile is mostly downhill, so my first mile split was where I wanted it to be (8:16). The first five miles include some rolling hills, and they were as challenging as I thought they would be. I kept thinking that we had reached the last hill before the long downhill and flat stretch that would take us into Old Town, but then I would see one more rise up ahead. I was pleased when I reached the mile 5 split at about 42 minutes, and glad that that really was the last hill for a while.
I was using my Garmin to monitor my pace, and noticed that even on the downhill and flat sections I was falling into a comfortable pace instead of pushing myself to keep a race pace. Soon after mile 5 I found myself running side-by-side with a woman who was going just a bit faster than I was, so I made it a point to keep up with her, and eventually passed her (although I’m pretty sure she passed me at the end). That mental challenge lifted my spirits and helped me pick up my pace.
Afer mile 6, I kept seeing higher numbers on my Garmin than I wanted to. I noticed that I was getting discouraged and gave myself a pep talk. I knew that I was on track for a decent finish as long as I didn’t throw in the towel. I don’t usually use mantras to keep me going, but I decided that I needed to focus on finishing “strong and proud,” so I made that my mantra.
That helped me get to mile 8, but it was hard knowing that I was being passed by lots of people. As we turned into Old Town and went up the final hill, I felt strong, but I reminded myself that we still had a mile to go. I tried to push my pace a bit, but was afraid of using up whatever energy I had left too soon.
I had convinced myself that the finish line was going to be farther off than I expected, so I actually was surprised when I could see the finish banner up ahead. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had nothing left for a sprint to the end, but I did my best to keep pushing. The finish clock was ticking to 1:25 and I really wanted to beat that number!
(Hah! I crossed that finish line at 1:24:59 on the race clock!)
When I crossed the finish mats and stopped my Garmin, I was proud to see my time:
Going into this race, my vague goal was to finish in 1:25-ish, and I had nailed that goal.
I called my husband to let him know where I was (he saw me finish, but I hadn’t see him), and then we made our way to the car. The seat warmer never felt so good, but my hot epsom salt bath felt even better!
Totat Distance: 10.05 miles
Total Time: 1:24: 30 (avg 8:24 pace)
Split Times: 8:12, 8:08, 8:16, 8:23, 8:36, 8:16, 8:25, 8:33, 8:47, 8:30
How do you handle the mental challenges of a race?
Do you have a mantra you draw on?