This past weekend was EXACTLY what I needed. It reminded me of why I not only love to run, but also how running can bring complete internet strangers together to become friends. Did I say friends? Because I really mean family. My athletes, near and far, have seen me through a divorce, leaving The Run Formula to start The Lone Runner coaching company, being a single mom, a new flame and subsequent heartbreak and I have seen them through pregnancies (Molly and Adrienne), nagging injuries, more tummy issues on the run than they’d care to admit ;), getting engaged and married (Dana, Kinsey, Grace and Bree in 2 weeks!!), new jobs, moves across the country, challenges with their own partners, post-partum depression, anxiety- everything. You name it and we’ve been through it together. No conversation is off limits. I aim to create a judgment free-coaching experience full of transparency where my athletes can (if they want to) share with me the challenges of their lives that are impacting their ability to focus on completely their training plan as written. Life stress is real stress and until runners can realize that the rest of your life will impact the quality of your runs (and vice versa too!) then there is an entire area for improvement that is missing from one’s running experience.
The vast majority of my athletes are people who read this blog and simply reached out via email or message. At one point in time these athletes were complete internet strangers who share similar passions to my own: running, laughing, pushing forward no matter what. Well, internet strangers no more! About every six months I try to get my local athletes together for a team dinner to meet each other and welcome any new athletes into the mix. On Saturday night about 10 of my athletes came in from various parts of Florida, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to celebrate their hard work, meet each other and eat their faces off at delicious Rustic Kitchen in Hingham. I felt- heck, I continue to feel so honored to be the mama duck of this growing tribe of amazing runners. We all run different distances, paces and places- but WE. ALL. RUN. We all face difference challenges- emotional, financial, personal- but WE. ALL. RUN. We all know that if we don’t make time for our goals, then they will never be reached. We are tribe of passionate, real, goofy, fun-loving runners and I am so immensely lucky to be surrounded with their energy and spirit on a daily basis.
To be clear: we also fight like family. Oh yes! New chickadees often throw tantrums on the road and challenge authority – but I’m the mama duck. No one messes with BIG MAMA–so I just squawk at them a few times and put them in their place. BOOM! (as long as they’re not wearing aviator sunglasses and intimidate the crap out of me ;)).
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I ran the Chicago Marathon in October and my body has felt surprisingly spry since then! Why? I HAVE NO IDEA, but I’m rolling with it! Maybe it’s the small weight loss, or being more rested from not commuting to CT every weekend or maybe my body is truly adapting to the physical rigors of marathon training. Honestly, IT DOESN’T MATTER to me! Muahhahahaha. My conversational pace has been hovering in the 7:50-8 min pace range and a comfortable tempo has been at a 7:05-7:10 pace (as opposed to 8:20-830 and 7:20-730, respectfully). I feel like I’m getting fitter and very close to racing a half PR; when my athlete and friend Julie L. said she was going to fly up to Boston for Saturday’s team dinner and run Sunday’s Frosty Half in Raynham I just had to join in on the fun.
On Sunday morning Julie and I drove the 30 minutes down to Raynham Middle School to race the Frosty Half Marathon. My goal was to aim for 6:55 splits and theoretically break my previous PR of a 1:32:02. I was close!! Kinda… sorta…. well not really.
The race was a complete shit show. No, seriously.
Maybe it was race day nerves or the previous night’s pasta dinner with the team. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Within 2 miles of starting the race I was in uncharted territory: I was going to need to stop for a (cough cough) bathroom break. First and second place took off down the road in their own speedy battle. I watched from afar as the ran side by side throwing down 6:45-6:50’s. Bye bye ladies. I’ll hang out here in 6:55-7 land in third place. Wait, I’M IN THIRD PLACE!!! Third place in a half- wahooooo!! … Ohhhh my stomach… what on Earth is going on?”
I tried to ignore the discomfort for as long as possible, but by the time I was at mile 5 I knew I was going to have to use the facilities. But here’s where there was a problem: where exactly ARE the facilities??? I have never had this issue before so I didn’t look at the race map pre-race. So I did what any shameless runner would do: I hauled ass to the woods and dropped trou. I estimate that I lost about 30 seconds in this side hustle, just long enough for me to witness the fourth place female to zoom by me standing still. Oh no you don’t! I pulled myself together, hustled out of the woods and quickly took back third place.
But then it happened again. By mile 7 my stomach was in knots yet again. I can not believe this is happening. Where can I stop? Can I stop? Should I suffer through? It’s only six more miles to the finish. Mayyyyybe. I trotted along at a speedy, yet painful 7:10 pace as I did the math in my head. Six miles times seven minute miles…. that’s at least 42 more minutes!! Oh hell no. I won’t wait that long. Heck, I CAN’T wait that long!! Into the woods I went. Dropped trou I did. I shrugged my shoulders and shamelessly waved to the fourth place female runner as she spotted me crouched in the woods. And away she went down the road.
As I shuffled back onto the road to regain stride my mind began to battle itself. Should I even try any more? A PR is obviously out the window.. and yet the legs feel good and theoretically the stomach is *fingers crossed* settling down. While I was talking to myself I started to actually pick up the pace. Even though my mind wasn’t sure if it wanted to put in the mental effort of racing for another 40+ minutes my body apparently did. I rolled with it. Sure, a PR was off the table. Who cares? It’s JUST a race. But, IT’S STILL A RACE! That means that I will do the best my body will allow given whatever crap happens. (See what I did there? bahahaha). A half marathon PR may have out of reach, but that didn’t mean that third place had to be gone too.
I told myself something I always tell my athletes: run the mile you’re in. I stopped worrying about IF I could hold the pace for the final five miles and focused on the mile and the moment I was in. I could see third place in the distance, maybe 20-25 seconds ahead. My attention shifted to closing the gap between us. At the tail end of mile 8 I came up behind her at the tail end of mile 8. Do I pass now? Do I hover behind her? Was she slowing down? Surging ahead? Where was she at mentally? If I pass her will she surge ahead to maintain third? I typically run for myself and my own race times, so the mental component of racing against other runners on the road is fairly foreign. Ultimately I focused on how my own body felt in that mile and it felt GOOD. I threw down, surged ahead and took back third place just as we passed the mile 9 marker. Miles 8 and 9 were completed at a 6:52 and 6:59 pace.
I wasn’t going to PR. I wasn’t going to have the race of my life. But I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to give my best effort!! To be clear- there are some dark moments when you’re pooping in the woods during a race. Of course I wondered if I should just stop running hard and run my comfy pace. But I couldn’t. That’s a cop-out. I was there to race! So, race I did.
The final miles were completed at: 7:20 (mile 10 hill), 6:58, 6:47, 6:52. And I felt GOOD. I felt insanely good out there for the final miles of the race. I held third place all the way through the finish and ultimately managed a 1:33:06 (7:06 avg) despite my two stops. I estimate that I lost about 60-70 seconds because of those stops. My PR is a 1:32:02. I’m SO CLOSE people. SO. DAMN. CLOSE. I. CAN. TASTE IT!!! Sunday wasn’t my day and that’s completely ok. I’m not angry or sad. I’m not going to dwell; I’m going to laugh my ass off. I crossed the finish line laughing hysterically because somehow I had a pooptastic day and was still able to come in third place at a half marathon!! Who does that??? I’m calling this one a win!
Just keeping it real folks!
Post race I ran back to find my girl Julie. I found her around mile 12 and ran her in to the finish! Somehow she ran the EXACT same time as her previous half PR! She’s amazing and I’m so proud of her. 🙂 You’re amazing Julie- keep pushing!!
Up next: YMCA Frozen 5k in January and you better believe I’m going after a PR (break 19:58). Here’s hoping!!
Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Never stop.
Overall race thoughts:
I can confidently attest that this race was incredibly well organized: hats to all participants, SO MANY happy, smiling volunteers/police out there on the road to direct the runners, plus a breakfast buffet after the race with sausage (I’m sure there was other food present, but I honestly just honed in on the sausage links). The Frosty Half is put on The Colonial Road Runners; I would absolutely recommend this to any runners looking for a mostly flat (with a few rollers) half in December!!