Saturday, April 20, 2013

how [not] to prepare for a race

If you want to know all the things you should be doing in the days just before a race, a quick Google search will turn up more great ideas than you could ever implement.  If you want to know what you should NOT be doing, I’m your girl!   The weekend of the Mad Tea Party was pretty crazy, but this one takes the cake!  (alas, no frosting… but I digress.)

Here’s how [not] to prepare for a race, say, a 10-miler.  First, subscribe to all the running groups and races on Facebook, so that you are constantly tempted with photos of pretty medals.  That’s where it usually starts for me.  I had been eyeing this pretty Tar Heel 10-miler medal for a while, but I just figured it would fill up while I was being indecisive.  Monday morning, there’s that medal in my newsfeed again, there are still 100 spots available, and it’s close enough in that I know that I’m free on Saturday.  I also know I’ll be itching for a long run by then.  Quick!  sign up for the race before you change your mind!  [cue the ominous music…  Real Life, enter, stage left]

Real Life: (nonchalant) “Mom, don’t forget we have that thing on Friday at American.”

OK, it’s just one day in DC.  And whatever your do, don’t bother to book a hotel room so you can drive up the night before and… I don’t know…  sleep?  Nah!  Sleep is for sissies.  Leave late (LATE) on Thursday night (to miss all the traffic), drink a bunch of coffee and lots of water, drive 5 hours (including TRAFFIC at 3am!), sleep 2 hours in the car (restful AND relaxing)… Freshman Day at American University: GO!

Lots of coffee, not enough water, and carbs.  Lots of carbs.  Continental breakfast: fruit and carbs.  I was exhausted, I was weak, the coffee was thinking for me.  I got some fruit, but also a huge bagel with cream cheese.  Lunch was better: veggie wrap, apple, pretzels… oh, and a chocolate chip cookie the size of the moon!  Dinner was the worst: pizza.  I don’t even eat pizza anymore because I always feel awful afterward, but this was homemade, tossed in the air, fresh basil, tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella pizza!  “Individual size”…ok, which individual really needs 8 slices of pizza??  (me, apparently.)  And you’re supposed to load up on carbs before a race, right?  (Oh, and also, I did eat a salad. So, yeah.)

It’s hard to know what aggravated my right foot and knee more: the 10+ hours of driving, the walking around campus, or all the sitting!  I got home around 1am and literally fell into bed.

And you know what’s more fun than a race that starts at 7:30am?  The 5am alarm… which, for me, means getting up at 5:30.  My foot actually felt better than I expected, but the rest of me, not so much.  I will say, I’ve gotten pretty good at the mad pre-race scramble. I was out the door at 6 and sitting in gridlock in Chapel Hill by 6:30.  Can anyone explain to me why 5,000 runners showing up for a planned event at a 60,000-seat college football stadium would mean gridlock???  At 6:30 am??  (Again, I digress…)

Somehow, I got to where I was supposed to be on time and lined up with the 10:00 pace group.  Yes, I did.  Because they were chasing us out of the bleachers onto the track and this woman said, "just go line up anywhere."  So I did.  The 10:00 runners derived great satisfaction in passing me, as did most of the 11:00 and 12:00 runners.  It was brilliant strategy, really—I got to go ahead and get started with the race instead of starting with my actual pace group and risk being picked up at the end by paramedics!  I felt pretty good the whole race, especially as I woke up.  I even ran a hill challenge  at mile 9 (mile 9!  really???) and on mile 10 came up with energy out of the blue, finishing that mile even faster after all those hills!  (Giving no credit to all the carbs-- I'm totally switching my pre-race meals back to birthday cupcake frosting!)

And that, sort of, brings me to my point.  I probably had no business running a race this morning.  But I would have run 10 miles today regardless, and I REALLY REALLY wanted that medal.  [Yes, I do realise there is more to running.  I also love the medals.  Can you imagine if you paid $40 for something cool at Target, and then they said, “OK, now you just have to run 10 miles to go pick it up.”  I know… I just got to my point and already I’m digressing again]

My point is, because I knew I was going in tired, I also knew I’d be fine.  I wasn’t kidding myself about setting any records.  I just wanted to “finish in the upright position.” Earlier this week, Jeff Galloway Tweeted:
"Going beyond 20 miles breaks you down only if you go too fast."

I’ll be honest, I resisted his method of training in the beginning.  Oh, boy, did I resist!  I was running about a 10:00 pace for a 5K, and I loved feeling like I was flying.  The walking and running was awkward and therefore, I grumbled. Often.   Behold, Exhibit A:

Of course, he’s always right.  I’ve since learned that it’s the reason I know I can go out and run as far as I want on any given day.  As long as I’m willing to listen to my body and take it as slow as I need to, I feel like I could run forever.  It’s what got me thru increasing my distance from 6 miles (without any walking) to 14 miles (with walk breaks) and I’m not finished yet!  Each time I set out to tackle a new distance, I know those walk breaks will get me as far as I need to go.  And today, on way too little sleep, a foggy brain, and all the wrong pre-race meals, I knew it would get me thru 10 miles and to the finish for that awesome medal!

Oh, and my time?  6 seconds slower than my first half marathon pace.  20 seconds slower than my best half marathon pace.  No.  Big.  Deal.  AND I got to spend a long, fun and crazy day with my daughter who will be up in DC full time before I know it.  THAT’s a pretty big deal.  If you're in it for the long haul, take your time.  One of my running friends always says, as long as you don't quit, you win!  (I'm sure he didn't say it first, but he says it ALL the time.)  Take it easy, and enjoy the run.  Even if the circumstances are less than perfect, the run can still be awesome!
(Did I mention this medal??)

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