Monday, May 31, 2021

Return to Racing...



*note: this was written BEFORE… the downpour of the weekend…. Read to find out how the “race” panned out.

I have my first half marathon post pandemic tomorrow morning.

I’m both excited and apprehensive.  I’ve done run races since 1994, and triathlons since 1998, and they have provided me with such a huge heartful of memories, stories, experiences, locations.  They are some of my happiest and most fun days.  I often say that the training is the real work and race day is like a party on the roads… NOT that it isn’t work and hard and focus.  BUT… it is where everything “plays out” and that is really just such a fun and interesting few hours. So, I am excited.

I’m also apprehensive because I know how much I learned and fine tuned my way of racing over those years.  Not only do you train in your training, but your races serve themselves as training for future races.  You do stuff that doesn’t work well, and you learn.  You think a certain way, reframe a certain way of thinking and you find that gets you through, and you use it in the future. You learn to subtly adjust breathing and some muscles to get the most out of your body, and you know that feeling of being on the fine line where you can kind of hover there and make it through to the end…. And, so I’m apprehensive.  I haven’t done this in about a year and a half.  And even then, I was injured with my hip, so things were already different, and my races were more about participation and being out there and not getting further pain in the joint.  I’m apprehensive about all the LITTLE things… that become amplified to quite big things along the way in a race!  I’m apprehensive about

*how do I even warm up for this race?  DO I even warm up, haha?  It is a half marathon, I’m not at all trained to be at my “best” half marathon or even near there, so maybe I should just warm up “within the race”!!!??! 

*how to pace myself—without having race situations, it is really hard to know what your body is really capable of maintaining effortwise!  Of course I’ve trained and done a few 13 milers, with intervals within even…. But races are different.  They play with your physiology, your GI system, your nerves, your mind.

*how to approach the race mentally!  I used to say, I’m not going to race unless I am RACING!  Right?  I mean, I can go out and do 13 miles on my own, I don’t need a race to cover the distance.  So, I use races to TEST.  For this experience tomorrow, I need to remind myself of that same thing—it isn’t going to be my BEST, but it is going to be a “test” of where I am NOW.  So, I don’t want to overpush to try to get where I used to be… but I also don’t really want to go out and lolly-gag it.  That isn’t my intent for the race, my intent is to race where I am.  I need to keep that focus, not feel less confident because I am slower and not used to racing, but confident that I am where I am, and am perfectly in the place of “relearning” the race skillset!

Already this week, I’ve been reminding myself of what it is like to be in a race.  I adjusted my eating a few days ago.  No more beans, no more salads, and overall less fiber.  I did a little taper week of training (although got a bit more sore from some classes than I intended!), have done some extra rolling.  And, I’ve started a little bit of some mental work, visualization, prepping for the logistics of 13 miles and my race plan.

Even packing is different—I used to be so ready to race I could take a quick 3 minutes through and get everything in a bag ready to go:  race belt, hydration flasks, safety pins, energy blocks, post race clothes, sunglasses, etc.  This time it is different, I have to remind myself I am not going on a vacation!  I am questioning even how to wear my hair to keep it from moving, reminding myself to recharge my garmin, needing those little reminders that I have to have a fresh banana ready for the morning, ripe, but not too ripe.  Also, I need to have a mask on up until the gun goes off, I have a Ziploc ready to put it in during race, so it won’t be grose and full of sweat at the end of the race.

And even this, is all part of the learning process, the relearning.  Someday, this exact week and the race tomorrow will be part of what makes me a better racer maybe next year, or maybe in 4 more years.  Being excited yet apprehensive will be what teaches me what works or doesn’t work tomorrow, and how to modify that in the future. 

Ahem…… 3 days later.

We called a no go.

Pouring rain, 40 degrees.   Did not sound like a fun, positive experience, and my friend Nancy, who I also coach, decided we did not want this experience.  I personally was worried about: first freezing being soaked beforehand/ waiting for the beginning, shoes soaked, but then also muddy since the race wasn’t on paved roads.  I actually do not feel even an ounce bad about calling that a no go race.

ESPECIALLY because…. We met up this morning, planned how she would get a 10K, I would get 13 miles in and MADE. IT. HAPPEN.

Even though there weren’t people around me at the start line, anyone on my tail, anyone in front to visualize catching, I PUSHED.  I executed my miles as I intended.  I did a 5 min warm up and got my joints warm and ready to react well, and then started first mile strong, but not feeling bad at all.  I finished in 1:43:39, which was under my goal of 1:45.  (however, I did take a stop in the port o pot and I did have the luxury since it wasn’t a “real race” of stopping my stop watch.  I am fairly certain that I was not in there longer than 60 seconds.  That was at the 7 ¼ mile mark. 

My intent had been to do 3.5 miles out from start as a “check in”- not a warm up, but a good effort without it being too much, and see how my body was feeling.  On the way back from this to get me to 7 miles, I was going to work a bit harder, mentally this was about a 7.5/10 effort.  I then did a 3 mile loop from mile 7-10 and my intent was to start to pick up effort to 8/10 and this happened naturally because of time but also because my (specifically right) calf was really talking to me.  It’s been tight and really was feeling it during these miles.  Then I had 3 miles left- a 1.5 mile out to maybe see / cross paths with Nancy and then back.  My intent was to keep pushing the way out, maybe 8-8.25 or 8.5/10 and then final 1.5 miles up to 9/10, finish strong.  When I came back and crossed paths with Nancy, she was working SOO SO SO SO SO SO awesomely strong, I could hear her breathing and working so strong, I thought, don’t you DARE Sharon let up.  You are out here for a purpose and YOU KEEP DIGGING just as she is. Seeing her/ hearing her effort reminded me that I was in this with her, we do not back down.. It really felt like the energy from a “race”, from being near others in their pain cave, was fueling me down the path to the finish.  My calf was really the hardest thing from the run, and I went to the pool this afternoon and “iced it” in the freezing cold pool.  It is honestly SO much better tonight and I SWEAR by what I did in pool.  I did 2 rounds of soaking it, and the final time I was doing constant ankle circles, flexing the ankle, all softs of movement in the water.  I am so thankful I did that because I feel like it is going to be fine tomorrow, however, I will listen to my body that there is a message being sent by my calves😊

We finished with “black cherry juice rose mimosa’s”….. black cherry juice for recovery, right?  So it made me feel like I was definitely at least doing something right for recovery?!! Thank goodness for the sun finally coming back out today.

I was sad to not do the race experience, but I honestly feel that I got it in today.

I may actually be even MORE sad that we missed the wine festival afterwards😊

*for my own reference basically, my splits were: 

8:16, 7:49, 7:44, 7:54, 8:16, 7:59, 7:58, 7:44, 7:43, 7:59, 8:00, 8:16, 7:53 (thx to Nancy for that final mile!)