As I geared up for yesterday’s half marathon, I felt ready. As ready as I did going into Mercedes last year when I knew I could pull a sub 2:15 out of my hat. And I did. I changed my race outfit from the norm… not running in a skirt, but shorts. Not running in a sparkle headband, but my Nuun visor.. and most importantly, no music.
I was picked up at early 30 with some fellow Resolute Runner’s and Birmingham Track Club members that were making the trek up there.
The race started, and while we had these massive chips on the bib, it was a clock time race. We started off feeling good. Halfway into the race, Coach Alex took my phone from me and started taking pictures.. and the man took a LOT of pictures.
We sort of started getting separated as the heat got to everyone, and for a while and it was just me and Alex… I’m not sure if he enjoyed it or not. I got really whiny. And then I started huffing and making weird noises and grunting. Yep. I became THAT person on the race course and I don’t even care. Then I became really mean and fiesty. Then back to whiny. And all the while, Coach Alex kept trying to talk to me. When I said “I can’t. Please let me walk” He would say “What would you say to your daughters if they said that?” Then he asked me what my PR was and I couldn’t even form thoughts. Then he asked me what I ran in Tuscaloosa and I responded with “something.” and he laughed.
The picture after this one is honestly my favorite, but I am flipping him the bird, so it’s not appropriate.. and neither is the cowbell lady story, but Alex is having a good time telling that one already!
While this race was not a PR and I didn’t beat my 2 hour goal, Coach Alex helped me to dig deep and not give up when I REALLY wanted to and was begging for him to let me walk. He literally had a hand on my back at times during the last two miles. This race was incredibly hot and I saw a LOT of people in need of medical attention on the course and after. When we came back into the mall area (that’s where the finish line was and a terrible idea, in my opinion), Alex was telling me to kick it up, and then I saw a girl I graduated high school with, who was at the mile 13 marker calling out times and she said “C’mon Rachel! You got this!! Kick it up, girl!” and since she ran me in for my very first 5K, that thought crossed my mind. Where I thought I was going to die out on the course of a 5K, and here I am, trying to reach a goal that was never on my radar. When I started running this distance, I thought a 2:15 half marathon was the very best that I would ever be able to achieve. Over the last two years, my dedication and pride in this sport, and who it has molded me into as a person, that all came back full circle for me. I will break 2. The weather conditions weren’t in it for this one and that is something that is completely out of my control. There are a lot of things you can control in a race, but weather isn’t one of them.
So, I will wear my 2:03:51 (official race time) with pride. I was 13th out of 79 in my age group and 288 out of almost 1,000 runners yesterday. That is not anything to shake a stick at. Looking at it like that, puts everything into a different perspective. So, for now, I’m putting the sub 2 on the back burner. It’s just getting too hot right now and I need to acclimate to the heat. It’s only going to get hotter in the South. I think it was mid 60′s at the race start and well into the 70′s but the time we crossed the finish line.
It was so hot and I was getting so dehydrated out there.. my fingers wouldn’t bend and they were sausages. My watch my tight on my wrist and when I crossed the finish line (The finish chute wasn’t near long enough, in my opinion), my arms went numb. I couldn’t get them to work to get water. That was weird and scary.
Notice anything? I’m not wearing my brace. That’s right.. first race without the ankle brace and it felt good, y’all. I’m officially back in complete working order! My dad and step mom were there for the start.. Dad really hates to miss me racing, which is nice, even though I’m a grown up now. J and The Red’s were there at the finish line.. I didn’t know they were coming and so that was a nice surprise.
Blood. And lots of it. I think it’s safe to say that the Nike in the wide isn’t working for me, with all the problems I’ve had this training cycle with blisters. I’m on the hunt for some new shoes now.
This certainly isn’t the worst race picture of me.. it’s actually probably the best. Want to hear something funny? After all the stress of this being my last 25-29 Age Group race.. they broke their groups down to 25-30. So I would have been in the same age group anyway!
I keep forgetting I’m racing this weekend. This week has been so busy and just coming off of vacation.. I just haven’t had the proper time to freak out about it. Which, is probably a good thing. We all know I’m a neurotic head case that can be a tad obsessive (don’t agree with me). I’m also sort of over the half marathon distance.. at least right now. It’s been a thorn in my side for the past year and I am ready to break 2 and move on from it… I reserve the right to change my mind on Monday.
Coach Alex is pacing me and a few others to the sub 2 goal on Sunday. I chatted with him last night about being sick recently and missing runs and the fact that I just don’t care about this race.. don’t get me wrong, I CARE, but I’m not obsessing… I mean, I keep forgetting about it!
My plan for Bridgestreet is this… to run through the water stations, which is not something I generally do since I’m scared to spill water on myself. That’s a weird fear, I know.. forget I said anything about it. I want to make sure I concentrate in the beginning half on keeping my shoulders back and my upper body straight because that’s where it gets me at the end.. My shoulders start killing me because I have been hunched over for 8 miles. And most importantly, I’m going to let Coach Alex do all the work… I’m just going to follow him and tie a rope to him if I have to. I’m going to treat it like a long run and keep up with the pack. I’m not planning on wearing music.. I never listen during training runs anymore, so why mess myself up during a race with it? All I do is end up getting mad at the words and start skipping songs.
This is it… the last half marathon before I turn 30… and I refuse to turn 30 without a sub 2 half. You’d think I would be a little more fired up about it, but I’m tired of psyching myself out about these things. It’s just running and I know how to do that. Why wear myself out mentally before I’ve even toed the line?
I got up at early-thirty to meet some peeps in Birmingham to drive to Tuscaloosa, where we met my brother in law, Jay who had our bibs and then continue on to the start.. parking was a breeze and we found even more people at the start.
We were all just standing around chit chatting and then all of the sudden all of the people started moving and the race had started.. Way to be prepared! We started out and were chatting and feeling good and just taking in the sights of everything and enjoying the gorgeous weather (Holy run on sentence!). Becca pulled ahead pretty early, but I could still see her and easily catch her so I wasn’t worried. The course weaved through some historic homes and I honestly hate courses that weave. Ann had a baby bouncing on her bladder and she had to make a pit stop around 4.5, and at the mile 6 water stop, I realized that I was probably in the long haul solo since I looked ahead and couldn’t see Becca any longer.
I started fading around mile 8, and probably should have taken a GU, but it was tucked safely in the car at that point and wasn’t doing me any good there. It was warming up and I wanted so bad to be able to rally, and I tried, but hills popped up out of nowhere and I could not make it. At the mile 9 hill, which was boring, long, and never ending, I had a Resolute Running teammate pop up and be all “Hey! What’s up?” and then he took off and completely made the hill his bitch.
Going into the race, I wasn’t looking forward to the Jack Warner Parkway and the River Walk portion, but once I turned the corner onto Jack Warner, it was a downhill and a nice breeze picked up and I start picking up the pace a little bit, making good use out of the downhill. I hit mile 11, right where we get on the River Walk and saw Hannah and was so happy to see a friendly face, but I already knew the sub 2 was far gone and so was a PR.
This race was a learning experience for me… sort of. I basically learned that I am a follower (not a HUGE newsflash, but always a nice reminder!). If someone sets a pace, I can run with them and chase them, but I cannot hold an uncomfortable pace on my own. I have lost the mental battle on the past 4 half marathons in the end… the 4 half marathons that I have tried to break 2. Physically, I felt fine, but mentally, I couldn’t force my legs to pick up the pace. I just reached a point where I was okay with what I was giving in the race, instead of pushing outside of my comfort zone. Somehow, I’ve to figure out how to push past that, because it’s getting really frustrating. I’m feeling extremely discouraged and ready to toss in the towel on this distance for a while, but not without breaking 2… the goal I have been chasing for almost a year.
I’ve got to give a blog reader a shout out– Kim came up to me after the race and introduced herself and told me what an inspiration I was and that she started running because of me and she actually ran her first half marathon in Tuscaloosa– a 2:43!! It was so awesome to meet you, Kim! I really appreciate your kind words and you are a ROCK STAR!! Please let me know how you are doing!!
Such a beautiful old bridge….
My Juan Pablo “eeeet’s okay!” I didn’t PR picture… also? Not really sure what’s going on with my leg. It seems to be channeling Elvis or something.
I have one more race before I turn 30 in April, and I am bound and determined to break 2 hours… so if you have some tips on breaking the mental barrier, I am ALL ears.
1. I stepped out of my comfort zone, once again, and went to the Birmingham Track Club End of the Year Party. I met some more of my Resolute Running teammates and Tanya was nice enough to want a picture with me… She must have felt my super uncomfortable vibes rolling off of me. The place was packed and I don’t do well with large crowds… so it was quite the test, but I survived.
2. I was interviewed on a podcast a few weeks ago and forgot to post the link on the blog. Oops. Sorry y’all. It was the Lifestyle Accountability Show and if you want to hear me say “Umm” a lot with a Southern accent, then be sure to check it out!
3. I was chosen as a 2014 Nuun Ambassador. I have used only Nuun for rehydration for about the past 2 1/2 years and this is just amazing to me. I love when races have them at the water stops.. like Nike Women’s and Ragnar.
What’s going on with your Tuesday?? Anything exciting?
So. I sort of did something crazy and definitely out of the norm. I hired a running coach. I know me and how I operate (it’s a gift of having known myself for 29 years) and if left to my own devices, I would jump back into running with both feet… which is hard to do since running is typically one foot at a time. My friend Jennifer had sent me a link right around the time I got injured for Resolute Running. They were doing a training group for the Magic City half. After numerous e-mails with Alex about my injury and even discussing running goals when I actually couldn’t run, I decided to take the plunge and do it. I figured, if he would watch me like a hawk with my ankle and tell me exactly what to do, I’d be in good shape. That’s another thing with me.. I tend to follow directions well.
Coach Alex and I discussed using Magic City as my “come back” run. And the goal would be to just finish. We talked about my PR being 2:02 and how I REALLY wanted to break 2 hours and he said, “Oh. That’s pretty much done. Let’s look at 1:50.” Wait a second. I am barely running, and am not running near 2 hour paces and you want me to set my sights on a 1:50 half? Before the conversation was over, he had mentioned a 1:30 half and me still being “moldable”. Afterwards, I was very confused. I thought I was just easing back in and he’s talking about major PR’s.
Then I got my training plan. And it is a bunch of 10:30 paces and then I was SUPER confused. So, I e-mailed him and asked what was up– Was the goal really just to cross the finish line or was it break 2 hours? He explained to me that he was being very lenient with my paces and I should be able to run a 1:56 half with this. Skepticism, party of 1??
I read Tanya’s post on Coach Alex’s style and it eased my thoughts, but I’m still a little skeptical on it… but, I will trust the training and do what I am told.
For now, I am back running, with Betty the brace (she’s becoming a part of me so she needed a name). I’m not doing any speed work and I am glad to know that I haven’t lost too much of my fitness being out a month– I had a long run this weekend of 7 miles and still felt pretty dang good afterwards. Right now, I am running 3 days a week and cross training 2 days with 2 rest days. I have the Vulcan 10K coming up and I would love to break 55 for it, but I am not sure that will happen.