Sunday, May 31, 2009

Half Marathon #2!

I am so exhausted right now, I feel as though everything I wanted to write eludes me. But I have been trying to “get it together” to write all day now, so I must start to put down something!

The thing that stands out most for me, and was also the most important aspect in respect to my “race training” for this race was it was the first time since the college running days that I was running under pressure, that I didn't just have hopes for where this can lead, I had expectations for this race, today.
My first time with expectations. The first time competition wasn’t just a last minute whim, but something I fought for from before the race started.
My competitive spirit has never died, in fact, it has only grown in the last couple years. However, the part of me longing to be the “best of the best” is always a dream.
Slowly but surely, as I work my way back up [and beyond?!] I am getting to that point where I—and those who support me—realize I do have chances at things like placing and time cuts.
Pressure has always been my weakness. I don’t want anyone to expect anything of me. I’ve always been that way, it has even left me balking at races [I still think it’s one reason I DNF’ed at nationals—realizing I wasn’t going to run on par with how I had at states, much less better, scared me more than the athsma attack that lead me to drop out].
This is a weakness I have to work on if I want to run at the top levels. I can’t expect to be highly competitive and have the reputation of a recreational runner: I can’t have it both ways. As I gain ability to compete at higher levels, as I run more races and lower my PR’s, I’m going to get labeled. People aren’t going to think “you’re doing good to finish,” and I have to accept it when someone says “you know the winner last year ran a 1:31…hint, hint.”

The other thing about this race is it’s the first one I’ve trained for this year. The last couple races I enetered on a whim. True to my “no pressure” strength, I did well. This time, I had to practice running where I expected something of myself. Where others “knew” I was good enough to do more than finish.

I was pretty good with all this—after all I’d been working up for this race, feeling my runs get stronger and surpassing boundaries, until this last week.
Then, two weeks out of “my race,” one of my famous phantom injuries hit.
This time, I don’t have a great reason. My training level has been the same over the past couple months. It’s much lower than what I’ve done in the past. With a few 1-3 day exceptions, even my sleeping and eating habits have improved this spring.
The only thing was that I did spend my peak training weeks in past-dead shoes. Could definitely have sealed my fate, seeing as my second sfx occurred the minute I tried to run in non-specialty-store shoes.

To add to the enigma of my injury sagas, I couldn’t figure out how to recover as best possible. As usual, the standard ideas don’t work for me. Gets worse after resting, worse after upper body strength. Run and then it’s better. Getting that message the first week left me doing only easy runs during race week [no strength, no cross training]. Low and behold, I hit an all time low, barely able to walk the day before the race.
I’ve been hear before—that unbearable frustration with no cause and fix, the huge letdown of another crash just when I’m roaring strong.

But what really, really had me upset here was that I am in the best race shape I’ve been yet since starting my comeback.
Not just how “much” I can run or even how fast, but the race specific training and all-around training from every angle: strength, endurance, speed. From fartlek’s to progression long runs to hill sprints to strength training, I’ve incorporated it all these last couple months and seen a lot of fitness gains. It was obvious, even as the injury hit, that I was peaking just right when even a painful 7 miles felt like a 2 mile warm up. When my last long run felt like race pace at the end.
It just killed me to be so perfectly ready for a great race and have my leg just not work!

I actually toyed with dropping out. I really didn’t want to just “run 13 miles.”
I know I can do that…I want to race doggonit.
But I decided to give it a try—heck, with the way things work for me you just never know.

Well, there was no “enigma recovery” but I did manage to “race.” It was pretty solid from a racing perspective: even splits, strong finish. I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be, what my training had been on par for, but it wasn’t a complete flop either.
I was frustrated with the bursts of energy I had at 9-10 miles, and again in the last couple miles, but my inability to actually sprint or even run terribly fast just because my leg felt like it was being torn off. Almost disconnected, unable to use the “juice” in there even as I ignored the pain.
But, I did push it. I gave it all I had, right down to a heaving finish. I PR’ed by just over 2 minutes and took 5th in my age group. I wanted to win, but looking at the field I can understand that it was a different group than last year, and certainly much bigger and faster than Borgess. [I’ve met the girl who won it, she’s running for a sponser and has years of experience and healthy training on me—but you better believe I’m chasing her!]

In sum-

5th Place Female Age Division
30th Place Female Overall