Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shaking Off a Bad Race After a Good Season

When you run enough races, you're bound to have some bad ones.  It's definitely fun to PR and to have those runs that feel wonderful and effortless.  But if we rocked every training run and every race we did, it would kind of take the fun out of it.  I mean, am I wrong?  So every now and then we need to have one of those downright ugly races, the ones that chew you up and spit you out and have you even regretting racing that day.  We need them because they humble us, they give us perspective and they teach us lessons not just about running but about life.

This past weekend, I experienced one of those type of runs at the Lake Minneola Half Marathon.  I already had 3 races scheduled for April, so I originally did not want to run this race.  But with convincing from a friend to run with her in hopes to PR, I agreed.  I really wanted a sub 1:40 half, I was so close and felt like I could finally do it on this flat, fast course, especially with the help of a stronger runner by my side.  But sometimes, despite all our efforts things just don't go our way.

So let me back up a bit.  April started out great.  I hadn't raced in almost six weeks, so I came into the month with fresh legs and just itching to race!  My first race of four for the month was the Riverside Dash 15k.  It had been over two years since I ran an official 15k, so I was a little nervous but mostly excited.  I struggle to pace myself on distances I am not used to.  I set what I felt to be a realistic goal of 1:10 for a PR.  I came in with a 1:08:40 finish and second in my division.  I was pretty amped about my pace and was feeling pretty confident to finally get my sub 1:40 later in the month.

Six days after my 15k, I raced an 8k earning another shiny new PR.  I was ecstatic to get my 8k under 35 minutes (finish time 34:58) and third overall female!  Oh and my oldest son, Nolan who is 4, won his kids run!  The next morning, with a 2am wake up call, my friend Kim and I headed out for the two hour drive to Clearwater to run the Iron Girl Half Marathon.  This was Kim's first half marathon and I agreed to be her pacer and help her get a sub 2.  This was one of the most difficult courses I have ever ran with FOUR HUGE bridges.  Kim rocked it though and we got her that sub 2 she wanted with a finish time of 1:57:07!!!

After 3 races in 7 days with a total of almost 40 miles (including training miles), which is way more weekly mileage than I'm used to doing this time of year, to say I was exhausted was a total understatement!  Oh and did I mention it is allergy season!?!  So needless to say, by mid month, I was feeling pretty burnt out as well as developing some symptoms of illness.  I still had high hopes for my half marathon towards the end of the month so though I would take an extra rest day here and there, I would still push pretty hard on the days I did workout.

It all eventually caught up with me.  My allergies got out of control and I ended up with an upper respiratory infection as well as a sinus and ear infection (similar to what happened last allergy season when I ran too many races without enough rest).  Just a few days before I was to race the Lake Minneola Half Marathon for the PR I had been hoping to get, I started a round of antibiotics along with some meds for my allergies.  The good news, I was finally able to breath better and was no longer experiencing the intense sinus pressure and headaches.  The bad news, the medicine reeked havoc on my already sensitive GI tract (thank you IBS) and zapped my energy!  So now I was left with a decision.  Though I was feeling better in some aspects and felt I should go ahead race, I was concerned I would fall short in my goals and be left pretty disappointed.

The afternoon and evening before the race, I had felt the best I had in weeks so I went to bed feeling pretty good about the next morning.  But the morning of the race was a different story.  My allergies and sinus issues were pretty much nonexistent that morning, but my tummy was another story.  I won't go into to much detail but let's just say, I was definitely NOT 100%!  I tried to convince myself that maybe it was just race day jitters and decided to head out to the race in hopes it would settle down once I got going.  I learned pretty quickly in the race, however, that would not be the case.  In fact, after about 3 miles I realized I maybe should have sat this one out.  Of course, it was a little late for that, so I just had to press on.  I told my friend, Stacey who was helping me pace to go ahead without me.  I took my first of many walk breaks around mile 4, caught a bit of a second wind between mile 5 and 6, but by mile 7 I realized this was going to be one of those days I will be happy just to finish!   It was slow, there was a good amount of walking and even a few times I thought of taking a DNF.  But eventually I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:49:24.

I missed my goal that day by over 10 whole minutes and had my worst half finish in almost 4 years!  Yes, I was definitely a little disappointed.  This was not how I wanted to end my Spring season, especially since this was my last longer distance race before heading into marathon training this summer.  But I reminded myself that one bad race does not define me as a runner.  And like I said above, we NEED these bad ones to really appreciate the goods ones.  I had a great not just month, but a whole season of racing as well as pacing.  Since the beginning of the year, I have PR'd in my marathon, half marathon, 15k and 8k, I placed in all but two races I raced in, I got to pace two half marathons, and more importantly I learned a lot about myself as a runner and as a person.  I made more new friends and had the most fun this season than I have had in my entire running career!

So moral of the story, you cannot let the rough days get to you, you have to look at the bigger picture.  You got to take it all in stride, taking the good with the bad.  Learn from the bad stuff that you can control so you do not continue to make the same mistakes.  Let those bad runs be fuel for you to push harder.  But also learn to let go of the things that are out of your control and not let them eat away at you.  Seek the good in any situation, trust me there are always positives in anything (this of course is a little easier for me since I am an eternal optimist, hehe).  Don't let those hard runs overshadow all that you have accomplished.  And know that your best runs are the ones still to come...

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