Perhaps this race was doomed from the start.
Or, at least, doomed after Around the Bay.
I PRed. (2:14:09). But it was a poorly executed race. Perhaps, though, it was the race I needed.
The original plan was for Goodlife to be my first-ever marathon. I created an elaborate running plan. I followed it like the most dedicated student. But, about 16 weeks in, I was sick of running. Utterly, completely sick of it. I was tense and everything hurt. Then I went on a cruise, came back and crushed Around the Bay. It was my best race experience to date, but it destroyed my body and my mental attitude towards a full marathon. After much contemplation, I backed down and decided to do a half.
Then, it seems, I got lazy. Without a proper training plan to follow, I slacked off. Spring literary season sped up, so I found myself drinking more wine and seeing more people as opposed to downing water and hitting the pavement. I felt confident, though. After all, I finished Around the Bay. I ran a great 10k race with Jill. I was ready for this race. I was going to crush it.
I crushed the first 13 kilometres. Then I fell apart.
I fet good the week leading up to the race. Really good. So good, I started seeing 1:59:59 in my sleep. I became focused on that, convinced a sub-2:00 half-marathon was in my reach. I went out hard, hitting 5:30s pretty much the whole way through the first half. I was on track to do it. Then my stomach got weird. And it got hot. I needed an emergency bathroom break (thank goodness this race goes through the Rosedale ravine!) and a few minutes to walk. Suddenly, I was exhausted and dehydrated. The next three water stations were low, low, low, which meant making the choice between waiting the few minutes in line to get a sip from the volunteer’s sacrificed water bottle or zipping past and ignoring the stomach cramps and dizziness that really wanted to amp up. Kilometres 13 through 16 were horrendous.
Then, as we passed my house (literally — this route took me by my house and my office), I decided to stop being so hard on myself and enjoy the race. It’s a great, fast course. It was a beautiful sunny day. I can run and run strong. I slowed down to a 7:30 pace (my usual LSD pace) and just focused on feeling strong. It worked, and I made it to the end.
I’ve never felt so grateful that a race be over in my life. I felt nauseous and sore. I had to go find a spot on the ground to sit for a minute. I almost cried, I was so overwhelmed with how my body was feeling. My watch wasn’t on (I turned it off during the bathroom break so I could figure out exactly how much time that cost me and forgot to turn it back on), so I had zero clue how I did.
Then I started walking back to my bike. The finish zone was directly by the marathon route, so I could watch some of the slower marathoners make their way through the 30-32k stretch. There were plenty of older women, plodding along. Older than me. Running a marathon. It was a weird route and people were clearly ignoring it. These marathoners were dodging dogs, baby strollers and a group of teenage girls doing sprints. I stood there for a moment, cheering each one as they went by me. These women were amazing. No one was supporting them or paying attention to them or giving them the support they deserved to make it through this awfully planned stretch (who makes marathoners run by the finish line with 12k left to go?!) And yet, here they were, not giving up. My bad race was my own fault. I could have prevented it by being smart at the start, by not eating that disgusting Power Bar before the race, by not convincing myself I was superhuman. I have the power to make it a good day or a bad day, by my attitude, by how hard I try. These women, they were making it a good day. Everything was against them, but they were making it a good day.
I need to learn from these women.
So, what lessons did I learn? Let’s see.
Stick to the game plan
Once ATB was over, my game plan was out the window. But even on race day, the game plan that worked so well at ATB was out the window because I am an overeager idiot. Next time, I’ll run the race I train for, and I’ll follow the training plan I have mapped out. I also won’t do things like try a new Power Bar the morning of the race, because we know that never works out well.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
I didn’t have enough water the day before the race, the morning of the race or on the course. It might have been enough water for a cooler, greyer day, but not that day. I can’t rely on the race’s water stations, either. They may not be frequent enough or have enough water. And even if they do, the line may slow me down. I need to have a hydration plan and come prepared to execute it.
Don’t come out gunning for it
This is a lot like the first lesson. But if I feel strong, wait a few kilometres before amping it up. There’s always time in these long races to make adjustments along the way. Get settled, assess how I feel, then make the changed. Seems simple in theory. In practice? We’ll find out.
I’m already eyeing fall races. And I have a big summer fitness game plan on the go. But, right now, I need a break. I need to run for fun and get the urge to get out there and crush it again. I know it’ll happen soon. Just you wait.