Monday, May 13, 2013

Providence recap

Six hours of flights, three hours of layover, and a three hour ride home is a lot of travel time, and a lot of thinking time.

First I need to say that minus the race,  it was a wonderful weekend. I missed Josh and the kids, but had a special Mother's Day. I had a lot of quality time with my parents, which is priceless. I enjoyed talking with them, watching them, listening to them, and just being around them. They were incredible as always. I also got some nice time with my brother and his friend which was awesome too. All four of them were amazing cheerleaders. I got to see them multiple times along the course, and Mark and his friend even made big signs for me. We ate a lot of good food too. Most of the restaurants we went to were great about me needing gluten-free stuff, and I even had gluten-free pizza and a burger with a gluten-free bun.

I got to meet two of the runners I coach, and one I got to go to lunch with and then she was on the course with her super cute daughter cheering for me in a bunch of spots with an awesome sign that they made. And one of my former colleagues was there cheering on her daughter in her first marathon and she cheered for me a bunch too. It was fun to have so much support out there, even though I felt like I was letting everyone down.

At first I was not going to do a full race recap but I guess I will, if for no other reason that I can process it and have a record of it.

Everything went really well leading up to race morning. I ate well, I was well-hydrated, my shake out run and strides the morning before felt good, and I got plenty of rest. I did not have any aches or pains and I was healthy. You can't ask for much more.

They day before the race, Chris, a really nice guy that I had connected with (and a very fast runner - check out his blog) had offered to drive the course with my parents and I so that I could see the course and so they could know how to best see me on race day.  Chris's coach, Ray, came along too and they were both great. We got to see the whole course and my parents got a spectating strategy and directions.

I was a little unhappy with some significant hills (on a course that was advertised as "flat and fast" and no updated elevation profile was provided). There were also a lot of turns, including a turn around a cone in the middle of the road. It was not a fast course. Even if I had PRed and run a great race, I would not have felt it was a fast course.

Our hotel was the host hotel and it was SUPER convenient. On race morning I didn't have to get up until 5:30. After getting ready, I went out and did a short warmup, came back in and used our bathroom one last time, and then went back outside about 20 minutes before the race started. There weren't any corrals and it was just a "line up at your pace" kind of start, so I positioned myself just behind the super fast looking guys. I was nervous but not terribly so. I think mentally I was in a good place. I was ready to go.

My parents, Mark, and Alex got to stand right close to me as we waited. They sang the anthem, told us 7 minutes to go, 5 minutes to go, 3 minutes to go, 1 minute to go - and then we waited and waited and waited. We ended up starting 7 minutes late without any explanation to the delay. It was awful to hear "one minute to go" and get all ready and then to just wait. It was VERY overcast and muggy. Right before we left the room I checked the weather one last time and it said it was 61 degrees and 98 percent humidity. Bleck. Chris had warned me that being along the coast that there definitely would be wind at different points of the course too.

We finally took off and I felt pretty good. It was much warmer than I was used to (I have only even run in the 40's a few times so far this year, the rest has been 30's or colder) and the air was thick and muggy, but I felt ok. It was super overcast and I almost wished it would rain, but it never did more than sprinkle. The plan from Coach was to go out at about 7:15, and then drop it down. I was running about 7:05 on the downhill/flat miles and about 7:20-7:25 on the uphill miles so I felt pretty good about where I was at.

At mile 2.5 I saw Ray (Chris's coach) on his bike, and he was great! He rode along side me for a little bit, told me I looked great, warned me about the hills coming up, etc. I handled the early hills pretty well and the intermittent head wind. It never felt too bad, although it was just one more added challenge. Around mile 7 I started to feel like I was working harder than I should have felt for only being at mile 7. I know it is supposed to almost feel easy early on, and it definitely wasn't. I tried to make sure I was hydrated and fueling, not to obsess about the Garmin, to stay relaxed, etc. and assumed I would regroup and recover, but it just kept getting worse.

I saw my family for the first time at mile 9 which was a great boost and I saw them again around mile 10 and 11. At this point my pace was around 7:20, although it felt like I was working MUCH much harder than that. I kept hoping I would recover and rebound and again, it didn't happen. Over the next few miles I kept the effort level the same (maybe even increased it some) and my pace just kept slipping away. It was extremely frustrating. I was working so hard and the pedal was down, but I just couldn't make myself go any faster. In Tallahassee in February I held a 7:00-7:05 pace for 17 miles so I know these paces should have felt much easier than they did.

When I crossed the half-way point I knew a PR was not happening and I knew a strong time wasn't even happening. There was zero chance of picking up the pace, and even maintaining the pace seemed impossible. The dizziness and light-headedness started about mile 14 or 15. I just felt exhausted. I knew my choices were to quit, or to take it easy and finish the best I could. I figured it was Mother's Day, and I was going to be kind to myself and just finish the race taking it easy and not beating myself up.

I walked quite a bit, ran as much as I could, and appreciated the support from my parents, Mark and Alex, Ray, Portia and Maple, Susan, and a few others. Pam jumped in and ran with me for little bits a few times which was sweet and fun. I cheered on other runners and talked with a few.

I eventually got to the finish line and was glad to finish, but did not have that sense of accomplishment.  I did not feel strong. I did not feel fast. I did not feel proud.

A silver lining in the whole thing is that I did not have to stop ONCE for my stomach. Not once! I have never made it through a marathon without any bathroom stops. Heck, some days I don't make it through short, easy runs without a bathroom stop. Since I used the bathroom in our hotel room before the race, I actually never even entered a portapotty the whole weekend.

I had a terrible headache and was quite dizzy after the race, and it hurt my lungs to take a deep breath. The dizziness passed in about an hour, but the headache and the pain in my chest lasted until the next morning. It was just a rough day.The humidity kicked my butt, which I didn't expect, especially since it was not super hot. 60-65 was warm for me, but definitely not hot. Some people still ran well in the conditions, but I was not one of them.

When you put so much training and preparation and hope into a race, it is hard not to be disappointed and discouraged to have it turn out so badly. Keeping it real, I have even had some of those, "maybe I am just not good at this" thoughts.

So I really thought about it. I thought about not training and racing, and just running for fun and for fitness - no stress, no pressure, no nerves, no disappointment, no risk.

And I could not even pretend that I wanted that for more than a minute. There is nothin wrong with running that way. But i love to run, and I love to train, to race, and to push myself. The day will come when I just run for fun and for fitness, but that day is far away and for now, I truly want to see what I can accomplish and how good I can be, and I believe that is what I am supposed to do. Just because it is hard sometimes doesnt mean it is not good and worth doing. And every race is a learning experience. So I am definitely not giving up. I am going to keep at it, even though there will be days that are rough and days that sting. They will just make the awesome days that much sweeter.

Couch Doug has been great, and I am really confident in and grateful for his guidance and support. 

So, we keep moving forward. Some recovery, some shorter races, and training for Chicago Marathon in October. 


Holly K-N said...

As a runner who now lives in the tropics, I can doubly reassure you that humidity is a beast (especially when coupled with temps your body isn't used to).

And forget any algorithm that says "Expect an x% time decrease for every five degrees over 55." That percentage depends tremendously on the race distance (imo & experience). After first moving here, my 5K race time took a 1-2 minute hit. My half-marathon time took a 20 minute hit. Yes, not every day/race is the same, but the longer the run, the greater the humidity effect.

Sorry the race didn't go as planned, but glad you haven't lost your determination or fire. Hopefully, Chicago's temps will cooperate this year!

Lisa said...

So sorry it wasn't your day!

I actually ran this marathon, too (my first ever). I saw you from a distance (just knowing you from your blog, which admittedly is a bit strange) just before start time.

I am not an elite runner (or anything close) and I am from New England, so the humidity is normal to me, but I agree it was not the "flat and fast" course that was advertised.

You'll be stronger for pulling yourself up out of this hard time and pressing on. When you can, embrace it as part of the journey...another building block to where you want to be.

Amy Lauren said...

I live in SC and humidity is crazy here. I have no clue what the air feels like in Utah, but here, 61 degrees and 98% humidity is actually GOOD because that's a low temp at least. I've run a few times in lower humidity when it happens here (rarely) and it does feel different.

It's so awesome that you finished the race though even leisurely. It probably made everyone else out there happy that you were out there with them instead of quitting. It gets on my nerves when people just drop out- I understand the strategy behind it (we have a state road runner ranking thing here), but for me, I'd tough it out and at least walk, jog, run slowly, and encourage people. Guess that's why I'm not in that road ranking system, hehe.

Christina Williams said...

I've come to believe, in my experience now with my first full marathon and several halfs under my belt, that weather really matters. (Of course a good course matters too.) But a shift in weather that gives too much cold, heat, or humidity can really change everything about the 26.2 miles. With the full I just ran, we had 35 degrees for the whole time with some cutting winds. Even though I didn't have a good time based on my foot pain, I know the extra level of cold probably affected me too. I also live in a part of the country that gets awful humidity at times and it is very hard to run in. My first half marathon gave me high humidity with warning flags out on the course and emergency salt water stations up at mile 10+ and that race is my worst half time I've ever done so far. I'm at a point now where I am going to be very careful how I choose races based and base it more on time of year/weather/location as the main factor. It just really is such a huge part of whether or not a race will work out well! I'm glad to read you are still staying positive moving forward with race training. There are times when running for fun will be your life but you are right, it is not now. :)

Gracie said...

Ok, so, sorry about race day not going as planned, but this is still a huge, huge milestone for you: not stopping for GI issues. I think you should focus on how well you are starting to handle that and think about how much time it will save you when you have a good race! So still, lessons learned. running goals achieved - even on a bad day.

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

sorry it didn't go like you were hoping it would. Humidity always kicks my butt. Of course here there is rarely any to deal with. You are such an amazing and talented athlete, I know you will get a PR and just think how amazing it will feel when you finally do! You have worked so hard for it!

Canuck Mom said...

So sorry the race did not go as planned. Humidity can be tough. I know that first hand living in North Carolina. When the heat starts hitting I feel like a slug. Keeping up with hydration in that heat can be tough too. You always inspire me!! You finished it and kept going. You hurt, but you are not letting that stop you from moving forward. Keep it up!!

Beth @ Miles and Trials said...

You continue to be an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing the good and the bad with us, there are lessons we can all learn from thanks to you!

Kathy said...

I don't manage humidity well either. I am very proud that you saw it through. Silver lining, great news about a stop free race!!!
Keep pushing, Erin!

Mommy Run Fast said...

Ugh- not a fun way to experience a goal race, for sure. Humidity is ROUGH! I've learned that first hand since we moved to Houston. Your last few paragraphs are inspiring- to have thoughts about running for fun, yet knowing this is what you really want, and finding the determination to keep chasing it- love that!

{lifeasa}RunningMom said...

Humidity is a beast!

And even though it may be a somewhat constant in my life I remember that one half on a neighboring island where it was warmer and more humid than I was used too. It drains you. It was the toughest half of my life! I felt weak but I went back the following year and redeemed myself. You will do the same!

giraffy said...

Running in humidity is tough - even when it's not HOT, it just feels draining and so damp and sweaty - I always have trouble with dehydrating and electrolytes in the humidity.

I'm sorry it wasn't your day :(

Gunderson Family said...

I LOVE that you are REAL....probably what I respect the most about you!!! Keep your eyes up....that sweet day is coming!!!!

Suz and Allan said...

Sorry that this race wasn't your day but that is great news that you didn't have any stomach trouble.

robinbb said...

Hugs to you Erin. I never know how to respond to race reports when things don't go well and hearts are broken. You are putting in your time. You WILL see the benefits from all the training. Your body is getting used to the high level running you are asking of it. Yes, you are capable and you will do it. It will happen before you know it and the victory will be that much sweeter.

Kristin said...

Humidity is possibly the runner's worst kryptonite. I can't take it, and my pace always slows at least a minute per mile in it. I'm so sorry it didn't go well, I'm confident you're going to dominate Chicago. There's something about big races like that which spur us on to greatness!

greengirlrunning said...

As always, I am so inspired by your strength and determination. That you finished this race in those conditions is an accomplishment! When I ran the Kona half last year, it was in the 70s and 90+% humidity (it normally doesn't even rain on that side of the island, but it did that morning) and it was the absolute worst I've ever felt after a race. Headache, puffiness and I took a nap for over 4 hours... something I never do. I'd take crazy rain, cold and wind over warm/hot humid any day. You are amazing! I'm glad you got to have such a nice time with your family :)

Suzy said...

I was 30 minutes slower at my first 1/2 than I was in training thanks to humidity and warmer temps than I'd trained in. My whole life I've hated cold weather & loved warm weather UNTIL I started to run. For running, cool to cold & dry is just better. Had I known Florida was going to be so much warmer than my part of Arkansas (and we have similar heat & humidity most of the time), I'd have put in more training miles indoors on my treadmill. May your next race have more ideal conditions (and mine, too)!

coach dion said...

I like your story, and the fact that you kept running and fought to the end. It is after all only a marathon... So now you know you can finish even when you are not feeling well, so in October when you are 17miles in and stuffed (from running hard) you will know you can keep running and take that PR!!!