I signed up for the local Frostbite 15K in order to use it as a training run/workout where I could do some marathon-paced miles. It's always more fun to do race-paced miles in a race environment where you have the company of others and a great opportunity to practice fueling/hydrating at pace. I didn't taper for the race, but was hopeful that I'd get to race day and feel pretty good maintaining marathon pace for the duration. Since the race was on Sunday, I shifted my recovery miles to Saturday and ran 12 miles with my Dad and a friend at a good recovery pace (9:15/mi). After a good dinner of spaghetti and a (fairly) decent night of sleep, it was time to roll.
Race morning dawned and was RAINY. I ate my breakfast (english muffin - half with peanut butter, half with cream cheese), had a serving of UCAN, and tried not to stress about the fact that I could hear the rain pounding on the roof. With wipers going full blast and cars going 45mph on the interstate, I slowly made my way over to the starting location for the race. It was shaping up to be a very, very wet morning.
A friend of mine had (very kindly) offered to meet me an hour or so before start time for some extra mileage. I'd wanted around 16-17 for the day, so we were going to get in 6 miles beforehand. I was so loathe to get out of my nice warm car, but knowing that I'd have company for those miles was a huge help. Two minutes into our warmup we were SOAKED. Soaked to the point that we didn't even try to avoid the puddles - there was no point! We were as wet as we could possibly be. A cold and damp 6 miles later, I hopped back into my car and used my two towels to dry off and change into my next set of clothes for the race. I was feeling pretty decent after the warmup, and hopeful that it wouldn't be so bad. After changing and taking one of my Honey Stinger gels, I threw a trash bag on to shield my second set of clothes until the start and hopped back out into the rain. I was doing ok until...all of the sudden I could not stop shivering. My teeth were chattering so hard that I had a hard time talking. With only 3-4 minutes until the start I just wanted to GET THIS OVER WITH!!
Thankfully, we were soon off and underway. My friend was hoping to run around the same pace as I was for the first 5 miles and it was wonderful to have him there to help pace me. We started a tiny bit fast (but not terrible) and I was so cold and wet that it was actually feeling pretty decent to be generating some heat from the faster pace.
Miles 1-4 (6:42, 6:43, 6:45, 6:42) Miles 1-4 were wet, but pretty close to my goal pace. Since we'd gotten so much rain overnight there was so much standing water in places that the race marshals had us hop off the road and onto the muddy ground to try and avoid the huge patches of water. It was definitely a first for me in a race!
Mile 5-7 (6:46, 6:43, 6:56) I was feeling pretty decent at around mile 5 when my friend decided he was going to go on ahead. I was content to just continue to try and run my pace. But then...the hills started. There were some hills on the first half of the course as well, but I think the hills on the back half are worse - most likely they just feel harder because of the fact that you've already run 5 miles (or a total of 11 in my case) and are a bit fatigued. I tried to take my gel, but only managed to get about half of it in my mouth since my hands were so cold and I was uncoordinated. By mile 6 I was finding it harder to maintain my pace without putting in quite a bit more effort. I was bummed we had over 3 miles to go but tried to stay positive and run the tangents. I leap-frogged a bit with a girl in front of me. She was in 5th place and I thought it would be cool to come in 5th so I passed her. But a mile or two later she caught me and by that point my legs were pretty toast. Mile 7 was a welcome sight but I had a moment of panic when a volunteer shouted out "Only a 5K left!!" and I thought "I think I'll die if we actually have a 5K left" - thank goodness his math was wrong!
Miles 8-9.3 (6:51, 7:07, 6:48 (0.47mi on my watch) Mile 8 was my worst thanks to two big hills it made my pace tank by quite a bit. I was getting discouraged by seeing a 7:xx on my Garmin and was upset at myself that I couldn't quite find the energy to care about catching the #5 girl in front of me (who I could still see). I know that's something I need to work on for future races. I don't have much of a "finishing kick" and I just mentally couldn't turn that switch on today that would encourage me to hunt her down. It was more like "Meh. It's nasty out here and I'm struggling to hold my pace - I don't have the extra energy to chase her down.". And I know that's probably not the best way to be towards the end of the race! I did manage to pick up the pace when I knew we only had less than a mile to go. The thought of getting into warm, dry clothes was spurring me on but the legs were definitely feeling the fatigue. By the time we hit the hill to the finish (cruel, isn't it? We finish on an uphill!), I was toast. Happy to be done, I ended up at 1:04:31, 6th female overall. My Garmin pace was 6:49/mi (I had a total of 9.47 mi for total race distance though - perhaps due to the off-roading we had to do in order to avoid all the standing water), but the official average pace per the 9.3 course was 6:55/mi.
A cool down mile and a half in the rain (thanks again to my friend for being there to make me do this - I was sorely tempted to just go to my car and get warm and dry!) and I was done for the day. My warm clothes felt so awesome and I was so happy to get inside for the post-race awards and attempt to warm up. I was 1st in my age group and won a ribbon and a gift card to a local running store!
Now that it's done, I have acknowledged that there were some good and bad things about this run. The good: I pretty much held my goal pace for this race if you use my Garmin time. (Yay?) I got to practice running that pace in the rain, and fueling and drinking at that pace as well (which was more challenging than I thought!). The bad: It was a nasty day. My clothes and hat and shoes and socks and EVERYTHING was completely soaked by mile 2 and felt very heavy as the race went on. I was mad at myself for not chasing down the #5 girl, and bummed that I was as fatigued as I was at the end of the race. And it was tough to swallow that my time was close a minute slower than last year's. It's hard not to get discouraged when you realize that this pace that feels challenging for 9.3 miles is supposed to be the pace I'll run for 26.2 miles in two months!
I am not yet revising my goal pace, but recognize that I may need to. I've got one more marathon-paced workout (12 miles at MP) coming up in two weeks and we'll see how that one goes. I'm hopeful that it goes well and will give me a little more confidence about the pace. In the meantime, I'm going to try and work on some positive visualizations/affirmations to help try and get my head out of the way. I feel that mentally (consciously or not) I had already determined that this wouldn't be a great day and therefore I didn't push as hard as I probably could. I need to get more of that fire in me that helps drive me to chase down those people in front of me when I'm at the end of the race - rather than sit there complacently and run it in. But! I am still so very thankful that I'm healthy at this point in the season and am able to run and push the pace at all. Rain or not, it's so awesome to be out there.
Total mileage: 83 miles for the week.
Any tips for how to cultivate that fire in you that helps you to go "chase 'em down"?
Any positive visualizations/affirmations that help you wrap your head around a goal pace that feels challenging?