Can we move here already? I love this place.
I raced again. After a 10-month hiatus from racing due to injury, I stepped up to the starting line of the St. George Half Marathon curious to see what my body and mind had to give. Usually running 13.1 miles isn't a big deal for me but after being sidelined for so long and missing the entire 2016 season (except Oceanside which I probably should've missed), I've had a lot of questions swirling around in my head regarding this year: What will it take to be truly healthy? Will I ever be fit again? Can my body handle racing in 2017? Do I still want to race? What if my competitive fire is gone? Am I ready for a possible setback? What if I fail again? I know failing doesn't make me a failure. But what about repeatedly failing? Does that make me a failure? Most of these questions I won't have an answer to until I give it a try. Even then some might go unanswered and that's ok. Probably the one I have asked myself the most is this: Why can't I just close this triathlon chapter in my life and move on to something else? Because I am stubborn. Because I don't give up easily. Mostly: Because - besides my family - there is nothing else in my life that gives me more JOY than this sport. And until that changes, I am going to stick with it.
St. George is an hour south of our home in Cedar City. Sleeping in my own bed, eating a homemade dinner (chicken, white rice, zucchini, a bit of avocado), and spending time with the family the night before a race is so nice! Oh and the simplicity of running races! I love simple. Not to be mistaken for easy. They are anything BUT easy... A 9am start gave me a chance to sleep past 4:30 (my usual wake-up time), eat my tried-and-true pre-race breakfast (white rice, almond milk, protein powder, berries, almonds) and even drop off my son Noah (11), who was headed to a soccer tournament in Mesquite, on my way out of town. Highlight #1 of the day was, when I informed him that we might not be able to pick him up when he gets home because I would still be gone with our only car but maybe he could get a ride with someone else, and he says: "Don't worry, mom. Plan B is that I can always walk home." We are talking about an almost 3-mile walk! This kid will do anything for soccer and I love that.
Coach Liz asked for a little pre-race chat which was a good thing because I honestly hadn't given the actual race much thought until then. You mean I am actually supposed to RACE? I figured this would be more of a training run. Crap! I'd better come up with SOMETHING. Cue the above questions. This is (part of) what I wrote to her:
I honestly haven't prepped myself mentally much at all. I just don't know what to expect and I don't want to go into this with high expectations. The last two half marathons a year ago (Moab and Oceanside) didn't go according to plan at all and I am afraid to make a plan and have it go to pots again. I know it's going to hurt and I hope it hurts in a good way (pushing myself hard) and not in a bad way (injury). I want to get out of my comfort zone wherever that may be. You know I have been training some at a certain 'race pace' but I don't know if I can really hold it for 13 miles. But I will TRY!
Our little race plan was to ease into the first 3 miles, run at a strong tempo effort for the next 7 miles, and really dig in for the last 5k - turn over the feet, mind over matter. I like having a simple plan. She also cautioned me to not get wrapped up in the moments of the race (the splits, how I am feeling, etc). But to just be open to racing and letting the outcome be what it may. Really good advice right here! Thank you, Coach!
Front row parking, packet pick-up, bathroom stop, caffeinated gel, warm-up jog + strides + drills, toeing the start line at 8:55. Here are the quick stats:
4th Female (of 424)
23rd Overall (of 723)
Weather: 43 degrees, slight rain
Clothing: Coeur capris, Coeur bra (discarded: dollar gloves, sock arm warmers, Coeur shirt)
Shoes: Zoot Ali'i from T3 Triathlon
Mile 1: This is FUN. Friends running together and trash talking all around me. But wait, where are my friends?!? I used to know so many people at this race! Where is everybody? I guess it's time to make new friends...
Mile 2: Okaaayyy. It's not quite as cold as I thought. So here go the gloves. Bye bye. (At an aid station, of course. It is illegal to litter during a race. I usually have a few pair of dollar gloves around because a) I like them and b) I don't have to worry about losing them.) Oh, and here comes the 1:30 pacer with his posse. Darn. I was hoping to stay ahead of him but here he goes and I am trying not to mess up the plan already. Keep easing into it...
Mile 3: Crap. How come I am already alone?! Where is everybody? This is NOT good.
Mile 4: Well, might as well drop some more weight. Time to ditch the warm warmers. (I have a few super cheap knee-length socks that I cut the toes off of and use as arm warmers at the beginning of races.) Oh good. They have gels at this aid station. Time to eat! ... Nooo. There goes the gel. Should've slowed down a bit. Just give me some more water instead! Oh poop. This isn't water, it's Gatorade and I hate this stuff and now it's all over me. But wait a second: running through aid stations, grabbing and dropping cups on the go, missing gels, spilling stuff all over myself - THIS IS RACING! This is what I LOVE. This is so. much. fun.
Mile 5: Still no one around me. Time to listen to some music. I know I should be practicing for triathlons where earphones are strictly prohibited but - hey - today I'll take whatever I can get that will get me to the finish line fast and happy. Music it is!
Mile 6: Hey there. Someone is passing me. Let's get this party started! Why don't you pull me up to that 1:30 pacer and we'll go from there... Nice. Thanks!
Mile 7: There it is. The long hill. I am coming for you! I might not be at peak shape or race weight but I am not afraid of hills. Just stick with that nice pacer guy to the top.
Mile 8: And now why don't I try to drop that nice pacer guy. Just focus on your form. Activate your glutes, drive your hips forward, right core, lean into it. (Don't ask me how all of this is actually done. But just repeating it in my head over and over seems to help!)
Mile 9: Stay smooth. Things are getting a bit hard but I want you to stay smooth and get ready to DROP THE HAMMER.
ready to toss the shirt (Photo credit: St. George Races)
Mile 10: After this one, it's just three more miles. I can do anything for 3 miles. Just a 5k. - Actually, a 5k is a long way to go. So is 4 miles. - Oh shut it. Just take your shirt off and toss it at this aid station. Why? Because there is no way you will fall apart out here in just your sports bra. (I didn't run or do anything in just a sports bra for the first 30+ years of my life. But then I realized it's actually quite fun. Once you stop caring about what other people think... And I've also learned that if you run, then you're a runner, and you have a runner's body. It's that simple. So now whenever I am struggling to run as hard as I should -
there it goes - right at the photographer (Photo credit: St. George Races)
Mile 11: Giddy up and catch that girl in front of you. - Looks like she noticed you and is speeding up. Even better. Use her to catch the next girl. - Perfect. - Now try to drop them both on this little incline. - Not sure if it worked so let's pretend they are hot on my heels.
Mile 12: Fight like hell. Your glutes and hamstrings are screaming at you but your back is ok and there are no major aches. All I am asking of you is to give it all you have. Everything. Your best. I want an empty tank at the finish line. That's what it's going to take to be happy with your performance. Not the time. Or place. Just the effort. - But might as well catch the one other girl in sight while you're at it.
Mile 13: I am doing it. I am racing and pushing and trying and having all sorts of fun while doing so. You're getting so close to her. Push harder. - There she is. Now sneak up on her, settle in, and then try to pass her decisively. - Is this ever going to end?? How long can this last mile be? - Oh crap. She just turned around and saw me. And now she is turning on the afterburners and there she goes! - All you have. All I want is all you got. The finish line. THE END.
But wait. Now what? While I like racing without a shirt, I certainly do not like strutting around in just my sports bra behind the finish line. SPACE BLANKET TO THE RESCUE!
Super grateful for my German friend, Louis, and his daughter to come cheer for me at the finish line! It's so nice to have a friend to give a hug to after any race!
Clearly, it's time to harden up my feet again. They've grown soft over the last year. I used to be able to run marathons in my Zoot shoes without socks but today I got a nasty blister which I am still paying for a week later...
Photo credit: St. George Races
Turns out that bright-yellow-tank-top-girl and I were actually fighting for 3rd place overall. She knew, I had NO clue. But the good news is: I gave it all I had. I came up short and that's ok because I emptied the tank and did my best. And that's all I can ask for.
The views from my bike in St. George never get old. Happy and grateful that my body held up and let me go for a recovery spin and swim after some food and a bit of down-time at Louis's house. While the time is minutes off my PR, I consider today a success and a nice deposit in the fitness bank. Even though Noah, upon examining my trophy, exclaimed: " How could you NOT win?" It's not easy to live in a house where the bar is set hight but it sure is a lot of fun and good times!
St. George puts on some fantastic races and I am happy to live close enough to attend some of them. Next up is the Road Rage Duathlon on February 27th. Come join me for some fun in the sun! Sprint distance is 1.5 mile run, 10 mile bike, 1.5 mile run. Olympic distance is 3 mile run, 20 mile bike, 3 mile run. I am honestly super excited about this one and even got the husband to sign up! The race is on!
(Let me know if you want to register and I have a 10% off code for you. Cost is $40. No, I am not sponsored by them. I just think it would be really fun to have a big crowd even if it means I get my butt kicked...)