Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Race Recap: Last Chance Half-Marathon


Ow. That's not the way I was hoping to start off this recap, but I really can't start it any other way because that's the best word I can use to sum up yesterday's race. Also, steep. But mainly ow. Beth recently had a great post on when running fails you. Yesterday my body failed me.

Let me back up. I signed up for this race because I thought it'd be great to run another half-marathon in 2012. I could probably end the year with a PR since I've gotten a lot faster, even on long training runs. And it would be wonderful to have my family there to cheer for me. Oh, and the Pacific Northwest is gorgeous (if it's sunny or, well, not raining) so I thought maybe it'd be a pretty run.

shameless excuse to post a picture of mountains because I love them 
I had a pretty good training program for a few weeks leading up to the race. I got in all but one of the long runs, I did weekly speed work, I was strength training. I felt good. And despite terrible weather, my last long run on Christmas Eve would have been a PR if I'd run 1.1 more miles, even if I'd slowed down a lot.

So yesterday morning I was excited and ready. I had my traditional pre-race breakfast of half a bagel with almond butter and caffeinated tea. I nursed a water bottle of nuun as we drove the 30 minutes to the race course start. After checking in and hitting the bathroom once more, it was just about time for the race to start. I felt extremely nervous as we started, but also excited. I felt strong, I felt ready. I thought I could do something exciting. The race coordinator counted down and then... we were off!

one of their excellent signs - my sister contributed the penguin sticker 
So, first off. My family is amazing. They went to different spots along the route, standing out in the cold, holding adorable signs for me. One said "Run Jen Run!" Another said "Run faster, be stronger" just like my bracelet. And then the third was the ridiculous mantra I said to myself during my 5K: "you are strong, you are fierce, you are a warrior woman!" Ok, maybe I was a *tad* bit embarrassed that this particular sign is now immortalized, but it also means my mom and sister are dedicated readers of this blog. So really, it just makes me love them more. Even my sister's boyfriend woke up early and came along to cheer for me. Thanks, Jason!

As it turned out, no one else was along the course cheering. So it was just my family. And while I would have been embarrassed of that at age 13, at age 24 I just think they're awesome for being willing to drive along and stop at each of the three intersections between the trail and the road.

heading down into the Ravine of Doom

The first mile felt terrific. My breathing was a tad bit off because it was hovering around 32 degrees, and I tend to get a touch of asthma when pushing my running in the cold, but I ran an 8:55 mile without feeling like I was pushing myself at all. My plan was to keep it steady at 8:55 miles to compensate for any slower hill miles.

In the second mile, we hit the hills. Or should I say cliffs? The trail went deep down into a ravine then up and out. The decline and incline were so steep that the trail was comprised of switchbacks, but the switchbacks were still extremely steep. The total elevation gain for the race was 1,500 ft., but it's roughly 1,300 ft. on the Central Park loop, which is where my first half-marathon was. So going in, I figured that it couldn't be much hillier. The difference is that on this course, almost all of that elevation was packed into 2-3 miles. And while Harlem Hill is an elevation gain of about 70 ft., this "hill" dropped 100 ft. then rose 200 ft.

I couldn't run while going up because I felt the asthmatic breathing starting, so I had to walk. I thought that walking might be fine if I sprinted down the hills, but the downhills were just as steep and I couldn't run without starting to feel myself losing control. Since the trail was wet and covered in leaves and rocks, I was scared of tripping.


still feeling ok! ish! well enough to understand the importance of good photos 
I think one of these declines is where I hurt myself, probably coming down too hard or overextending my leg somehow. My lower back had been hurting a bit after mile 1, as had my abdomen (still not sure about why that happened), but it wasn't anything I couldn't ignore. However starting after these hills, I began feeling pain in my right leg. When we hit the flat part of the path again, I tried to push my pace, and yet my legs refused to cooperate and hurt much worse when I tried to pick up speed.

My Erica Sara Designs Say It Do It Bracelet is engraved to say "run faster, be stronger." Yesterday I couldn't run fast. It just wasn't possible. Every time I tried to speed up, the pain in my right leg got much worse and the left IT band started hurting. Instead, the race became about the "be stronger" part of my mantra.

This race became a mental test. Can I finish when everything is hurting? By mile 4, my abdomen and back were still aching, the pain in my right leg was becoming impossible to ignore, and my left IT band was starting to hurt at the hip. I decided to stop looking at my Garmin around mile 4 because I felt how slowly I was going and looking at the Garmin only made me more upset. Instead, I decided to just make it to the finish line. 


making a VERY attractive face to illustrate how I'm feeling to my dear father 
When I made it to the halfway point and saw my family, I paused for a second and said to my mom, "this course is hilly as shit." Then popped my headphones back in and turned around for the second half. (Apparently this flagrant usage of foul language scandalized the woman behind her, my mom later told me.)

The pain got a lot worse in the second half and my miles slowed even further to the point where I could barely jog -- I was kicking up rocks because my feet were dragging. I crossed the finish line and went straight to my family's car so I could sit in the heat and stretch out my legs.



trying to smile, but let's be honest... it's more of a grimace 
I think the right leg is a pulled hamstring, and we'll see how things shape up in the next day or two -- if it bruises, I'm going to the doctor because that means it's fairly serious. And the left IT band issue is hurting today, so I have to keep an eye on that as well. I swear I won't be stupid and try to work out for a week! I'm going to be VERY gentle. The last thing I want is any kind of lingering injury that prevents me from getting my redemption race at the New York Half in March.

Several times yesterday I started tearing up, both from pain and disappointment. Given my training and how my runs had gone, I thought for sure I'd PR yesterday, even if not by much because of a few hills. Despite the gigantic hills, I'd say 2/3 of the course was pretty flat, so I still think I could have PR'd if not for injuring myself. The pain was just a reminder that I hadn't met my goal, that I'd ended the year not with a race demonstrating all my improvement but by hobbling across the finish line.

However. I also learned something incredibly important yesterday. I am mentally tough. So many times, I considered just stopping and calling my parents to pick me up. 10 miles, including the Horrible Hills right again at the end when the pain was at its worst. This year, I want to run a full marathon. It wasn't the running part of it that I wasn't sure I could handle, it was the mental part. And after yesterday, I am sure that I am mentally capable of running a marathon.

It wasn't the race I wanted. It wasn't a good or even ok race. Honestly, it sucked. A lot. But I'm still happy with what it proved to myself.

SO... on to 2013 races!!

17 comments:

  1. Ouch! Sorry your body failed you during the race... I know the feeling! But I'm sure you'll get your redemption at NYC in March. And I will (hopefully) be there cheering! Hope you heal up soon!

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    1. Thanks, Liz!! Really looking forward to NYC :)

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  2. You still ran a great race because you didn't call it quits and didn't let those hills kick your ass, so congrats! So awesome to have your family there to support you too and snap a few glamour shots, heh.

    Seriously though, way to wrap up the new year! Now get that leg rested so you can run strong into 2013 :-)

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    1. Thanks, Ricardo! That's the plan. Luckily my mom is a licensed physical therapist's assistant, so she's going to do some massage and exercises that should help me heal.

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  3. CONGRATS!! You ARE mentally tough - so awesome!! I've definitely been there and I know how that whole IT band/hamstring situation feels. Definitely take it easy and talk to a doctor. I learned the hard way by pushing through it...and it took me almost a year to get back to normal! (And I still don't always feel normal!) But this is probably something that can be taken care of for you in a few short weeks :)

    Anyway, GREAT JOB!!!

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    1. Thanks, Kara! Really appreciate it. Feeling a lot less bummed out today :) And I will definitely be taking it easy for a while!!

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  4. Holy cow--you are so tough, Jen! Way to hang in there and push through the pain. They say running is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical (or similar ratios), and longer distances definitely test a runner's mental threshold. (My first half-marathon was a complete disaster; cardio-wise, I was fine, but my head was just not in it.) It says so much that you kept with it and finished! Rest up so you can continue kicking butt in 2013! :)

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    1. Thank you, Carrie!! Seriously, the mental issue is SO tough. I read your half-marathon recap and was so impressed that you pushed through it!

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  5. Wow you are so tough girl!! Can't believe you kept going despite all that pain. Hopefully you are feeling better, don't worry you have plenty of races left in your life and 2013 is a great time for redemption!!

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    1. Thanks, Megan :) Really appreciate it! I am so excited for 2013 and the NYC Half!

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  6. Wow. You're amazing for making it to the finish line. I don't know if I would have lasted. You deserve a big whopping CONGRATULATIONS for that. Reading this post made me realize how important it is to train your mind as well as your body. Thank you so much for sharing and all of your kind words on dailymile and on my blog. Here's to a fantastic 2013!

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    1. Thanks, Dhitri!! Yes, here is to a wonderful 2013 full of health and personal bests :)

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  7. Congratulations on making it through to the finish line. I have been there myself and had some not so pretty races. There have been a couple times where I contemplated DNF and luckily pride made me refuse and finish no matter what. You've definitely proven you have the mental toughness!
    These tough races and runs in general always make me reflect and feel blessed and try to not take all the GREAT runs for granted.
    So here's to conquering your goals in 2013, you've got it!

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    1. Thanks, Gianna! It's true, the tough runs and races remind us not to take the great ones for granted. And I have never been so thankful for my health as I am now!

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  8. Beth @RxBethOnTheRunJanuary 3, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    WOW! I'm so proud of how mentally strong you are. We have ALL had races like this. It's frustrating and disappointing, but it makes the PRs and goal-achieving races that much better. Trust me! I was bummed after the Bronx 10-mile when I missed my goal by 4 minutes, but came back to PR at the Newport Half by more than 3 minutes. The NYC Half is AMAZING! If you can conquer Grete's Gallop as your first half, YOU'VE GOT IT IN THE BAG FOR THE NYC HALF FOR SURE! I can't wait to cheer for you. It's easier to give up then push through; I'm so proud of you! NOW REST UP so we can kick some 2013 race ass ;)

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    1. You are SO SWEET, Beth! Thank you!! I cannot wait to see your smiling face on the sidelines as I (hopefully) crush this race in the past come March. Can't wait to see you soon!

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