Monday, October 8, 2012

Long Beach half race report: When the wheels fall off


I have been in sunny California for the last few days for work. While out here, I ran the Long Beach half marathon.

I will start by saying, it wasn't my best race.

I really tried to go into this in a good place. I still have post traumatic stress syndrome from my Hollywood half and what happened there: I crossed the finish line and every muscle from my ass to the tips of my toes on both sides seized in unbelievably painful cramps. It was an awful, awful way to end a race and possibly the worse pain of my life. 

I've been determined not to repeat that experience though I live in fear of it. Even at the end of many of my long runs, I feel the threat of a bad cramp so, it is something that haunts me.

I went into this race trying to safe guard from that. I did several 6 -8 mile runs in the last few weeks and two 10 mile runs.  The days leading up to the race I guzzled more water than usual and even included tons of coconut water in my routine, hoping that the electrolytes would help.

So here comes race day.

First of all, I'm always a little nervous on race morning. I like to get to the race nice and early - go to the potty, get a little stretched out, get into my corral, you know. The usual. With no rush.

Well, we left with what should've been plenty of time - but the single road to the parking area was backed for a few miles and we sat in race traffic for close to an hour.

By the time we parked and got to the starting line area, the race had already started. Even though I still had time to potty and find my wave, the fact that the race was already underway stressed me out more. I guess there was no real reason to be stressed but it's just how I roll. 

Soon and with out much ado, I was off. I wanted to maintain a 10:20 - 10:40 pace thru out the race which, for some reason, seemed reasonable to me. 

A few things to note, it was way hotter than I anticipated. I thought it was going to be chilly on the water in October. I brought sleeves and a jacket that I was gonna ditch "once I got warmed up". It was so warm that I needed neither at all and when I got out of the car and felt how warm it was - I was shocked. I thought I was going to be running in nice cool weather. I thought that I would be jumping around trying to keep warm, I envisioned crisp chill. OK. Not so much. Not at all.

This is a huge race, 22,000 racers or so and a "corral" yourself type system. There was about 4 million people in the corral I was in. When my coral took off many were walking from the get-go - 4 and 5 across from the start. Others were trying to zoom past at far faster pace than the corral - and all of it was tight. There were narrow parts of the race where I felt way overly crowded. But, even with all that, the first few miles were OK. I kept looking down at my Garmin - A few times I'd be running a 9:45 or a 10:08 or something but I'd keep trying to slow it back down to a 10:30'ish pace or so.

prettiest part of the run - Queen Mary in the background
photo credit: Angela Lee
I don't know why but early on crappy thoughts started creeping in to my head. Negativity about being trained enough, about "not feeling" like doing this today, and all kinds of shit I kept trying to bat away. For some reason I was feeling like this wasn't gonna be my day. And I guess by me continually thinking that in my head, I kind of made sure it wasn't. By mile 6 I was feeling really low. I was hot and dizzy. I walked thru every water stop and was carrying coconut water with me for hydration. I took my gels at the right time, I really tried to properly execute this race and the wheels were falling off left and right.

My head hurt, my stomach hurt, my legs were achey early on, my ankle started bothering me and if I could've quit, I might've. I just felt like shit and I couldn't understand why. I started to take more and more walking breaks by mile 7 - I was feeling kinda like a failure. The perfect shirt passed me by it said:

this made me smile. perfect timing

I did tell myself to "suck it up buttercup," I reminded myself that "pain is temporary, pride forever," I promised, "the medal will be worth it, quitting is for quitters." 

I knew I wouldn't quit. I told myself even if I had to walk the rest of the damn way, I'd finish it. I plugged on and counted down the miles running, walking, shuffling. In the final mile, my hamstrings began to quiver on the verge of those dreaded cramps - and my feet actually did cramp a few times -- it never got to the point of Hollywood Half pain though, thank goodness for that. 

I ran it in, crossed the finish line and got my medal. I was happy, probably more happy it was over than anything else, but whatever.

Post finish line was a mess of people too many people in too little of a space. I knew I needed to keep moving or possibly suffer those bad cramps. I was cranky by the poor set-up and my crappy performance.  

But still, bling has a way of making things just a wee bit better: 


And even with all the BS - it doesn't look that bad on paper. You'll see my 5K / 10K times are OK - you can really see where I fell apart:


2:30:36 tag time with an avg. of 11:30 pace. And with crappy as that race was -- I'm still happy I did it. I feel sore today. But I'm so glad I stuck with it. Perfect or not - in hindsight, I'm still proud of this race -- another opportunity to learn and I didn't quit.

I think to get better I'm going to have to truly commit to strength training. I'm going to have to maybe play better with nutrition - there is a reason for the cramping and whether it's a mineral deficiency, hydration thing or electrolyte thing - I'm doing something wrong and I have to fix that. 

Maybe 10:30 is too aggressive for me early on? Perhaps I should be aiming to keep steady at 11 min. mile early on and open it up at the end if I'm feeling good? I'm not sure. I guess I'm confused about race pace. I don't want to underestimate myself but overestimating is a recipe for an icky race too...

I think I ate too light pre-race this time around. I skipped my morning meal of oatmeal/walnuts and banana (my usual perfect pre-race fueling) for a half a banana, rice cake and a little peanut butter instead. I was trying to see if my tummy would behave with a little less bulk. But I felt a lack of energy early on and felt hungry by mile 2 --  I think I might need a heartier breakfast.

So there you have it. Half number 9 in the books (or my 10th race if you count my full marathon). 

The next one is right around the corner and I hope to have a better time!

Do you ever struggle mentally during races?

XO
Jen





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