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?



Anonymous said...

I also found it so much hotter than expected. The weather reports were pretty far off. I was strong until we hit the beach path to nowhere. That's when it went to shit for me. Sun beaming down, no end in sight, too many people on too narrow a path. Not my favorite race by far but fun for me from a local perspective. Congrats on a solid run. @runwithheart

Unknown said...

Oh that path! That's where it really got hard for me too! Thanks for the comment. :-) Most importantly we did it!!

giraffy said...

I ran LB half last year, thinking the same - October race, on the beach, it must be nice and cool. Nope, blazing hot, made worse by running directly into the sun for miles and miles.

This year I opted to spectate, and camped out just past mile 10 handing out ice pops. Way funner.

Sorry the race didn't go we'll for you. At least the medal is nice?

Unknown said...

Ice pops - awesome decision!

The medal is great and I'm happy I did it - though, probably wouldn't do this one again. I did love Surf City though.

Anonymous said...

I ate an ice pop!! Thank you for those :-) @runwithheart

Caroline said...

I was in the same boat as you...I lost it at the same spot...after seeing my kids on the same path..and the sun killed me...this was my second year...not sure there will be a third for this one...

misszippy said...

Sorry you had a tough one! It happens to us all. I'd guess that maybe your body likes to negative split? Next time try starting out a bit easier and see if your body doesn't warm up to your goal pace as you move along.

*~*~* Tracy said...

I do struggle mentally so I have a couple of sayings I repeat to myself when I feel it creep in. Doesn't always work, but definitely helps.
Good job hanging tough and getting it done!

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

You did fantastic! I would've been crying having seen the race start already! That was my nightmare when my tire was giving me troubles!

I'm glad I didn't see this post before my half! I didn't remember your post about the other half and the pain you experienced until I reread it! I would have been shitting bricks BEFORE the race started, thinking about those cramps. It probably does have to do with calorie consumption and electrolytes. I felt a lot better on this long run because of all the Gatorade I drank, along with a few cups of water from the stations. But at least you didn't have the tummy issues, no? I'll take muscle soreness over shtting myself any day!

Summer said...

Hi Jen! Sorry this race didn't go as well as you hoped, but I wanted to say congratulations on finishing! It's an accomplishment no matter how ugly it gets out there! Also, I wanted to chime in on your comment about strength training. (I'm not sure how much you do currently.) Up until August I did zero. Just ran. Then I started doing a boot camp class once a week and felt myself become a lot stronger from it. I didn't think it was positively affecting my running though (and actually thought I was becoming a bit slower than before) until I did a half marathon this past weekend here in NYC (my 3rd), and I was shocked at how good I felt the entire time: my legs never felt heavy or tired and I felt like I ran stronger at the end then at the beginning. I trained casually for this race and didn't go in to PR (just finish), but for the first time I felt strong the entire 13 miles, which was not my experience in my previous 1/2s. The only thing I did differently was the weekly boot camp, and I think it made a huge huge difference. My legs haven't even been sore, and I usually hobble around for a few days after a race. I always read/was told that strength training will make us better runners, and even though I believed that, I never expected it would make this much of a difference for me. I can't encourage it enough! Congrats again!

Unknown said...

Thanks all -

Summer, I really do think that might be a missing piece for me. Thank you very much for sharing your experience with me - it convinces me even further.

kellie said...

I did the Orange county half in May, my first. I was exhilerated to mile 6, and my 8.5, was totally down. I have to tell myself that I can't be a victim. I signed up for this damn race, and I gotta run/jog/slog my way to the end. Good job, I would be happy with that overall pace anyday!

Unknown said...

I just ran the san jose rock n roll half and I wanted to die. it was my first race in a year and even though I thought I trained enough I didn't... I fell apart at mile 5 and felt basically just how you described but sadly my time actually suffered. While my goal was a 2:30 I only made a 2:47 finish. Oh well. I'm doing another half in 3 weeks and hopefully I can make up for it there.
Congrats on finishing!

Scott said...

You did awesome! what are you talking about? Finished in the top 50% of such a big race is great..especially after traveling across the country. You and I have a whole lot in common with the pre- race issues and concerns...