Race Recap: Skunk Cabbage Classic Half Marathon, Ithaca NY 4/12/15

“…talent means nothing, while experience, acquired in humility and with hard work, means everything.”
Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

   

 

Well, I did it!  I finished my second racing half marathon!  It wasn’t at all as I had planned–this was supposed to be the race I would PR in and where I finally hit sub 2:30, but that didn’t happen and I am okay with it.

Training for this half was touch and go and there were times where I wasn’t sure if I should stick with it.  At the end of February shortly after a 10K training run I was hit with the worse case of flu/bronchitis that I’ve experienced since college.  It hit really hard and took me out of training mode for 3 weeks.  Three weeks might not seem like a huge chunk of time, but it was and it left me with just 4 weeks to retrain my body to run 13.1 miles.

I went in without high expectations and accepted the fact that this would not be the race I had initially hoped for.  What I didn’t account for was how mentally challenging it would be.  This race was probably one of the most difficult ones to date.  I was (and still am) fighting yet another cold with a cough and the medication I take does wonders, but it also dries me out.  By mile 4 I was regretting my decision to stick with the half–I kept wishing I had just downgraded to the 10k.  I was parched and my lungs burned as I sputtered out dry coughs.

The inner dialogue I had with myself was at times comical, but mostly I kept repeating, “FUCK! Why is this so hard?  What am I doing here.  Why didn’t I downgrade.  9 more miles?!  What in the actual fuck?  How will I make it through”.

I am a slow runner, but this is the first time I’ve truly experienced true back of the pack racing.  It adds to the mental challenge.  You find yourself racing solo and the walk breaks are so much more tempting.  The urge to quit is that much greater and every ounce of pain is magnified.  I had no music to distract me and no friends to push me forward.  It was hard.  I felt like I was failing.

The rolling hills didn’t feel like rolling hills, they felt more like a constant gradual incline with the occasional downhill.  With the steeper hills I found myself walking and fighting so hard not to lose momentum.  I’m not typically a run/walker–I would much rather keep a slow and steady pace than break and restart.  This is the first race (aside from the full marathon) where I continually needed to walk and it was frustrating.

Though I spent a lot of time running alone, I was sandwiched between a couple of runners, yellow shirt guy and neon shirt lady.  Both had pulled ahead of me at various points during the race and my goal was to stick with them.  I didn’t want to finish behind them so I did my best to conserve my energy for a strong finish.  I took advantage of the downward hills and used them to catch up, but they still remained ahead of me until mile 11-12.

Having the finish on one of my regular routes was definitely beneficial for my final stretch.  I knew after mile 12 that the remainder of the course was on a slight downhill.  I knew that I’ve run down that same path on Tower road and that I would always finish my lunch runs strong.  I knew that I already had 11 miles behind me and that giving up in the last mile would have been for someone weaker than myself.  I knew that my heavy legs still had some life in them.

I powered through and pulled ahead.  I passed both yellow shirt guy and neon shirt lady.  I know it probably didn’t mean much as far as boosting my finish time, but I dragged myself across the finish at 2:55:30.  It was 21 minutes past my PR and I was legit 592/598.  It almost embarrasses me to post that time and place, but what can I do?  Why be embarrassed?

It’s these moments of humility that strengthen us.  It’s these moments where we wanted to quit but didn’t that show us we are capable of greater things. I know I will do better and that this race doesn’t define me as runner.  If anything it has taught me a lesson about perseverance and pride.  Pride for those back of the pack runners.  No one knows true strength and determination until you’ve experienced running a race at the back of the pack.   It’s an experience every runner should feel.  I know it’s opened my eyes for appreciation of what our bodies and minds can achieve.

Did you race this past weekend?  Were you at Skunk Cabbage?  Have you ever experience a lesson in humility during one of your races?

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Race Recap: 5K Chili Challenge, Ithaca NY 11/2/14

It was another bitter and brutally cold day for this year’s 5K Chili Challenge (last year’s weather was just as bad).  It took a lot of effort for me to make it out of bed and brave the elements, but I sucked it up and made it happen.
463633_846711335362788_1076732083611111049_oI had been fighting an upper respiratory infection during the week and my lungs had been feeling tight so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had only been able to put in 4 miles that week and missed out on my 17 mile run so I figured this would be something that would at the least help me maintain some level of fitness.

Another motivator to get me out was that my two biggest fans came along to support me!  Craig and Connor braved the cold with me until the race started , but they later took refuge in the car while I ran.

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It was cold!  The wind was tough, but I dressed for the part.  I really loved the course for this 5K because it was a change of pace from mundane road races.  Trail running has become a new love of mine!  I often prefer it over other options and love that it provides a different level of challenge.

 

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In the first half of the race (the uphill portion) I was sure to take it easy.  This is where knowing the course really helped!  I was glad to reach the turn around point because I knew I could pick up the pace and improve my time during the slight downhill.  I even managed to pass a few groups of people!  This is something that never happens for me!

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I am a comfortable middle of the pack runner and usually end up on my own during the race, but it was nice to knowingly pass people and keep them at my tail.  I paced my fast mile in mile two and kept a strong and steady pace for mile three.

Like a perfect midpack runner, I finished off in 32:59 and placed 112/224 beating last year’s time by a hair.