Sunday, November 17, 2013

Race Report: New Balance Fall Classic Half Marathon - November 17, 2013

Today I ran my 7th and final half marathon of 2013, the New Balance Fall Classic half marathon at UBC. The number 7 did not end up being my lucky number today. I had a very bad race today, on what was otherwise a very fun morning, of course. No matter what happens in a race, I always enjoy the experience, being part of the running community, and out celebrating the sport I love. 

I carpooled in with my friend Sigrid. It was lovely having a chance to catch up with her and do a little warmup jog with her to get ready for the race. 

We bumped into our friend Rose near the start line and had time for a photo opp before some 100m strides to get our legs race ready. I think our coach would be proud!

I came into the race today with confidence I could do well. It was confidence founded in the fact that I am fitter, stronger, and faster than I ever have been in my life. At the very least, I should finally break the 2-hour barrier. But if I run at my goal pace, I could easily finish well under that. From the way training has been going the last few weeks, paces that have been unmanageable are now much easier, manageable, and totally sustainable. My most recent race prior to today, the James Cunningham Seawall Race, proved to me that I am indeed faster than ever. My interval workouts of late have surprised me. Everything leading up to today had the descriptor of "best ever" attached to it. Surely, getting under 2 hours should be inevitable. In fact, I should get well under that.

I don't expect a personal best (PB) on every effort. So I'm not disappointed about my finish time, per se, even though a 2:05:43 is much much slower than I am capable of. It wasn't my slowest time, and in perspective, I'm still pretty stoked that I'm even capable of running these races. But at the same time, knowing how well everything has been going for me this last while, I feel a bit ripped off that my performance was so poor when it really counted.

The part that's so hard to deal with is that the leg cramps came back again. I was running a very good race and feeling strong. I was mentally in charge too, completely focused and poised to finish well. My target starting pace was 5:20/km and it was a pace that was feeling very easy and would give me a finish time of somewhere around 1:52-1:53. Even if I had to slow down at some point, I should easily finish under 2 hours. And then it happened at the 14km mark - those awful quad cramps hit me on my left leg. I stretched it out as best I could which allowed me to at least jog a few more kms before they hit again, this time in both legs. I again stretched, took my time stretching in the way my coach advised, but it didn't help much. My pace slowed right down to a jog at somewhere around 6:30/km (at most, I was definitely slower at some points) and there was no way I could go any faster. The pain was excruciating. I was in tears of pain. I was disappointed too, but was not going to let the tears of pain turn to tears of sadness. I did everything I could to try to quell the negative thoughts. I admit I did consider quitting. I admit I questioned why I have registered for a marathon next year. But I soon realized that I AM a marathoner, and I am NOT a quitter. I was going to finish this race. I didn't care if it would completely suck, or how much it would hurt after, I was getting this thing done. 

By the time I finished, I was in extreme pain and in tears. I fought through the crowd to the medical tent, but unfortunately, the personnel working at the tent had absolutely nothing to offer me. I told them what was going on and all they could do was stare at me blankly and say "have a seat" - probably the worst thing I could have done at this time. They wouldn't even move the bag off the bench I was sitting on so I could stretch out. My friend Mary came by to see me and I asked her to help me stretch my legs. It helped a little, but I was unsure what to ask her to do, and she didn't know what to do, and the medical staff were still clueless and offering zero feedback. Luckily my personal trainer and friend, Lindsay, ran this race, and she so kindly offered me real help in stretching my legs out and calming down the screams of spasm they kept letting out. Thank you, Lindsay! :)

I went inside, changed into dry clothes, and headed over to where there was food and where friends were waiting to see me. I was so excited to see so many familiar faces, including the lovely Monica, one of my biggest motivators.

I'm home now, and knew I couldn't get on with my day without reflecting on today and writing about it. The big question I ask is WHY?! I pride myself in being positive as much as possible, but there are moments I question things and feel discouraged. What can I say but I'm human. I'm allowed to be upset from time to time. I'm allowed to feel down and out. And yes, today is that day; I'm feeling very discouraged. It's completely unfair that this should happen to me. I work so hard. I have been working so incredibly hard for so long. I'm strong. I do everything I can to get stronger. I'm dedicated and have invested so much of ME to progress. And this setback is so inexplicable. Before the quad cramps only ever happened in marathons, and it's now happened in back to back half marathons. Is this the new future of my endurance races? Or is this something I can get to the bottom of and get rid of for good? Is it my training? Is it nutrition? Is it muscle fatigue? Is it some sort of weird voodoo mojo bad luck thing? Is it something completely different?

I came home and Cam asked me how things went. I burst into tears of disappointment. He did everything he could to comfort me and to remind me that in his eyes, I'm still an amazing athlete. And really, I know that I just have to keep on keeping on. I know that who I am today is someone I should be very proud of. I shouldn't get down on myself because of two bad hours in my life. I shouldn't allow discouragement to take over and diminish all the good things I've accomplished. I simply just have to continue to work hard. I have a few halfs and a marathon in 2014 to prove I am stronger than my finish times reflect. But honestly, behind all this brave macho talk is a little voice that continues to question. I wonder how many of those distances I should do. I wonder how much more pain I should endure. Maybe I should only run long in training and consider only racing shorter distances. I am really lost.

After some food and a shower, I sat down to my computer to see what the goings on online were before setting 'pen to paper' on this blog. I was so pleased to see that Monica had sent me the loveliest graphic and quote by American long distance runner, Kara Goucher. This made me get all emotional all over again, but in a very good way.

My life IS wonderful, and today's poor race performance was simply a setback. Today was simply one day.

What's next? The Vancouver Historic 5K race on November 24th - time for race performance redemption with a nice FAST effort!

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