Posted by: runawaynotes | March 24, 2013

Race day: Rock’n’Roll Dallas Half Marathon

Well, even though technically I still have about another month of this training season left, I can officially say that this has been a successful season. I won’t lie – it sure hasn’t felt like one up until today. I’ve had issues with my motivation. I’ve struggled with speedwork. I have probably had more runs that I didn’t enjoy than the ones I did. This was my first training season (in 3.5 years) when I started asking myself why do I keep doing this when it seems I am simply not enjoying running anymore. Well, I got the answer to this question today, when I crossed that finish line and nearly burst into tears when I realized that my Garmin was showing 2:05:25 – I have improved my personal best by almost 9 minutes! At that moment, I realized that I would go through another season of grueling hill work, miserable speed training, and exhausting long runs just to experience this feeling of pure joy, and pride, and “Hell yeah! I just kicked some butt” again.

This feeling is what makes up for all the pain and misery that every runner has to endure both in training and on a race day. And let me tell you, this day had plenty of misery and pain to go around. I knew it was going to be one of “those” days when I looked at the forecast yesterday and saw “temperatures in low 40’s, sustained winds of 25-35 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph”. Argh! Low 40’s (and low humidity) usually make for great running conditions, but gusty winds can make this temperature feel bone-chilling. What made the situation even worse was the fact that we had to wait at the start line for nearly two hours before we could actually start running. Rock’n’Roll Dallas was different from every other race I’ve ever done before because the start line and the finish line were in two different locations. So, instead of getting to the race location around 7 am and sitting in a nice toasty car until it was time to line up at the start line as we normally would, Megan and I had to drag our butts to the Fair Park at 6 am, then we had to hop on a school bus for a brief nice toasty ride to the City Hall, where the bus had unceremoniously dumped us on a cold windy street. Apparently, the Convention center was open, but since no one has bothered to tell us about it, we just huddled in a corner by the City Hall for the next hour and a half trying to find some escape from the wind.

Soon we were surrounded by fellow sufferers runners who were bundled up in throwaway sweats, trash bags, blankets, you name it. We probably looked like a bunch of crazy homeless guys who raided a spandex store. A few insane brave souls walked around in just shorts and tank tops. Just looking at them made me cringe. I actually missed my tutu because I could feel my glutes getting frozen solid, and I could really use some additional layers of padding in that area. The wind was so strong that it kept knocking around those large cardboard boxes used as trash cans. We kept checking our watches what felt like every half an hour but turned out to be every five minutes. Time has seemed to just slow down to a crawl, and we couldn’t wait to get this wait over with and start running.

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This is Megan doing her best impression of a frozen burrito.

Finally, it was time to start lining up (and take the gusts of wind head on). The race organizers had a “brilliant” idea of having a wave start, which meant that it took us extra 15 minutes just to get to the start line and start running. By that time, I lost all sensation in my fingers. The race was on.

My plan was to start at a 9:50 pace and see if I could pick it up to 9:30 and sustain that. As I have said before, I struggled with my speedwork this season (knee pain, low energy levels, problems with stomach cramps/stitches, you name it), so I was trying to let my body figure out what pace it was willing to maintain today. I was on track for the first couple of miles. As I crossed the second mile marker, I noticed that my heart rate monitor strap was feeling suspiciously loose around my chest. I kept trying to push it up thinking that it had just slid down because my skin was starting to get slick with sweat. Then I realized that the strap has come completely undone. I had a choice to make, and since I still had more than 11 miles left to go, I stepped off the road, took off my jacket and belt, and refastened my strap. That dropped my average pace to about 10:16 for mile 3, but I figured it was worth it. Dealing with a loose monitor strap bouncing around in my shirt for two hours would have seriously gotten on my nerves.

I was back on track for the next few miles, and once I hit the 7 mile marker I realized that I could go slightly faster than 9:30 (probably due to the fact that we had turned around, so instead of having the stinging gusty headwind, we now had nice tailwind). Since I was already half way done, I figured that I should probably just let myself go with it and enjoy this burst of energy while it lasted. So, for a few miles I went at 9:20/9:15 and even sub-9:00. It’s always been challenging for me to try to decide how fast to let myself go. The main reason for it being the fact that it would require me to think about how many more miles I had left ahead of me. Usually it goes something like this: “Well, I only have 4 miles left to go, so I can kick it up to 8:47 since I only have a little more than half an hour left. OMG, I still have another half an hour left to go! I’m so tired! No, can’t think about this. Look – pretty sign! La-la-la-la-la!” I found myself going through this mental dialogue 3 or 4 times today.

I knew I was going to start psyching myself out about how fast I needed to go, so I actually made a decision at the beginning of the race not to look at my total time/distance screen. All I had on my Garmin was lap pace, lap time, and lap distance. This way I could take it one lap at a time and not worry about whether or not I was “on track” for anything. I knew I wanted to finish between 2:05 and 2:10, and I knew what lap pace I had to maintain for that. So, I wasn’t letting myself think about anything else but the current lap. In retrospect, maybe it was a mistake because had I known how close I was to breaking 2:05, I probably would have found some last reserve of energy to push myself a little harder during my last mile. But then I don’t know if I would have had as good of a run for the first 12 miles, which is what made this race a success. So, I am not going to second guess myself. As I was approaching the finish line, I saw the clock say “2:22”, and since we started about 15 minutes after the official gun time, I figured I was coming in around 2:07. That’s why when I finally crossed that line, hit stop on my Garmin, and allowed myself to look at the main screen for the first time, I literally burst into tears when I saw “2:05”. This was so much more than I could have asked for today. Megan finished shortly behind me and totally rocked it with a 2:16 PR.

As we were driving back home, I kept replaying this moment in my head and reliving this amazing “Wow!” feeling. I knew this would not be the last time I experienced it.

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Tired but happy.

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Responses

  1. Congrats on a successful race! PR races are the best.

  2. Congrats! The temp works for me but the wind? Yikes! I sooner run up hills!

    • Thanks! I’m still riding the high.


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