Humbling - Pacific Crest Summary 2012

by Jodi

This weekend I relayed a half-iron triathlon with my husband Curt and my cousin Sonja. Curt swam (1.2 miles), Sonja biked (28 miles), and I ran (13.1 miles).  It was my slowest half marathon time in nearly three years.  Coming off a Boston qualifying marathon not even two months ago, it was definitely humbling.
Team Super Stilp Stars waiting to get started.

There were several factors that lead to my demise:
  1. INJURY:  An over-use injury that I've been nursing forced me out of running for three weeks leading up to the race.  It was a huge hit to my system to go from running six days a week for six months to not running at all for almost three weeks.  I knew I'd be slow, but I never anticipated running a half marathon at a pace slower than my recent marathon pace.
  2. WEATHER:  The weather was terrible.  So terrible that race officials were forced to change the bike route at the last minute.  What was supposed to be 58.3 grueling miles up and over the summit of Mt. Bachelor was changed to 28 mostly flat miles further down the mountain.  When we arrived at the mountain reservoir where the swim was held, it was 38 degrees and raining.  Mercifully, the rain stopped as we parked and it held off for the two hours we were up at the lake.  But it came back in fits and starts, bringing short squalls of rain, hail, and strong wind.  I lost count of how many times I added, then shed, layers of clothes.
  3. FUELING:  The shorter bike course altered my plans to leisurely leave the swim, stop for lunch, and then head to the bike-to-run transition area.  Sonja is a fast cyclist so once Curt was out of the water we had to bag his gear and literally run to the car to try to beat her down the mountain to the transition area.  "Lunch" was a handful of nuts and an energy gel that I've never used before.  I started the race at 12:30 p.m. with little in my stomach and I felt it.  There just wasn't enough fuel to power me through 13.1 miles and I ended up battling nausea again at the end of the race.  I definitely need to get a handle on my nutrition while I race.  I should have known better.
  4. ELEVATION:  The race course was at 4,200 feet above sea level.  I've run this course every year since 2007 and each year I notice the elevation affecting my breathing more and more.  I'm guessing it's because I'm running faster and trying to race the course instead of just survive, but I felt it.  I couldn't maintain the pace I train at and keep my breathing steady.  Any time I dipped below eight-minute-miles, my breathing went all wonky on me and I couldn't catch a deep breath. 
  5. EMPTY RACE COURSE:  Because the run was the last portion of a much bigger event, it didn't have the same feel as a straight half-marathon race.  I expected to pass a lot of tired triathletes on the course, but it didn't work that way.  Sonja killed the bike so I spent the first four miles getting road killed by very buff men who passed me like I was standing still.  After they passed, the course was essentially empty until the finish.  It was hard to maintain a competitive edge when it felt like I was just out for a long training run on an empty stomach.  Any and all fans were a welcome distraction on an otherwise dismal run.
  6. MENTAL STAMINA:  I checked out of the race mentally somewhere around mile eleven.  I couldn't get over the fact that I was racing at the same pace that Carissa and I run when we push her two-year-old toddler in the stroller and chat.  It felt surreal to be performing so badly and I allowed myself to give up mentally.  When a wave of nausea hit at mile 12.6, I didn't fight through it.  Instead, I stopped running and walked. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and called my husband to tell him where I was and solicit sympathy.  I actually walked past a big yellow sign that said "300 yards to go" and didn't start running toward the finish until I saw my Dad and his wife on the sidelines.  They looked as confused as I felt to see me walking instead of barreling toward the finish.  My Dad ran with me toward the rest of my family and gave me a little pep talk.  He passed me off to my hubby and kids and I stopped to give them high fives and roll my eyes to show my disgust.  When I finally sprinted for the finish, I wondered why I gave up.  I've never done that before, especially so close to the end of a race.   
layers and layers of running gear.  At least it all matched!
This race was humbling.  I've spent the last few days processing what a train wreck it was.  My biggest regret is giving up at the end of the race.  I let my teammates and myself down when I chose to walk instead of push through to the finish.  But I also know I couldn't have run those previous thirteen miles any faster.  My body was tired, hungry, and still healing an injury.  In spite of that, I was able to run 13.1 miles with minimal pain.  All the forced rest and physical therapy is clearly working toward healing and I am so grateful.

This race made me appreciate each Personal Record (PR) more.  They are not a guarantee and I know now to celebrate each one.  The race also rattled my confidence as a runner. This morning I went for a short but challenging run and was relieved to come home with a more normal time.  I'm grateful to know I still have it in me and the speed will come back.
We have medals!

The race by the numbers:  Overall time: 1:51:59.  8:33 pace.  
Mile 1: 7:41          Mile 2: 8:08          Mile 3: 8:15          Mile 4: 8:28
Mile 5: 8:30          Mile 6: 8:35          Mile 7: 8:35          Mile 8: 8:45
Mile 9: 8:16          Mile 10: 8:47        Mile 11: 8:32        Mile 12: 9:14
Mile 13: 9:56        Mile 13.1: 6:52

What about you?  Have you tanked in a race?  What did you learn from it and how did you improve?

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