Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Setbacks and Comebacks

Greetings, my sweaty friends!  It has been far too long since I last blogged about my running adventures, and I'm sure all (six) of you have been utterly distraught from the lack of new SLAP content.  I apologize profusely.  You see, life has gotten in the way.  Not just in the way of blogging, but in the way of running too.

Over the last 4 months, my life has taken a complete 180° turn, and I find myself newly single, and the proud owner of a new (old) house.  It was all for the best, and I couldn't be happier with the new direction of my life, but it sure was hard to be a consistent runner through all of the stressful events of the last few months.  In fact, I failed miserably at running consistently.  The week I moved to my new (old) house, I logged a grand total of 7 miles.  And in the weeks leading up to and the first couple of weeks after the move, my mileage was not a whole lot better than that.  Packing, organizing, unpacking, more organizing... followed closely by sitting, sleeping, and being generally exhausted - all of these things took priority over running.

Shortly after I moved, I ran a couple of half-marathons as training runs:  the uber-hilly Heights Half Marathon, and the not-quite-as-hilly-but-still-hilly Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon.  I did better than I expected in the Heights Half (2:13), and much, much worse than expected in the Lincoln Half (2:16).  In both cases, I was so far off of my PR (1:54), I wondered if I would ever get my running fitness back to where it was last fall.  It was discouraging, to say the least.

I am not easily deterred, though.  After my less-than-stellar performance at the Lincoln Half, I vowed to run consistently, targeting a weekly mileage of 30 to 35.  I wouldn't worry about my pace, or about doing speedwork.  I would simply get the miles in, however slow they may be.

Fast-forward to the Illinois Half Marathon at the end of April.  When I signed up for this event many months ago, I had intended this to be an A-race, where I would attempt a new PR.  But given the circumstances of life, that goal went out the window quite some time ago.  My new goal was just to enjoy the run, and not worry about my time.

I met up with my friends Becky and Katie for dinner the night before the race, and enjoyed some delicious pasta and wine.  No SLAP race report is complete without food pictures, so here ya go:

Butternut Squash Ravioli in a Sage-Butter Reduction, aka: Very Tasty Noms

We waddled back to the hotel, stuffed with plenty of carbs for the next day's adventure.  After a night of mediocre sleep, I got up early and prepped for what I thought would be a regular ol' training run with 10,000 of my closest friends.  The weather looked ominous, and a quick look at the forecast confirmed that big rain was coming.  There were also 20 mph winds.  I definitely was not going to race this race.  I would be lucky to finish in 2:10!

I was a bit concerned that my race bib had me in starting Corral B.  That seemed awfully... elite.  I planned to place myself at the back of the corral, so that I wouldn't slow down all the faster runners.

Corral B?  That's, like, where they put the Kenyans!

My friends and I sat in the hotel lobby, waiting for the rain to pass before we made the short walk to the race start.  Just to play it safe, I decided to put on a cheap throwaway rain poncho.

It was a child's poncho.  I couldn't get the darn thing over my head.
All of my friends were in different start Corrals, so I made my way to the back of Corral B all by myself.  That was a good thing, though, as I really didn't know how slow I was going to run, and I didn't want to be pressured by, or put pressure on, someone else to run together.  Soon enough, we were off and running.

I started out way too fast.  Or at least I thought it was way too fast.  I was so concerned about slowing down faster people who might be behind me, I took off at a 9:00 pace, thinking I'd slow down after the first mile or two.  But after the first mile, I felt pretty darn good.  And after the second mile, I felt even better.  And after the 3rd mile, I seemed to be picking up my pace, and still feeling good.

I decided to run with it.  Literally.

I figured if I could just hang on to my pace and feel comfortable, then maybe I could come in just under 2 hours. I ditched the rain poncho at around Mile 3, once I had warmed up.  Not a single drop of rain fell the whole race.  Not only that, but the 20 mph wind was barely even an issue, so sheltered was the race course with trees and buildings.  I gradually stepped up my pace until I was running in the 8:30's and 8:40's - still feeling very comfortable, mind you.  I even mastered the art of drinking from a cup while running - something I had never been able to do before.  The first couple of cups ended up going either up my nose, or down my shirt, but I did eventually get the hang of it.

Only in the last mile did the running become challenging, but that's mostly because I ran the last mile in 8:05.  I crossed the finish line knowing I had broken 2 hours, but only when I stopped my Garmin did I realize by how much I had broken 2 hours.

*hitting Easy Button*  "That was easy!"



No, that's not a PR.  But it's awfully darn close.  Only 17 seconds away, to be exact.  If I had had any idea how well I was going to run that day, I would've stepped it up a little more and gone for the PR.  But don't mistake this "coulda, woulda, shoulda" for disappointment.  I am hardly disappointed.  I am ecstatic!  After a few months of sporadic and inconsistent training, and less-than-stellar racing, I was really starting to feel discouraged.  To be able to run a near-PR half marathon without even planning to was exactly the confidence boost I needed.

But I wasn't the only one who ran well this day.  I actually lost count of the number of fellow FASTies who either set new PR's, or ran unexpectedly strong "training runs".  Becky, Katie, Brian, Yvonne, Louisa, Kristi... just to name a few.  Incredible job, runner friends!

Mis Amigas

So what does this mean for the rest of my racing calendar for 2012?  Well, I don't really know.  All I know is I'm coming back from a difficult time, and I intend to come back stronger than ever.  At the same time, I intend to enjoy running, enjoy my new house and achieve balance in my life, so I'm not going to worry too much about races and PR's and meeting aggressive goals.

*looks shifty*

At least not yet.

Peace. Love. Train.

1 comment:

  1. aw, YAYYYYYYYYY good for you, Emily!!!!!!! I was remenisicng ALL DAY about running my 1st marathon a year ago today... and how you guys really helped set the mood of the entire race for me. Such a blessing to have run into you guys... and out of all of those people! That's amazing to nearly PR with having such sporadic running. It's so interesting to see what you are capable of... glad to hear these life changes are treating you well (even thought they are challenging). So good to read your thoughts here :)