I’ve tried to start this post several times. And each time have deleted it. I feel like I
want need to write a recap of the entire week before I can dive into what happened on Saturday. Honestly the race now seems like an anecdote. I’m taking my finish time with a huge grain of salt (or just all the salt caked on my face at the finish…I think I was a bit dehydrated.)
To say that last week was emotionally and physically draining would be a gross understatement. The anticipation of Jack’s surgery wasn’t nearly as intense as it was the first time, this time around we knew what to expect. The hard part is the after. The croaky cry from the breathing tube. The disorientation from the anesthesia. The not knowing how to hold him so it doesn’t hurt. The uncertainty and worry that something will go “wrong.” That is the hardest part.
I was grateful that we spent the night in the hospital on Wednesday. When they sent us home after the first surgery I felt so lost and helpless. But that extra night on Wednesday was comforting. Even though we got little sleep it was worth it, there was a peace of mind that came knowing help was just steps away if anything went wrong. By the time they discharged us on Thursday Jack was playing with his toys and could be moved without pain. But even condensing the 26 hours we spent in the hospital down to those few sentences glosses over moments of intense emotion that will be seared in my memory forever. The hospital, especially the pediatric inpatient floor, is not a happy place. When you are faced with the brokenness in the world in the form of a little girl battling cancer or a four week old crying from the intense pain of a cleft palate reconstruction it exhausts your spirit and at the same time strengthens it. Our time there has made me want to raise even more money and run even faster at the CHaD Hero Half Marathon in the fall.
On Wednesday, when the surgeon briefed us on how Jack’s surgery went I completely abandoned the idea of running the race. But when we got home on Thursday afternoon, Jack had improved dramatically. And then on Friday he was even better: he was back to his normal schedule, eating solids again and his pain seemed minimal. At that point I decided to run.
I was scheduled to run on Thursday a little 2×800 “refresher” for my legs, but that didn’t happen so on Friday I went out for a brief run: 15 minutes with a few strides. My legs felt stale and fatigued. We did a lot of walking and sitting at the hospital on Wednesday and Thursday. So it doesn’t surprise me that my legs felt off.
Race Morning: The race was not far from where we live so I didn’t have to leave until 7am, which gave me time to have a good breakfast (a bagel with almond butter and coffee) then feed and spend some time with Jack.
He slept through the night both Thursday and Friday night (mostly drug induced) but it was still a blessing after the sleepless night we had Wednesday. It was raining hard when I left the house for the race and it was HUMID. Not really the weather in which I was accustomed to running: Monday morning was 37 degrees, dry and sunny. But on Saturday it was the complete opposite: 60 degrees, 100% humidity and raining. I opted to wear shorts, a t-shirt and a hat, thinking that the rain would continue through the whole race. This turned out to be a bad decision: I should have worn a visor and a tank top.
Race Plan: I discussed my race with our run club’s running coach a two weeks before the race. I felt confident I could run 1:43 and he agreed. He recommended I go out a little faster for the first two miles (relatively flat) at 7:35-45 pace and then ease back on the hill climb (mile 3-7) and then try to drop the pace down back to 7:45 on the return. There are rolling hills miles 7-10.5 but I felt like I could hold a good pace here and then run hard the last two miles into the finish. That WAS the plan.
Miles 1-3: At the start of the race the rain had stopped, but it felt steamy. By the end of mile one I knew that the race wasn’t gonna go well. My quads felt spent, I was sweating like crazy. I spent most of the first few miles trying to stop the negative talk: telling myself just to focus on running easy and smooth.
But nothing about the way I was running felt easy or smooth. Instead of adjusting my race plan (like I should have done) I stuck to it. Keeping a pace that in the moment didn’t feel as comfortable as it should have.
Miles 4-6: This is the uphill climb and I felt OK here. I took off my hat and that helped me cool off a little. I was still holding a good pace (8:00/mile) through here but was beginning to doubt I could hold onto that for much longer. I’d get spurts of confidence and hold my pace and then get really discouraged and drop back a bit. All the time complaining in my head about how hot I was.
Miles 7-10: At mile 7 I saw someone from my running club who was volunteering on the course and tossed my hat and shirt at him all while he was trying to take pictures. The result is quite comical.
I’ve never ditched clothing in a race before and I’ve run in a sports bra only once before and I weighed quite a bit less than I do now. But I was honestly so hot that I really didn’t care. (Which is why I’m posting the most unflattering pictures. They are the real, soft bodied me.) After shedding my gear I felt much better and started taking my GU a little while later. I felt strong for another mile and then the wheels came off around mile 8.5. I walked a bit on one of the rolling hills, but I felt spent and empty.
Miles 10-13.1: The rest of the race was just toughing it out. I knew I wasn’t going to come close to my 1:43 goal or even match my PR of 1:45 (which came on this hilly course). I was just hanging on to finish in the 1:40’s.
What did I learn:
1) Be willing to adjust your race plan. I should have abandoned my original plan based on the emotionally and physically draining week I had. I also should have adjusted it in light of the humidity. I wish I had gone into the race with the intention of running for fun, simply to blow off steam and decompress from the week. I should have let go of my expectations
2) Have a solid mileage base. I don’t believe I’ve been logging enough weekly miles to be able to race well at a longer distance. I’ve been averaging around 25-30 miles a week. To improve my half time I need to be closer to 50 miles a week.
3) Don’t go out too fast. Even though this was the recommendation of the track coach I don’t think it works well for me. I race much better when I go out slow and save ‘something’ for a good kick at the end. All my PR’s come from this strategy. I have to stick to what I know works for me.
4) Even though this race is tough I still love it.
5) When you go solo to a race don’t try to document with photos because THIS happens:
I returned home and spent the rest of the day with the family. I did neglect to stretch and foam roll after the race and I’ve been paying the price for that decision: my left hip has been really tight. So I’ve been going at it with the foam roller and stick every night this week.
Jack has continued to improve. This week he was back to his usual self, minus the wound drains hanging off both sides of his back. But those and the stitches were removed yesterday and he is acting like a freed man! He is rolling and moving around like I’ve never seen before. He still has some healing to do, though the stitches were removed they added more glue to keep things sealed up. I feel relieved. So relieved.
I went for a run yesterday evening after putting the kids to bed. I imagined as I ran the stress, anxiety and emotion of the past seven months falling off my shoulders behind me as I ran forward. I imagined myself getting lighter and lighter, my pace picked up and I found myself smiling.
I may have had a bad race, but honestly life feels good.
I still need help reaching my goal of raising $5000 for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth! Please consider donating.
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