Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015 Salinas Valley Half Marathon - Race Recap

I pride myself on being 100% real and candid with what I share.  It's easy to share the PRs, the good runs, the goals that are met and exceeded, and the days when running feels effortless.  But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't come clean with all of the runs that I struggle through and the races that don't go as planned.  The 2015 Salinas Valley Half Marathon was one of those races for me.

It started with my 4:00 AM wake-up call.  I woke-up with a headache thanks to allergies and 4 hours of sleep.  Not a good sign.  Thankfully I had the foresight to get all of my race gear ready the night before so all I had to do was throw my clothes on, grab my food & water bottle and head out to the race.  The Salinas Valley Half Marathon has an 8:00 AM start time but since I didn't pick up my bib at the race expo the day before, I was making the 1 hour drive earlier than usual to hit up the race day bib pick-up booth.  Of course, about 20 minutes into my drive I realized I forgot to bring body glide for my thighs (thigh rub is real people!).  Awesome...but not really.

The site of the start line

Thankfully, the parking situation at the race start line was extremely well organized and I got a parking spot really easily.  Bib pick-up was also extremely well organized and I got my bib in no time.  SVHM does an incredible job with their start line area.  They have a tent with coffee, water, bagels and fruit for all runners and more than ample porta potties for runners to use.  I spent my time chatting it up with everyone and before I knew it, it was time to line up for the race to start!

It was so awesome to see these two

After a few words from the race announcer (my all time favorite, Mr. Rudy Novotny) and the singing of the national anthem we were off!  Here's the deal...I do not like running in heat. Throw in humidity and I'm not a happy runner.  So when I was already warm standing at the start line before the race in my tank top and shorts I knew I was in for a rough run.  And just as I expected I started getting really warm within the first quarter mile of the race and I could not get my breathing under control.  For those who don't know, I have exercise induced asthma.  Typically, I take a couple preventative puffs from my inhaler before the race and I'm good to go but this time around the humidity was really restricting my ability to breathe (plus I forgot my inhaler at home.  Major fail!).

Then a little over a mile into the race my left shoelace comes undone.  I just stared at it in disbelief for a second because my laces have never come undone in a race before and maybe only once during a training run.  I may have outwardly cursed when I bent down to tie them.  That, coupled with the warm weather & humidity, started the end of my race.

I couldn't for the life of me get things under control after that.  It took what felt like a lot of effort to maintain an easy pace and I could not get my breathing right.  As I struggled more and more with every mile, the deeper down the dark spiral my mind went.  At around mile 7, my mind gave up and I walked...for two miles!  I couldn't even rally myself to take advantage of the sweet downhill a little before mile 8 all the way to mile 9.  I was mentally over it.

Yeah...the entire course was a beast

The rest of the race was basically me fighting with myself to continue moving.  At some point I got myself to run a little bit, only to have my mind bonk and start walking again.  Each time I gave in and walked, the worse my thought patterns got.  I did a lot of self harm in the form of beating myself up for my perceived lack of running ability.  I wasn't good enough.  I wasn't strong enough.  I wasn't fast enough.  I even considered pulling out of my next two races.

Eventually, I put my big girl panties on and at least ran the last mile into the finish.  I crossed the finish line but I was far from happy about it.  But here's the thing about runners...they're truly some of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They wouldn't let me wallow in my self pity.  Between the hugs and the congratulations on finishing and the commiserating on the rough race conditions this year, I started to feel better and within minutes I was back to my happy smiling self.

I'm not proud of my performance at this race.  Any other time I've had a bad race it's because of something physical that I had to overcome whether it be my asthma or cramping or tummy issues or my wonky ankle.  Today it was my mind and that's the part that disappoints me the most.  It was something I should have easily broke through and overcome.  But in the grand scheme of things, it's not the end of the world.  Bad races happen.  My job as a runner is to figure out WHY it happened, learn from it and come back stronger than ever.

As much as this race SUCKED (and oh man did it suck) there were a lot of lessons learned that I know will make my next one a million times better.

1) Respect the distance and come prepared.  You'd think I'd know this by now given how many races I've ran but I think that's exactly what did me in.  In my mind I'm an old pro at this race thing and I didn't give the distance the respect it deserves.  I didn't do the proper speed training, I didn't put in the proper mileage and most importantly I didn't do the mental preparation that I should have done to get into race mode.  I set myself up for failure because I didn't show up to that start line at 100%.

2) SLEEP.  This is my nemesis.  I have horrible insomnia and when I'm stressed it becomes even worse.  Throw in allergies or an asthma attack and forget about it!  I really need to figure out a way to shut my mind down early enough to ensure I get enough sleep before a race.

3) Nutrition.  Again, I should know better but I wasn't as meticulous about my diet this week as I usually am during the week of a race.  Basically I didn't consume enough calories which, coupled with my lack of sleep, left my body completely depleted and with no energy to help me run strong.

4) Get that mental game right!  Here is where I struggle the most.  When I'm on, I'm on and nothing can throw me off my game.  But once I get even slightly off track mentally and into that dark space, it's all downhill from there.  I know why my mental game wasn't as strong as it normally is and that's mostly because of the amount of stress I'm under at the moment.  Unfortunately, I can't control a lot of it but believe you me I'll be working on those things that I can control.

I'm not gonna lie.  My confidence took a huge beating.  It's going to take some work to build it back up to where it should be but I can guarantee you that I'll be back out there pounding the pavement and hitting those trails sooner versus later.  My ego may be a bruised but I'm not beaten.  At the end of the day, no matter how ugly it got I still finished.  I got it done.  And that's all that matters.

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