Frederick Running Festival Recap

Well, I’m a nut job. At least according to the folks who organized the Frederick Running Festival. And considering the wave of emotions I’ve been feeling the last few days, it’s probably pretty accurate.

I wish I could say there is one overarching emotion to describe the weekend. But there isn’t. It tends to shift depending on the hour and the company I’m in. This race was not the race I wanted it to be.

To sum up, I did 16.3 miles (maybe a little more if you believe my Garmin) this weekend. I refuse to say I ran 16.3 miles because there was some walking in there too. But I did complete 16.3 miles in the span of about 15.5 hours. That’s certainly a record for me, and I suppose, somewhat awesome.

But prepare yourself. This is long and contains a lot of negativity.

I headed up to Frederick solo on Saturday afternoon since Joe had to drill with the Marine Reserves this weekend. I swung by the expo, grabbed my shirts and bib, and then checked into my hotel without any problems.

For a couple of hours I just relaxed and tried to get my head in the right place. Around 5:30ish, I hit the road to make the two mile trip to the Frederick Fairgrounds for the Frederick Twilight 5K, which began at 6 p.m.

Before the start of the race, some gray clouds rolled in. The rain and wind hit right about a tenth of a mile into the race. It didn’t rain that hard and didn’t last long so it was actually kind of refreshing.

I don’t have a ton to say about this race except that it was a nice experience. There were some nice country views and one big downhill to the turnaround point and then a big uphill. But since I wasn’t really racing the 5K, the uphill didn’t feel too hard. My approach was just to take it easy to shake things out before the next morning’s half marathon.

Final time: 29:25

Average pace: 9:24

Splits: 9:40, 9:26, 9:16, 8:07 (last .13)

That was good for 454th place overall (out of 1,262) and 43rd in my age group (out of 160). Not bad considering I wasn’t really pushing it.

I cut out pretty much immediately after the race so I didn’t stick around for the post-race celebrations. At the hotel, I heated up the spaghetti and meatballs I brought with me for dinner and called Joe in order to get a pep talk. I remember telling him my goal was 2:10 but that I would be okay with 2:15. Anything slower than that and I’d feel disappointed. He told me I could do it and wished me luck.

I didn’t feel too nervous before I went to sleep and managed to drift off by 9:30. But I was awake around 4. I laid in bed, staring at ceiling, telling myself I could do this. Finally, around 4:45, I got out of bed and got dressed while watching some motivational YouTube videos to get my mind in the right place.

Since I brought some bread with me, I ran downstairs to the breakfast area to toast it. The hotel had placed a bunch of bagged breakfasts (a bagel, apple, water and orange juice) out for runners. Nice touch Best Western. I grabbed one so I’d have the water and apple for now and juice and bagel for later.

Back in my room, I ate my peanut butter toast and apple and grabbed the last few things I needed. I was out the door by 5:30 so I could get to the fairgrounds before the road closures started at 6:15. I have this thing about being super early.

I was parked at the fairgrounds before the sun was up. At that time, it was only about 45 degrees so I sat in the car with the heater running and continued to watch some of my motivational videos. Before I knew it, it was time to line up for the 7 a.m. start.

Let me say here that I had a debate with myself for a few days about how to run this race. A half marathon is a long race to do by yourself. And a long time to be in your own head. Most of my long training runs have been with Joe, so I’ve had someone with me to push and distract me. I wouldn’t have that this time. I thought about listening to music, but I don’t normally run with music and you’re really not supposed to do anything new on race day. Besides, I ran the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler without music and didn’t have any problems. But how to hold the negative talk (I’m a huge offender) at bay? I asked a Facebook runners’ group for some advice and someone suggested running with the pacers to keep me distracted. That seemed like a good idea so I gave that a go.

I found the 2:10 pacers and they seemed like three upbeat, fun women. There were a bunch of other people running with them who seemed enthusiastic, so why not? I decided I’d stay with them as long as I could.

Just before the race started, I realized I’d already made a mistake. I was dressed too warmly. How is that possible, right? I had just been sitting in my car with the heat on. But my long-sleeved shirt, compression socks and capris meant I was very covered up. I was already too warm at the starting line and pushed my sleeves up. I cursed myself for not going with my originally planned outfit, which included a short-sleeved shirt, but there wasn’t much I could do now. It was race time.

We took off at exactly 7 a.m. and I stuck with the pacers. Thankfully, the course didn’t feel packed at the beginning so it made hitting our goal 9:55 pace fairly easy.

But there was a problem. Mentally, I wasn’t feeling it at all. By the middle of mile two, I was already thinking about how I felt okay, but I didn’t feel amazing. When I’ve had good races and training runs, I’ve had that “I love this and I could do this forever!” feeling. Nope. Not today.

I repeated every mantra I could think of. I tried to just focus on the pacers. I told myself I had done this mileage before at close to my goal pace. I forced a smile when we passed the great crowd support on Market Street. Nope. Nothing worked. I was giving ground to the negative thoughts with each step.

I thought maybe I was going too fast. So I slowed down a bit. Thanks to the hills (oh those hills), the pace group never got too far ahead of me. If I slowed it down now, I thought, I could make up time at the end, since I normally have negative splits in my runs anyway.

Then I hit mile seven. Mile seven is my nemesis. It always seems to be that point when my mind starts to scream “I don’t want to do this anymore!” And the hills in the course were starting to get to me. I didn’t take the elevation chart seriously enough for a D.C. girl who is used to training on fairly flat ground. I was starting to get hot with the sun constantly beating down on me.

At some point I turned a corner and saw another hill. And I started walking. It was amazing how easy the decision felt at the time. I never stopped to walk in the ten miler or my training runs, but just like that, I made the decision to walk. And the second you do that, your brain gives you permission to keep walking.

I took a quick breather and started running again but still felt negative. I started to alternate running .2 miles with walking .1. And then I saw another stupid hill and stopped even doing that.

“Okay, I’ll run down the next big downhill. That will give me some momentum to keep me going.”

EXCEPT THERE WERE NEVER ANY BIG DOWNHILLS. EVER.

By mile 10, I was in a dark place. I was mentally kicking my ass but it wasn’t translating into moving my feet faster. I think I walked 95 percent of mile 10.

My low point came when the 2:20 pacers passed me. But even that wasn’t enough to suck me out of the place I was in. I saw my goal of 2:10 slip away. I thought I could still get under 2:20 if I made the decision to run the last two miles. But I didn’t. I just picked a point and ran to it. Then walked a little more. It wasn’t until there was about a half mile left that I just sucked it up and ran it out.

Throughout the race, a girl who looked completely out of shape would pass me and then fall behind again. I saw her ahead of me just near the finish line so I pushed past her just so I could say I beat her. My sense of vanity was the only thing that got me to push it at the end. Pathetic.

 

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Approaching the finish of the Frederick Half.

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That’s me looking to the left to see how much further the finish line is already. WHY AM I NOT THERE YET?

I crossed the finish line at 2:28:09, an 11:19 average pace. Almost 20 minutes faster than my last half marathon, but not anywhere near the time I wanted, especially considering I actually trained for this. And hell, just a few weeks earlier I had done a 12 mile training run at a 9:56 pace.

Final splits: 10:02, 9:51, 9:56, 9:57, 10:11, 10:15, 10:16, 11:37, 12:11, 15:24 (I’m embarrassed to even type that), 12:40, 12:35, 11:35, 9:06 (for what my watch said was the last .18 miles)

I finished 3,016th (out of 4,103) overall and 320th (out of 474) in my age group.

As I crossed the finish line, I seriously considered not taking my medals. I felt like a fraud for walking so much, especially when most of those around me kept running. But when a little kid handed my medals, I took them. I figured my emotional state was not in a great place to explain to some five year-old why I didn’t deserve the medals.

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My medals and race bib.

As I sat down and guzzled water and ate some fruit, I started to reflect. I gave up mentally and that’s terrible and embarrassing. When I was on the course, I couldn’t even look the enthusiastic supporters in the eye. I refused to take the jellybeans neighborhood kids handed out because I hadn’t earned them. I am physically capable of reaching my goal but I didn’t. The mental part of training is just as important as the physical and I wasn’t in the right place mentally. My runs had sucked for the last week and I had been in a negative place that whole time. I paid for it in the race.

But…

I still completed 16.3 miles in less than 24 hours. A few years ago I wouldn’t have even had the courage to try doing that. I’ve been listening to a lot of motivational “speeches lately,” and I’m constantly reminded that you WILL fail in life at times. You’re measured not by the fact that you fail but how you respond to that failure. The road to success is often paved with a lot of pain and disappointment. I can only learn from this experience and use it to improve in my next half marathon in September.

Or maybe this race performance just means I need my Diet Coke back. 🙂

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