After waiting until almost the last minute to sign-up for this race and building it and its preparation up for two days, I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed with the result.
22:33 for 3.16 miles (yeah, the course was a tiny-bit over)
Official results aren’t up yet, so I don’t know how I placed for the females. I just know that I got second in my age group and 28th overall. (edited to update that I actually had 31st overall, [out of 495] but 4th place for the females)
The morning started well. I woke up one minute before my alarm rang at 3:40 AM, albeit with sweat running down my back because it’s just so darn warm here, had a good carb-rich breakfast (the banana-date-nut bread tasted good cold too!) and some coffee, made it to the race in time for a comfortable warm-up at 9 mpm pace, and generally was feeling good and positive. So, when the run didn’t go the way I wanted, I had to think about what may have gone wrong.
There are a few things to say about this result, starting with the fact that it’s a minute off the time I wanted to run. Thinking about it though, while I made a few mistakes, I figure that I ultimately don’t need to be disappointed in myself. I ran hard. I can’t remember how I finished, whether I beat the girl I was hunting down for most of the last mile or not, so I know that I never made the conscious decision to let her go. I pushed myself as hard as I could, and if the result is what it is on the clock, it means that I could have run better but I also could have run a lot worse. The weather likely had a lot to do with my performance. It was more humid than I remember running during training and it wasn’t just me whining. I had trained sufficiently in hot weather, and my body has become very conditioned to keeping itself cool. I sweat a good liter each time I run, so I know that my blood volume decreases substantially on a regular basis and my body has learned to function in it (see last week’s run updates). However, today I was even more soaked through, which indicates to me that the humidity was more the problem. I knew I’d have some trouble after my damp warm-up, but so much else went right this morning that I didn’t think the humidity and heat would be an issue. Maybe there’s just only so much that mental mindset can do to overcome physiological discomfort and limits. Maybe I could have pushed the limits more to the point of passing out, but I was pretty far gone after the race. The cool-down run was tough, and my perceived effort was higher than the time I ended up with.
To make this point more valid (and perhaps make myself feel better), let me point out this chart put together and depicted in the Running Times.
|DEW POINT (°F)
||HOW TO HANDLE
||Hard efforts likely not affected
||Uncomfortable for some people
||Expect race times to be slower than in optimal conditions
||Uncomfortable for most people
||Easy training runs might feel OK but difficult to race well or do hard efforts
||Very humid and uncomfortable
||Expect pace to suffer greatly
|75 or greater
||Skip it or dramatically alter goal
Now, when I write that the dew point was 78 degrees, I guess it’s easier to understand that there was a lot I was up against. It was that bad, and I guess not PR conditions. At least I didn’t skip it!
That being said, I made a few mistakes during this race. The first mistake was relying on my watch for pacing. This was the first time I raced with my TomTom Runner, and I relied on it for my first mile to let me know whether I was keeping myself in the goal pace of 7:00-7:05 for the first mile. What I didn’t account for is the lag in response to a change in pace. I started off fairly fast in the first 50 meters with a 6:20 pace. However, I quickly let off when I realized that and settled into a comfortable pace…too comfortable, it turns out. I ended up 7:20 for my first mile. This meant that if I wanted to break 21:30, I’d have to do a lot of catching up. I think I should have known that I wouldn’t be able to catch-up, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try.
My second mistake was having music on my MP3 player that was not all positive and upbeat. I never realized how music could have a negative effect on running until today; usually, music makes me feel upbeat and willing to put in extra effort into my workouts. However, some of my songs on the MP3 that didn’t bother me in training were really negative when pushing hard during the run. For example, Linkin Park’s “Pts. of Athrty”:
Forfeit the game
Before somebody else
Takes you out of the frame (frame)
Puts your name to shame
Cover up your face
(You) You can’t run the race
The pace is too fast
You just won’t last
You like to think you’re never wrong…
I don’t even think I need to explain why those lyrics just ruined mile 2 for me. I ended up skipping the song after spending a while trying to see something motivational, determined in the lyrics, but it was too late. I can be wrong sometimes I couldn’t help think that I was wrong about thinking I could get close to my PR today. However, thankfully Incubus’ “Dig” was good. It spoke to me in a way that I needed during the last mile.
So when weakness turns my ego up
I know you’ll count on the me from yesterday
If I turn into another
Dig me up from under what is covering
The better part of me
I knew the last mile would be hard going into this, and so hearing these words made the struggle to keep going worth it. If anything, thinking about the lyrics and what they meant to me distracted me from thoughts of quitting. The verse “count on the me from yesterday” struck a humming running chord inside of me, since the “me from yesterday” was the me I was trying to be today. The “me from yesterday” was a cross country star (albeit for a really mediocre team) and I’ve been eyeing my 21:15 PR for a very long time since I ran it in 2006. I still think it’s in me to run that time or faster… I wasn’t impossibly far off last year in two races with 21:37 and 21:42. So while running today, when I thought of “dig me up from under what is covering the better part of me,” I considered it a cue to me to call on my better self, the one that wasn’t going to give up on this run even though I knew I wasn’t going to break 21:30. I didn’t know until I crossed the finish line that I wouldn’t even break 22 minutes (I ceased to look at my watch after it buzzed for the last 2 minutes…it wouldn’t have mattered anyway since all I would have been able to do at that point was to give my best), but I am glad that I saw it within me to keep fighting. It really was uncomfortable running, and I was breathing hard, and I probably looked as unattractive as … but I was going to finish this race with effort and pride because that’s what I had set out to do.
Interestingly enough, I saw the “me from yesterday” in the eyes of an old cross country teammate that I randomly ran into after the race. It was a most pleasantly bizarre experiences. We exchanged a few words, then she went off to find her sister and I went off to do my cool-down run, but it was a sort of ray of sunshine, though I’m not entirely sure why. I could have tried to find her again after my cool-down, but I was still overcoming my disappointment about my race and though I like her and could have, for old times sake, gone to accept my second-place age group award while she accepted her third place, I just wanted to leave and get home. But now if I ever see her again, I can explain to her what was up and we have this memory of high school cross country in revival together.
Finally, to close this post (and I hope it doesn’t seem like an awkward shift, since I did just spend a lot of time talking about myself), I wanted to remind (myself and) the reader what this run actually was about and what it means, when it comes down to it. The other runners and I ran in honor, today, of the victims of September 11th. I’m sure there were at least a few family members there of those who died or were injured in the attacks. There were members of my city’s fire department at this run, decked out in full fire-battle gear, sweating it out much worse than any of us were. When I imagine how the fire fighters and rescue and response personnel ran to the towers on 9/11/2001, well… I can’t. They were incredible in their response and in their sacrifice. So when I look at my run today and my disappointment, I feel slightly ashamed.
This memorial consists of the beautiful relief showing PA, the Pentagon, and of course the World Trade Center towers. There’s also a piece of steel from one of the towers.
I will say, however, that I took a moment to stand in front of the memorial that the starting line was at, and I thought about what this run would mean to any of the people in those building on that engraving, if it even meant anything. I realized for the first time (please don’t judge me) that there were people in those buildings who were probably training for 5Ks, half-marathons, and marathons, hoping for PRs, and that they never got to run those races and get those PRs. In many ways it’s similar to the Boston Marathon attack, except people don’t normally associate 9/11 with runners. So I ran in honor of a runner today, to honor their memory not just as a victim of 9/11, but someone who maybe would have liked to run this race. I want to think, we gave him/her a race worth running.