Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Austin Half Marathon: race report

I didn't want to run a half marathon this year.
I've lost a bit of my taste for racing, somewhere.  I've learned that I would prefer training block after training block after training block, and I don't like interrupting that with the taper/race/recovery mess that comes along with race day.  But I also have learned that I need to be doing things that get me out of my comfort zone (sigh), so a half marathon it was.
By this point in my life, I've run a fistful of half marathons, about half of them off the bike.  And almost without exception, I've lined up with something nagging - maybe I'm still getting over a cold, maybe I had a devastating back injury and haven't run in two weeks, maybe this wahh, maybe that wahh.  If I had lined up for the marathon like I had originally planned, I would have been in that situation.  Because bouncing back from the mess my life was all fall to a marathon the second week of February, that would have left something nagging.  But when I stepped to the line Sunday morning, my mind was empty, calm, clear.  Peaceful.
I didn't have any time goals going in, not even secret "scary goals" in the back of my head.  I had process goals, and basing my day around execution and not around the final number, that is starting to work well for me.  I had no idea what my overall time was until after I passed the mile 12 marker, when I flipped my watch screen over for a split second, and then flipped it back.  I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to run on Sunday, and that's what I ran.  I don't believe in race day magic, not really, not anymore.  With a few exceptions, I had a solid six or seven week block of training going into this race, and I'm not surprised, shocked, impressed, horrified, or enthralled with the race I had.  I am simply, quietly, pleased.  
Part of that is MAF training, I think.  Before I trained by MAF, I swung back and forth between crazy leaps of improvement and devastating set-backs due to injury, back and forth, over and over.  Now I don't make those swings anymore, I'm off that roller-coaster.  Instead, I move forward slowly and steadily, I am laying bricks in the foundation of my house.  Then suddenly it's been over a year since I've been injured, suddenly I'm in the longest stretch of time I've ever been in, since I started running in 1999, without an atom bomb of injury being dropped on my training.  Part of it is my Sonja, for sure, we all know that, and part of it, this time around, is working through a training cycle with these ladies.  They are rock stars and I'm lucky to have found them here in Boulder (well, they were already here, but now I'm here too).  
So, the race.  I forgot to turn off auto-lap before the race started, and for some reason thought it was a good idea to lap at mile markers anyway, so my data is a disaster of messed-up splits.  I don't really care.  The race took a few splits here and there with timing mats, so I know what it looks like I did on paper, but the truth it, I don't really care about that either.  I'm not sure I'm interested in narrating the day with splits and times and hills and nutrition and hydration and all of those things, not this time.  For the better part of the race, my mind was blank, an empty space (insert joke about it being empty all the time here; go ahead, walk through the door, I opened it for you).  I ran 10-11 miles of the race without music, and only put in the earbuds near the end with the hope that it would let me hurt a little harder.  It didn't.  The course was described as hilly and challenging.  It was.  I got down two gels and a bunch of water at some point between the start and finish.  My form collapsed into a nightmareish mess in the later miles.  That all happened.  But those details just aren't interesting to me right now.  
I will tell you, I will tell anyone, openly and honestly, that what holds me back in racing is my mind.  More precisely, my fear of hurting on the run.  I used to be afraid of race-day blowups, and I'm past that, or maybe I'm not and it's the same thing as it was, just wearing different pants.  I am afraid to hurt, I am afraid of what it looks like out there on the edge, and facing it is the only way I'm ever going to get the F over it.  It's fascinating to me that I'm not really afraid of it in the water, and it's been a while since I've had a block with a lot of cycling in it but I'm pretty sure it doesn't show up there as loudly as it does on the run.  The voice in my head, the one that tells me it's okay to slow down, to walk, to ease up, the weenie that hates to go ouch, that voice didn't pipe up Sunday morning.  That voice, along with all the other voices in my crazy little brain, was silent.  
So I lined up, and I ran, and I hurt myself a little bit harder than I've ever managed to do so in the past.  That's progress.  But is there still room for growth, do I still have the ability to hurt myself even harder?  Absolutely.  I knew it was true before I looked at my data, and I know it's true now.  
I said a long time ago, somewhere, that I'm not so much concerned with numbers this year.  Seven weeks in, I'm glad that is still true.  I couldn't even tell you what my official finishing time was on Sunday.  What I will tell you is that training is continuing to be a vehicle for change in my life.  And not because of how much I ran on which day for how fast, not because how many hours I rode at how many watts, not because of any of that.  The change is walking down the road of learning about myself, about constantly trying to do things better, to discard the noise and trash and stay true to the work that needs to be done.  To talk less, to do more.  Last month I ran a ten miler.  I executed it like I was supposed to, I reached as far as I could reach on that day with those legs.  I was relatively unconcerned that I squeaked out a PR.  This weekend I ran a half marathon.  I executed it well; as Sonja keeps telling me, I went looking for the floor of my well.  I found it, I dug out a few shovelfuls of dirt and now my well is a tiny bit deeper.  It doesn't much matter to me right now that I took another handful of minutes off another PR - what matters is that when I went out and stumbled into the pain, I didn't give into it.  Instead I said hello, I made friends with it, I ran 13.1 miles straight through it without any drama or problems or disruptions, and then I was done with it.  The next time I go out looking for it, I'll be a little bit less afraid and I'll be able to reach a little higher.  But for now, I am at peace.  I am simply, pleased.  I said it two years ago after my first half marathon, and I'll say it again now because it continues to resonate with me.
Life's this game of inches.

26 comments:

  1. Great report, awesome insights! Especially love the photo of you in front of the Capitol - congrats!!!!

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  2. Congrats girl! Very happy for you to have such a great race. You've put in a lot of time and effort and it's paying off. Also, TPG's spectating signs are brilliant!!!

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  3. Great job out there! Those are the kinds of goals that will pay off down the road!

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  4. Congrats! Isn't that race great? Well, besides the bitch of a hill near the end :)

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  5. A Quiet Brain! I'm learning that this year too. Nice. :)

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  6. Sounds like the best kind of running!!! And, being in TX is always nice!
    Great job!!

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  7. Congrats - the mind is a crazy thing - looksl like you had a great time!

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  8. Ah, a quiet brain. Something I think we're all after and rarely achieve. Congrats on a stellar race!

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  9. Congrats on your race. I love the happy, calm report of good things! :)

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  10. Sounds like you had a great race! Half marathons had become my favorite running distance. So a quiet mind is tough to do, wow!

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  11. What a weird cowboy on that medal.

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  12. Our brains are super powerful. Learning to control that fear is tough stuff. But YOU are tougher!
    It was SO good to see you!
    Looking forward to watching you conquer even more in 2013!

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  13. I re read this post twice and all I could think was "This."

    Two months ago I was at that point where I just wanted to smash my HR strap to little bits. Right now, I kinda love it.

    The heart (rate) does not lie. It's such a great brain check. The heart shows those steady gains of inches and consistency, instead of great day, terrible day, great day, burnout day.

    And even though you don't really care, congrats on your PR, and LOVE the grumpycat signs.

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  14. have you fallen in love with the Zen Triathlon podcast yet? It sounds like you're getting really zen over the maf training. I love it too. I'm still hung up on my mileage instead of time, but that's what happens with a training plan.

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  15. This post is full of deserved satisfaction, which is the best post-race emotion evah!

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  16. Awesome post! I really liked what you wrote. I think the 'weinie that hates to go ouch' just got adopted into my mental dialogue. I've met her. I need to kick her ass & I've been working on it for awhile now. (Except she's me, not you. You get that, right? except that for you - it's you; for me- it's me. I am totally not threatening to kick your ass. Just grappling with a really bad explanation of a visualization. (This isn't going well.) (I'm too lazy to hit that many backspaces.))

    Also, that capitol picture - begging for another meme, it is.

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  17. Congrats on your deeper well and your calm, quiet mind!

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  18. Hurrah!!! All good progress. And I think I like your new approach. Except for the lack of batshit crazy race day excitement face pics.

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  20. Congrats!! LOVED this recap, very insightful and different than others. I always appreciate reports much more when they don't focus as much on the numbers. Sounds like you had your head in the right place.

    Hope you enjoyed your time here in Austin! The half is one of my favorite races in town, despite that bitch of a hill at mile 12. I'll run it every year as long as my legs will allow it :)

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  21. How did I miss this?! I absolutely love it! I'm glad you can still not care about numbers. Congrats on a great race!

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  22. I thought I saw you at the race but wasn't positive. Now I know it WAS you! I was down from Seattle running the full. It was a great race and thanks for the insightful race report!

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  24. Congrats on your race and on conquering those inner demons! Maybe I should try MAF training so I can stay off the injured list!

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  25. Steady progress is the best. Glad you're doing this :) I long for the day when I can go into a race again wondering how hard I can push it and not wonder when the fuck my injury is going to rise up and slap my stupid self down. Keep up the good work!

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  26. I can't tell you how much I LOVE this sentiment: "What I will tell you is that training is continuing to be a vehicle for change in my life. ... The change is walking down the road of learning about myself, about constantly trying to do things better, to discard the noise and trash and stay true to the work that needs to be done." Congrats on your focus and inner peace, which mean more than any PR (though the PR is nice, too, right? :) ).

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