You guys, I discovered the keys to making race day as miserable as possible! So listen, all y’all.
Months ago, I signed up for the Allstate 13.1 Chicago. It was one of the few half marathons in the city I hadn’t run, the medal was sa-weet and it was a June race, so I’d have plenty of time to train in nice weather, right?
Then a few things happened along the way to the starting line to sabotage my performance.
My training was mediocre. Life happened. I got swamped at work and with my extracurriculars. So I started cutting out some of my shorter maintenance runs. I knew what that would do. I knew it would affect me on race day. But shit happens. At least I had several weeks to mentally prepare for my time to be nowhere in the realm of a PR and really, truly, honestly, I was OK with that.
I gained weight. Fewer runs and busier life equaled added pounds. That’s rarely a good thing.
No rest and no sleep. Let’s look at the 36 hours preceding my Saturday morning race: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. Friday to be to work at 6 a.m. (It’s not my usual start time, but something unexpected came up and I found myself at a union rally in the suburbs at dawn.) I worked until 5 p.m., came home, walked the dog, ate dinner, etc. I laid down for a nap at 8:30 p.m., woke up at 10:30 p.m. and got ready to go to a show. You see, my Beastie Boys tribute got offered a late-night gig at a big-deal festival, and we just couldn’t turn it down. (Of course, at the time, they also told us it would just be a couple songs at 11 p.m. and then it got pushed to a 45-minute set at 12:30 a.m. But that’s neither here nor there.). So I rapped and sweated and danced my ass off for close to an hour, and then scooted outta there. I got home at 1:30 a.m. and slept for 90 minutes before my alarm went off at 3:35 a.m. I did my pre-race prep, picked up my friend Heather and headed downtown to catch a 5 a.m. shuttle down to the 7 a.m. race on the South Side. Whew. Just typing that out was exhausting, so you can imagine how my body felt.
My internal clock was effed. The strange sleeping schedule made me feel jet-lagged. And my, ahem, morning ritual was completely thrown off. I had a baaaad feeling about that. You see, one of my biggest fears on the racecourse is pooping my pants. Seriously. I’ve had a couple close calls during training runs, but race day has never been an issue. “You’re jinxing yourself!” Heather said as I relayed this to her on the drive down. All told, I went to the bathroom FIVE TIMES between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m., including once right before the race, once during the race (not in my pants, thankfully) and once immediately after the race. This also marked my first ever mid-race bathroom stop of any kind. Sort of incredible, actually, when you consider I’ve run eight half marathons, three marathons and 36 races total. I was surprisingly fast and efficient — no line! — so I only lost about 90 seconds off my time. Totally worth it.
Negative self talk took over. Even during my three marathons, when I was in an immense amount of pain, I never said to myself, “I HATE this.” I said that many, many times on Saturday. The juxtaposition of my misery and the gorgeous weather/scenic course was laughable. Look around, Maggie! It’s beautiful! I tried to tell myself. And then I’d think about all those runs I’d missed and sleep I didn’t get and those 5 lbs I’d gained and want to cry. I did cry, actually. Pathetic.
Throw all those things together and it’s no surprise that every mile hurt, physically and mentally. (The proof is in the race photos, y’all. Horrifying.) I’ve also NEVER been so sore after a half marathon. Sweet Jesus. But, all things considered, my 1:55 finish was a minor miracle, and I’m damn proud of it.
(Side note: My miserable run is absolutely not reflective of the event itself. They put on a helluva race! Lovely course, great volunteers, tons of well-run aid stations, fun post-race party, solid shirts, rad-ass medal. I would most definitely do this race again — and likely will.)
But hey, live and learn, right? Marathon training officially began this week. Time to kiss those five pounds goodbye, recommit to my plan and set my internal clock straight. — Mags