A quick backstory on my running history: I ran track in high school, didn't run at all during college, started running again about 2 years ago, quit, and from then on kept yo-yo'ing between running and not running. This past March, my grandmother passed away from cancer, and I decided that I done half-assing anything to do with my health and wellness, so the next day (March 19) I started to run. I could run 1 mile and that's it, and at the end of that 1 mile, I felt like I was dying. But I trained 4 days a week, slowly inching up my time and distance.
So. Race day comes. I know that I am mentally and physically capable of running 3.1 miles--just a couple weeks earlier, I'd run 6.5 miles of trails with a friend. I'd only heard good things about what a race was like, how the crow'd energy was infectious and adrenaline would speed you through the end. I was ready.
|Hubby and me before the race. Excited and confident!|
There was one little thing about the race that I hadn't truly taken into account: the time. All these weeks, I'd been training early in the morning, between 6:30-7:30 AM. Even launched into early spring/summer like we were down here in Georgia, the temperatures were cool enough to be pleasant.
But race day?
Race day was gorgeous--if you weren't about to run 3 miles. Race day was 88 degrees and not a cloud in the sky--which of course means the sun was brutally shooting its death rays onto the the runners.
The race started at 2:35 PM. I knew it would be trouble, but I wasn't prepared for the magnitude. I ate only a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, and around 11 AM a slice of whole wheat toast with soy "peanut" butter. By race time, I was starving.
Finally, it was go time. I was already sweating. The email the race organizers had sent out earlier said the course was a 1.5 mile loop, so we'd only have to lap twice. I was prepared to lap twice. Turns out, it was a 1 mile loop, so we had to lap three times. It's not easy to lap three times, knowing exactly what difficulty lies ahead--like the stretch of the course being scorched by the sun.
|Gathering at the starting line. That's me in the green visor, starting to feel anxious.|
The first mile was good. All my favorite music on the Hair Metal playlist is near the beginning, so I was flying to Def Leppard and AC/DC. The trail was new, so I didn't know what to expect. I was confident.
|I'm pretty sure this is about 30 seconds into the race. Ha!|
At this point, I'm still running, but the word "walk" had started whispering around in my head. Once it shows up, it's really hard to ignore it.
Finally, about half-way through the second mile, the side stitch was so severe that I had to stop running and walking just to lean over and do belly breaths to get rid of it. It went away, and I started jogging again--but it was too late. My body had already felt the sweet glory of not blasting my heart rate up to 165 in 88 degree heat, and it wanted nothing more to do with that whole running business.
I'd declined water on the first lap, but on the second mile I was dying of thirst. When I came near the water station, I slowed for a second, gulped it down, and told myself if I could just make it the next half-mile, I could walk in the shade. At this point, around 2.25 miles, my time was already at 25 minutes. A tiny voice in my head said "you can do the last three-quarters in 10 minutes and still make your goal time."
I didn't. I couldn't even make it across the sunny field before pure exhaustion hit me. The first hill rose up, and I walked it. And the next one. And then I walked all the way into the woods. At one point, I thought I might vomit. More than once I thought I'd pass out from the heat. I felt disconnected from my body, shaky--pretty much everything that is bad.
But then I decided to just run again. I was in the shade, I'd cooled off a little. If I'd just run, the slowest run I could, then I'd finish faster and be able to go home and lie in a tub of ice all that much sooner.
So I turned off the playlist, dialed up one of my favorite songs, and just started running. It was the most pathetic slog you've ever seen. One foot in front of the other and nothing more. But I kept at it, and when the finish line was coming into sight, I managed to pick up my pace just enough that I slid in under the finish line at 39:55.
Before the race, I said my only goals were 1) to finish, and 2) to run the entire time. Obviously I crushed number 2, but at least I did finish. I had plenty of negative self-talk going on, especially around mile 2. During mile 3, my brain was pretty much heat mush.
I staggered to the tree where my husband and in-laws were sitting and collapsed on the ground.
Normally, I would never show this caliber of unflattering picture of myself, but I think it perfectly captures exactly how I felt after the race:
So that was my first race experience. Absolutely godawful.
But, at least it's behind me now. I'm disappointed in myself, yes--but I'll at least give myself some leeway on the heat. It was brutal, and I hadn't trained for it at all. And now I know that I will never, ever, ever sign up for an afternoon race in the beginning of summer again.