After being injured for the latter part of 2017 I’ve been slowly increasing my mileage. Things have been going well and I’ve been scoping out races to run as a baseline while knowing that my fitness isn’t where I’d like it to be. I have to start somewhere and running a race is the only way to know where that somewhere is. So, I ran a race.
My first race of 2018 occurred on St. Patrick’s Day. This was a brutal 5k with over 650ft of elevation gain and straight uphill running in the first 1.5 miles before turning around and coming back down the hill. This race was no joke and not the best race to use as a baseline. This race was difficult. This race was not ideal after a 6 month hiatus from racing, a long break from training, and 2 injuries.
The week of the race I had a 100 degree fever, swollen glands, and a throat infection. I also had a huge [final] exam for graduate school in the middle of the week–I never want to relive that stress ever again. The race was not at the forefront of my mind and by Thursday I wasn’t even sure if I was going to run it. I hadn’t run all week. Incase you were wondering, I passed that exam!!!! I felt relatively healthy on Friday and did an easy run at a solid pace. I committed to waking up and running up the
hill mountain the next day even though I probably shouldn’t have.
The race didn’t start until 10am. I thought this was a unique time to start a 5k. I was anticipating an earlier start but since I am not a morning person and I had been sick I appreciated getting some extra sleep. I was very apathetic on race morning. I woke up and wore what I was sleeping in–just happened to be running clothes, I had a pile of unfolded laundry on the counter that I was trying to pack for a trip, work scattered all over the house, and no clue where my racing shoes were. Surprisingly, my watch was fully charged! In retrospect, I can see that my heart wasn’t in the race. I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t excited. I literally felt nothing.
A local running friend and I arranged to car pool to the race together and I am eternally grateful for the heated seats in her car! The heated seats were the highlight of my race. On the way to the race my expectations rapidly decreased, not because I was being negative but because I was realistically assessing the situation. Initially, I wanted to run the race under 26 minutes but that was 2 weeks prior and seemed much more realistic at the time. After being sick most of the week, not running, experiencing extreme stress, and finding myself at the bottom of the fitness mountain, I set a goal of running the race under 30 minutes. If nothing else I was confident that I could do that.
My warm up was inadequate because I didn’t feel great. I hastily jogged a quarter of a mile up the hill and then back down rationalizing that 1.5 miles is 1.5 miles no matter if it is uphill, downhill, or flat, and that 1.5 miles is short compared to a marathon. This worked. I got to the starting line and that was half the battle, the other half was getting up the hill.
1k after the race started I was miserable. 1 mile into the race I was still miserable and I knew that the worst was yet to come. I had heard horror stories about that last half mile of uphill. My feet were in the race but my head and my heart were not. Nonetheless, I kept going because that is what I always do. I turned around and headed back down the hill with a side stitch. In high school my friend told me that when you get a side stitch the only way you can get rid of it is to run faster. I am sure that she made this up but I always hear her voice in my head telling me to run faster when this happens, so I do. It just wasn’t fast enough and that got to me.
Going down the hill was easier on my body and harder on my mind. I shutdown. I knew my fitness wasn’t where it was a year ago and I was disappointed. I felt defeated. I felt frustrated. I felt a lot of things I don’t feel comfortable sharing on the internet. I couldn’t pull myself out of this negative thinking even though I am trained to help people reframe thoughts like this. Unfortunately, mid-race is not an ideal time to have these thoughts. That achilles injury isn’t even the worst thing I’ve ever had to come back from but somehow it swallowed me alive on that hill. It does no good to compare where I am today to where I was last year, or 4 years ago. I know this, I preach this, but I am not perfect and I sometimes still fall victim to these toxic thoughts.
With a half mile to go I regretted signing up for this race, and when I could see the finish I was motivated to run it again next year. Yes, I will run this race again next year. I ran 27:55 and placed 3rd woman overall. This challenging race may not be a good baseline for my fitness, yet it’s a good baseline for a lot of other things. I don’t regret signing up for the race now that I’m no longer running it. I regret giving up. It has nothing to do with time or place; I met the goal that I had set for myself. I’m feeling disappointment because I lost the internal battle.
For some perspective on how challenging this race was, the winning men’s time was 21:36 and the winning women’s time was 26:00. The medals they gave out to top finishers looked like this:
Despite feeling disappointed, I am thankful to be running and racing again. I am at the bottom of the fitness mountain and like this race that initial climb is brutal.