If Jen and Angie were not coming into my hometown to pace a half marathon, I would have never found myself at the start of the Suwanee Half Marathon on Sunday morning. They both signed up to pace in 2018 when I was freshly out of the boot and unsure of my running future.
Sidenote: Jen ran a 100 miler the prior weekend. Angie ran a 100 miler 3 weeks ago. Both had run races already since! My friends are badasses.
The weekend snuck up on me and I realized as it got close, I needed to touch base with my coach about running it. A road half marathon is not particularly ideal in the midst of training for a vertically insane trail ultra, but it could serve as a good workout nonetheless. I was going to be spending the morning with Jen & Angie anyway, so I might as well race and get some miles in. He was on board and told me to run the first 10 miles easy and the last 5K at 10K pace.
Recovery from the 50K seemed to be going well at first. I took most of the week off of running following the race, just doing some easy walking as part of active recovery. But the whole week after that just felt kind of off. I blame hormones, not-quite-recovered-from-a-50k, and pollen in that order. All of it left me with a really negative mindset all week.
At the starting line on Sunday, I should have felt pumped to come full circle after spending last’s race standing on the sidelines in a boot. But, I was just swarming with negative thoughts. I had psyched myself out of wanting it to be enjoyable in any capacity. I should have been excited to test my fitness and possibly snag a PR as I’d run faster half marathons in full marathons! Instead, I was feeling dehydrated, battling cramps, and just generally blah.
My original plan was to stay with the 1:40 pacer through 10 miles and then press on the gas. However, in talking with the 1:40 pacer while Jen & Angie were getting their pacing sign, I became skeptical of his tactics and decided to just do my own thing.
I did a short warm-up in the parking lot - just 5 minutes or so and then waited a few more minutes for the gun to go off. I was pretty close to the start line which felt really strange in a road race. Keith was running too (bunch of ultra weirdos on the road, watch out!) and it was good to see another familiar face.
We took off with the lead pack and were diverted the wrong way about 300 meters into the race. The lead bike made a left turn when we were supposed to go straight and the swarm of runners gummed up the edge of the sidewalk. It was only about 10 seconds in the wrong direction, but it added to my already funky mental game.
After getting back on course, we ran down a hilly residential street before popping out onto Peachtree Industrial. It was cool and windy, but I tucked in behind a few people and was just happy it wasn’t hot. I forgot my Mighty charger at work and hadn’t charged it prior to the race so it was not surprising that it crapped out by the 3rd mile. Goodbye motivational mix….
We turned onto Tench and then Brogdon and the field really started to separate by mile 4. Then, I was back and forth with a few other runners as we tackled the hills leading into George Pierce Park. I’d chuckle to myself as I came to a hill thinking about how if this was a trail race, I’d just walk. But alas, it was not, and I had to shorten my stride and work to not lose too much time climbing.
Once we got along the Greenway sections, I started to feel a little better with the more even terrain. Plus, I realized I was perking up with each water station - apparently, I was pretty dehydrated. I brought along a Clif gel to take somewhere mid-race and decided to slurp it down near the halfway point.
When Adam and I first moved into our house, I used to run at the Suwanee Greenway all the time. It was my bread & butter 7-mile route. So, I knew all the of things to expect - the up and down near the covered bridge, the zigzag to McGinnis Ferry, and the switchbacks near the park. In some ways this was good because I knew to conserve, but in other ways, I was dreading what was to come.
I passed a couple of guys in this middle section as I clipped off some lower 7s and hoped that it wouldn’t come back to haunt me in the end. As we neared the turnaround near mile 10, I could start to see the leaders. The male leader was waaaaay out front by at least a mile, but then the next few runners seemed to come at regular intervals. I saw there were 2 women ahead of me and 6 men.
With 5K left to go, I didn’t feel like I had much left extra to give other than the pace I was holding so I just tried to maintain as much as possible and not give any back. As I doubled-back myself, other runners (especially other women!), started shouting that I was the 3rd female. I berated myself for not smiling back more when they were clearly cheering me on. The funk just would not shake!
I saw Jen & Angie and gave them high fives and that lifted my spirits a bit. From then on, I had just 2 miles left and so I just tried to just tell myself I could hold on for 15 more minutes. At that point, I really wasn’t thinking about a race PR or my own placement.
Once I came off the Greenway and headed up the last hill to the finish, I felt spent. Somehow my final kick shows a 6:35 pace, but I swear I felt like I just dragged myself in. There was no celebratory finish chute feel. Just happy that it was over with.
At first, I was pissed at myself for not being happier about my “PR” or my 3rd OA female standing. And for racing with such a negative mindspace. It just wasn’t like me!
But in retrospect, I am glad that it all happened. Sometimes it needs to be hard to make me appreciate the easy. Sometimes I need to know I can get through a race that doesn’t go my way or I don’t feel great or that my head is in the right place. In this case, I just trusted my legs to do the work while I battled with my head. And I should be so happy that nothing felt painful or bad, I just wasn’t happy with myself.
If you’ve been running or racing long enough, maybe you relate. I’ve had this happen before - Boston 2016 comes immediately to mind. Its part of the process and I’ll be stronger for it the next time. And no doubt, there will be a next time. It’s about recognizing it, finishing what I’ve started, and not letting it be a defining moment.
A few hours later, brunching with Jen, Angie, & Adam, it didn’t matter at all.