Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Race Reports (2 for 1!) – Navy Half and Army Ten

For my first postpartum race, the Navy Half Marathon, I was overly concerned about the logistics: getting there on time, feeding Baby beforehand, what to do with my bag while I warmed up… I hadn’t raced for real (i.e. while not pregnant) since the Trials, 19 months before. I worried I’d forgotten some crucial part.

I should have been more concerned about the weather, which is my normal pre-race pre-occupation and while I did realize the weather wasn’t great, it wasn’t until I was running my warm up—sans any warm-ups—that I realized just how not great it was. Warm and humid: welcome back to DC. (Sadly, Richmond is just as bad.)

My plan was to start on the slower side and run the first four miles around 6:40 pace, and then see if I could pick it up. I focused on not running the first mile too fast, as I’ve had a tendency to do in workouts lately. (My sense of pace hasn’t yet made its postpartum return).

I impressed myself with a 6:46 first mile, which I took as a good sign (not too fast!) and didn’t care that it was on the slower side. The next few miles were 6:37-6:38 and I made it 4 miles on 6:40 pace, exactly as I’d planned.

That boosted my confidence and I passed a few women. I was back in a race and seemingly handling it well. My sister was cheering around mile 6 and when she asked how I felt, I shrugged. “I dunno… hot?” I did feel hot… but also, not too terrible. I focused on making it to mile 7.5 where Husband and Baby were cheering. Seeing them felt like rocket fuel. (Though the double-caffeinated gel I took just before may also have contributed.) Suddenly I felt really good. Look at me, running a smart race in this weather. I’m going to negative split the heck out of this thing! I picked it up slightly, hit the turn around, saw my family again at mile 10, and picked it up some more. Maybe I should have started faster, maybe I’m in better shape than I thought… but then the 12th mile hit and I fell apart. When I had been feeling good, I told myself I’d really start pushing in the last mile, but the last mile came and I couldn’t go any faster. I got passed with about a mile to go and had no response. Despite not finishing on the greatest of notes, I still felt like I had done a pretty OK job at my first race back.

For my second postpartum race, the Army Ten Miler, I was hoping things would go even better. Navy had busted the rust, now it was time to work on racing a little better and digging deep at the end. Except the weather was—amazingly—even worse. Warm, humid, gross. Again. It was so bad, in fact, that the race organizers eventually shortened the course and stopped recording times.

Going in, I wasn’t too sure of an appropriate goal pace, which seems to be a trend of the season. I’m finding it difficult post-baby to know where I’m at. I end some workouts feeling like I should have gone faster while others (particularly tempo runs—my nemesis—that have often fallen on terrible weather days) are disasters. Coming off a great (weather) week and an excellent marathon pace run, I thought 6:20 pace would be doable. But at Army I didn’t hit 6:20 for the first, or the second mile, and by mile 3, 6:30 pace seemed more realistic.

But that wasn’t either. The next few miles were slower still. It started misting but not enough to provide any relief, somehow things just got wetter and grosser. I struggled to force down my caffeinated gel, telling myself even a placebo effect would be great. (PSA: Use tune up races to practice your goal race fueling. I don’t really need a gel in a 10 miler, but I definitely will in the marathon, so I made my stomach practice.) I felt like it helped, but my splits don’t show it. I focused on my other mid-race booster—seeing Baby and Husband, this time at mile 8.5. Just get to them. One more mile until I see them. Half a mile… When does this fudging bridge end?? Somewhere in the middle of the race I decided if I could just run my Navy Half pace (6:36), that would be something. (Would that be something?? This race is shorter… and it’s later in the season, when I should be in better shape. But sometimes you just need to come up with any goal, no matter how silly, that can stop you from totally throwing in the towel.)

Seeing my family again inspired me to pick it up slightly, mile 9 was at least faster than mile 8. But the mile-9 marker also made me realize I’d run 9 miles slower than my 10-mile PR. That was eye opening. Yipes, this is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Trying to remind myself why the heck I'm running
this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad race.
[Photo credit: Cheryl Young]

But am I really pushing as hard as I could be? Post-baby I feel like I’ve forgotten how to push through hard workouts/races. So I tried to really dig and I was able to pick it up in the end, rather than slow down like at Navy, so that’s something. And I did finish in the same average pace as Navy, so at least I hit that totally-random-mid-race-I-need-something-to-go-for goal.

But that’s not saying much, as the race was my personal worst ten-mile time ever. I’m not even listed in the results and I’m totally fine with that. It appears like I didn’t run at all… and I started wishing I hadn’t. I felt bad I dragged my family up to DC for the weekend, just to run a race that left me feeling much worse. I ran faster for farther in a workout by myself. But that reminded me that I did at least get a workout in, if only a crappy, overly hyped one. It was clearly a bad day, and while I feel like I am always blaming the weather, it does appear to be somewhat legitimate in this case.

Besides, the trip was worth it because I got to spend the afternoon with good friends, eating all things pumpkin flavored, while Baby babbled race strategy with her future GRC teammates. Sometimes the best part of racing is the post-race.

Dream big,