Myrtle Beach Half Marathon 2014 – NO REGRETS

I started training for this race with the goal of finishing under 2 hours and as my training progressed, added a secondary goal of leaving the race course with NO REGRETS!   I have raced other half marathons and, with each one, left the race course with regrets.  At the beginning of my training, I thought the regrets were all tied up in failing to complete the race in under 2 hours.  My discovery in training was that the real “half marathon demon” was more closely related to allowing myself to make racing errors I knew better than making and even more importantly, allowing mishaps on race day to demoralize me in a way that I gave up a little in each race.  This was going to be my race of No Regrets!

 So, I set out on my quest.  Coach Sarah was going to give me a plan and I was going to follow that plan.  Easy enough!

One of my strengths as an athlete is dutifully getting all my training in.  I like to work hard, push my limits and love to see myself make progress.  One of my weaknesses is that I can sabotage all that hard work by letting my head get in the way on race day.  Since Coach Sarah has started helping me, mental training has been a part of my overall training plan.  Remember that “Half Marathon Demon” I mentioned?  By the end of my training, he was tormenting me.  I was feeling so stressed and wasn’t really sure this was very fun anymore.  I knew I was physically prepared…but I have been physically prepared before and not had the results I’d hoped for.  I had a sit down with Sarah and was so grateful for her perspective.  One of the things that stuck with me was “you can only race the best you can race on THAT particular day”.  I’m not even sure if Sarah said this or something she said reminded me of this.  I also got an impromptu pep talk from Mike Byrd “It’s got to be FUN!”  I left Cool Breeze knowing I needed to dominate this stupid “Half marathon demon”.

I went home and I made lists!  Lists of a “perfect race day”, “average race day”, and “terrible race day” – including what strategies I would use to manage all 3 scenarios.  I’m a natural list maker so this exercise is fun, almost therapeutic, for me.  Don’t know why I hadn’t done this before.   I also made a list of why running is FUN and rewarding for me.  I may post that for your reading pleasure someday.  I was finally feeling happy and positive about this goal.

Thursday morning, we got everything packed up, got Madison off to her friend’s house and Jeff and I headed out into the monster snowstorm.  I was feeling so glad that the worst of the weather was behind us.  Heading to the beach with high hopes of beautiful weather  J  My happy, optimistic feeling didn’t last long as the forecast for Myrtle Beach was rain and strong gusty wind for Saturday morning.  I decided to handle this little piece of bad news with a healthy bit of denial.  I finally had to face the fact that I wouldn’t be using my “perfect race day” plan.  I had a little cry moment as I felt the fear start to creep in again…yikes!  The wind I could handle but the rain and I are not friends!  My feet blister and the rain just feels demoralizing to me.   I don’t even know any words that will adequately express how grateful I am to Jeff.  He is my cheering section,  my support, my personal comedian, my eye candy J and sometimes the quick kick in the butt I need to pull myself together.   I started rehearsing my “terrible race day” plan and was able to get myself to a place where I felt sure, worst case scenario, I could break 2 hours.  I felt like I could be in control even if the weather wasn’t on board.

Friday night they began calling for the rain to stop between 6am- 7am.  I went to bed feeling a mixture of calm and resignation that tomorrow’s race would be a challenge, I may end the day with blistered feet AND I was okay with that.  I felt prepared and had myself together.   Wow!  That felt good AND unusual.  I have not slept that well before a race…ever!

We got up at 4:45 and went through my regular race morning schedule.   Everything went smooth….I have a list people!   Got to the race start and began what I have been referring to as, “The March of the Penguins”.  It was COLD, it was BLUSTERY, and it was RAINING!  I was grateful for a rain jacket and a cheap poncho.  But I was mostly grateful for the camaraderie of runners who are willing to huddle up in attempts to keep warm and dry…well not dry but warm.  This is what it looked like in my mind’s eye – poor little runner people:

penguin

We finally had to break the huddle and head to the start line.  BRRR!  I felt a little nervous, but as I brought my personal comedian with me I had the luxury of a few comic relief moments as Jeff reminded me of his gallant plan to let me beat him.  His generous Valentine’s Day gift to his wife 🙂  Ladies…don’t be jealous.

My first challenge hit immediately.  I didn’t think about how dark it would be and that I wouldn’t be able to see my watch.  I know I have a light on my watch, but there were A LOT of people and I was trying to be graceful.  I caught a few glimpses of my watch but was having trouble keeping a steady pace.  I was determined to not go out too fast, and even with my watch trouble, didn’t do too badly.  The next little mishap hit within the first mile.  I was running along, trying to keep a good even pace and all of a sudden the crowd parted right in front of me.  In the time it took my brain to register and my eyes to adjust to what the other runners saw, I stepped right in a very deep puddle.  UGH!  My left foot was completely soaked.  I wanted to swear but before I even had time to bite my tongue the guy behind me (who, incidentally, had no warning as I was too slow to react) let out a string of colorful language that would have made a sailor blush.  Oddly, this made me giggle a little and I was able to just let it go.

My plan was to run steady for the first 6 miles, then evaluate every 2 miles after that, increasing my speed if I could.   I tried very hard to do this, but had crazy, gusty wind to contend with.   It was sporadic enough to prevent me from ever getting into that zone where you’re just running.  I tried running in a group thinking this would block some of the wind.  This might have been a good strategy for anyone else, but I like my space to run.  So, I found a little “empty” area at the edge of the road and just dealt with the wind.  I also tried working with the wind a little bit.  If it was really blowing, I allowed my pace to slow just a bit and allowed myself to increase a little when it wasn’t blowing.

I had several runners pass me at the beginning, and to resist the urge to “race” them, I made an effort to pay attention to what they looked like.  I have heard Coach Sarah mention several times that if they are faster than you…let them go…if they are going out too fast…you will get to pass them at the end.    I felt this helped me stick to my own personal race plan for the day.  I was so happy I did this because in the last few miles, when it starts to get hard, I actually recognized some of those people as I passed by them.   It made me happy that I stuck with my plan the best I could.  The other bonus is that this particular race really lacks interesting things along the way.  There was very little crowd support, given the weather conditions, one band and the scenery was really not interesting.   All of my mental strategies really helped keep my mind engaged along the course.

When we finally got onto Ocean Blvd I was really hoping for a tail wind.  There were a few moments where I could feel the tail wind, but as the wind was so gusty, there was nothing sustained.  Sometimes it blew from the side, sometimes from the back and even sometimes from the front.  However, there were more spectators along the course on this section which is always helpful for me.  I was really happy at this point with my race so far.  I had fueled just as I had trained, I had paced myself the best I know how, I was starting to recognize a few people who had flown past me earlier and I was feeling certain I was going to meet my goal.  I was tired, but happy.  I made the last turn off Ocean up toward the finish line.  About 1.5 miles to go and the wind hit like a MAC truck!  I had been managing the wind fairly well to this point, but this was the first time in the race I had that moment of thinking how nice it would be to walk, sit down, eat french fries….anything but keep running.  There is a slight hill AND the wind AND I’d already run 10+ miles.  I was SO happy I had all my red card items and just started going over them.   Suffer today…celebrate tomorrow!  I can do anything for 10 minutes!  NO REGRETS!

Finally, the finish line!  I hurried – more of a hobble trying to avoid any sidewalk curbs – to the Jeep, put on dry clothes, grabbed Jeff’s camera and headed back down the course to wait on my Valentine!  He did indeed let me beat him.  I played photographer and LOVED watching all the runners coming in.  Finish lines make me want to cry.  Every person, no matter how fast they finish…still finish their race.

A quick note on Jeff’s race report – He is NOT a runner, but he is a great sport to participate with me and had this to say about his race experience.  “It was cold, rainy, wet, I felt an oddly strong desire to knee cap everyone around me, and was particularly annoyed with the sound of a million beeping Garmins.  I am, however, very thankful for the medical personal that provided bandaids and Vaseline.”   Jeff’s Awesome!

Myrtle Beach Half Marathon….Success!  1:53:23 – 550/2931 finishers, 15/219 in my age group…And Most Importantly…I know I raced the best I could on that day!   NO REGRETS!  That’s a good feeling!

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