I've spent the whole summer trying to shake off my Mystic Half Marathon debacle, and there were honestly times that I wasn't sure if I was going to succeed. That race unleashed a tidal wave of negative thoughts in my brain, and I was convinced that I was all washed up and wasn't going to race anymore, and every time I got tired I was just going to throw in the towel.
The heat and humidity didn't really help all that much, either, as the conditions for much of the summer made even easy runs feel challenging, and as the date for Surftown approached, I maintained my laissez-faire attitude, and figured I'd just go out and run the best I could and not really care how slow or fast I was. It's a fun race, and a beautiful course, so I'd just go out and have fun with it.
But then I started running, and 7:42 for the first mile felt pretty comfortable. And 7:43 for the second mile felt good, too.
Of course I went through the process of worrying that I was going out too fast and was going to pay for it later. But some part of me felt like maybe, just maybe, I could pull this off, if I could stay consistent with that pace. So I tried, without too much checking of my Garmin. It was truly feeling like a comfortable pace to run, and it just felt right. Ran a 7:45 for mile 3, and 7:41 for mile 4.
Around mile 2 I had found myself stuck behind the 1:45 pace group, and I briefly thought about hanging with them for a little while, but didn't like being stuck in that big pack, so sped up and jumped ahead of them a bit - and worried that if I had a rotten day, they might end up passing me later on, but luckily that didn't happen.
Those first miles of the course start with a long flat stretch along the ocean, and then wind through some neighborhoods with some rolling hills and very bumpy, uneven roads, where you really have to watch your footing. I had started pretty close to the front, so never felt really crowded, but it did take a lot of concentration to run that pace on those rough, narrow roads, so it was nice to get back out to the oceanfront stretch again.
I appreciated the flat, open road, and having the wind at my back at this point. It wasn't horribly windy, but there had been a noticeable headwind on the way out, so it was nice to be heading the other way for a little while. Mile 5 was 7:43, and I stopped to eat my Gu and drink some water in mile 6, so that slowed me down to 8:01.
I was still feeling pretty good, and got through mile 7 in 7:39, and then we headed back into a windier stretch again, so mile 8 dropped back to 7:46.
This is the point at which the pace stopped feeling comfortable and started to feel like work. And this is where the doubts really started to creep in, and the negative thoughts threatened.
In some ways it would have been so easy to convince myself that I had absolutely nothing to prove with this race. I hadn't set out to race it, and I hadn't put out any real goal for myself, so why not just back off to a slower pace and give myself a break?
But as these thoughts ran around and around in my head, I knew deep down inside that backing off wasn't the easy way out. Backing off would mean I'd remain stuck in this negative headspace that had been hanging over my running like a dark cloud for the past three months. Not that I didn't enjoy a great summer of running, because I did, but there's definitely been this undercurrent of a feeling of failure that I couldn't completely shake.
And as I ran yesterday, I decided that I was ready to shake it once and for all. I was ready to reclaim the part of me that had been MIA for so long. And I called up the mantra that I latched onto after reading this blog post - I GET to do this. Nobody makes me do this. I'm not accountable to anyone but myself. I choose to do this, I choose how I run this race, and on this day, I was going to choose to run it with everything I had.
Looking back now on that moment, I visualize it as an actual switch being flipped. My attitude completely changed, and I was ready to embrace the pain and work through it, instead of giving in to it.
Mile 9 showed the mood shift - 7:38. But then mile 10, with the biggest hill on the course, brought back a little dose of reality with a 7:47.
And that's where the real race began. The last 3 miles always hurt, and I braced myself for it, and got ready to meet it head on.
I did get thrown for a little bit of a loop in the last few miles, as they changed the course a bit from previous years, and the mostly flat final miles to the finish turned into a couple of miles of rolling hills and some sharp turns. I wasn't quite prepared for that, but I powered up the hills, and found myself starting to pass people who had been just ahead of me for most of the race. A woman running near me even gave me some props for charging up the hills, which was nice. Runners are awesome : )
Miles 11 and 12 hurt really, really bad - 7:36, 7:41. My brain was sending a barrage of messages to my body telling it to just stop already! But I refused to give in. I needed to conquer this one, and I knew that.
Finally we were back onto the flat, open road and heading toward the beach again, and the finish was so close, but seemed so impossibly far away.
But I knew the only way to get there was to keep running, and the only way to get there sooner was to run faster. So I did. Mile 13 in 7:34, final .1 at 7:09 pace. Not much of a kick, but I absolutely gave it all I had.
I crossed knowing that I had run the fastest half marathon I've run in nearly a year, and more importantly, that I had raced and given it my all, and done so successfully.
After I got my breath back, I caught up to two women who had been running just ahead of me and congratulated them both and thanked them for giving me someone to chase. I knew I wasn't going to catch them, but it's always good to have that for motivation.
All in all, a really great day - one that could have easily gone the other way and left me feeling even more defeated than ever, but I didn't let it. I called the shots, and I turned it around, and that makes me even happier than my finishing time.
But I am also happy with my finishing time of 1:42:26.
The other numbers make me happy, too:
6 of 175 in my age group
37 of 1,003 females
129 of 1,475 overall
And with that, I suddenly find myself excited to race again - so much so that I'm contemplating signing up for the Hartford Half marathon next month. It was my first half, and the full was my first BQ, so I've already got two great memories in Hartford - might be time to go make a third : )