Saturday, May 11, 2013

My worst race ever

Sorry folks. I really tried to come up with a wittier title for this post, but humor eluded me so I decided to go with the truth instead. But before we talk about the race itself I want to reassure you that this post isn't going to be a pity party. I am actually not upset about the fact that I ran the worst race of my career this morning. Maybe I should be, but I just can't figure out how to do that. I know I am fit. I know I am mentally tougher than I have ever been. In a nutshell, I know I am capable of racing well. Unfortunately today just was NOT my day.

Everything started out fine: good workouts this week, great warmup with my teammates. Granted, this was the first hard effort we were going to do in anything resembling heat and humidity this year, but the weather wasn't that bad. Overall I felt good at the start. When the gun went off I was amazed by how good I felt running. I felt totally strong and in control as we charged through the first mile. I honestly thought that when my first mile split chimed I was going to look down and see a 6:15, but instead I saw 5:53. That freaked me out a bit and I consciously slowed down in the second mile. I was hearing people breathe laboriously all around me but my breathing was fine. I was working very hard to keep pushing but also to stay decidedly in control of my effort. Mile 2 came in in 5:57. These first two miles were both full of rolling hills; they weren't easy. But they felt manageable! Mile 3 included a nice long downhill and came in at 5:56. As I passed through the 5k my watch read 18:16...1 second off my road PR for the distance. And yet I still felt great. My coach and I had discussed the fact that I am in better shape than I probably thought and that I needed to just race by feel, so even though I was a little freaked out by the paces I just tried to concentrate on my effort.

And then, much to my surprise, everything went wrong. I was still on a downhill and all of a sudden I just couldn't breathe well. If I had been on an uphill or even on the flat when this started I would assume that I had over-run the first half and was now paying the price. But on a downhill? When my legs still felt great? It was pretty strange. I tried to slow down but I couldn't get my breathing under control so I finally had to throw in the towel and walk. (Ugh.) I was able to get enough of a grip on my breathing that I was able to start back up running again, but I could literally only make it a tenth of a mile or so before having to stop again. I just couldn't breathe.

Needless to say, the second half of the race was enormously frustrating. I pondered dropping out but I really, really didn't want to do that, so I walked and ran, walked and ran. I watched my A goal, my B goal and my worst case scenario goal all slip away. Finally, 21 minutes and 36 seconds after I crossed the 5k mark I finally finished. And in a new all time low I LAY DOWN in the finish line chute. Makes my habit sitting down in the chute look totally cool and civilized!

Now that I have run the world's worst positive split I guess maybe I should be a little bummed out but like I said, I just can't muster it. Because you know what? Bad races happen! Who knows what the cause of this disaster was: it could have been the pollen, could have been the humidity, could have been my lack of sleep over the past few days...I have no clue. My lungs and chest still hurt like the dickens hours later and that is a bummer, but overall I really have no major ill effects from those ridiculous 3 miles.

I can't coerce myself into getting upset about the race but I am pretty happy about a few aspects of it. First of all, I am pretty darn excited about my first 5k split! Honestly, I had no idea I was capable of that right now! As I get ready to finally race on the track next weekend I am happy to have a good 5k in my back pocket; all of a sudden I am more excited than nervous. I am also grateful to have had a wonderful day with my fab Bull City Track Club and Oiselle teammates; knowing they were all out there really helped me keep plugging along when I felt terrible. And, best of all, maybe I got my really, really bad race out of the way for a good long while. How can I complain about that???