When I left off from Part 1 of my race recap, I had just finished up stretching and was about to head to the start line. My dad snagged some great pictures of a lot of the runners getting ready and a great pre-race photo of me.
Can you tell I’m totally freaking out?
It was a chilly morning, which was a welcome change to last year when I was sweating even before the race began. This year I could barely keep my hands warm before the race started, but managed to keep my legs warm in some workout capris that I shed right before race time. I decided to run in long sleeves, which was a first for me.
It was also my first race in my new Mizuno running shoes. I got them a few weeks ago to replace the ones I donated after my last race and they’re simply amazing. I went ahead and got a professional fitting and I can’t tell you what a difference it has made.
Before I went to stand in line, I took a handful of Energy Bits. I first tried these at the Healthy Living Summit and was very intrigued, so jumped at the chance to try them again. I’ll have a (long overdue) review coming soon, but in the meantime let’s just say that I’m really digging them.
Last year I stood in line with a former coworker and a friend of his until the gun/horn sounded. This year I was in the bathroom until just before the race start, so by the time I got up to the line, I was basically able to start moving. I crossed the starting line something like 6-7 minutes after the start and was full of excitement.
It was very helpful to have run the race last year because I knew the course. This particular course, while I’m sure not the most difficult in the country, is considerably more difficult than the half marathon I ran three weeks ago.
While obviously the same 13.1 mile distance, the race a few weeks ago was almost entirely flat. This race was not.
The first part of the race is primarily downhill with some uphills thrown in for good measure, while the last part of the race is almost entirely uphill. Still, I was hoping to shave five more minutes off of my time from that race, which would have put me at around a 2:10:00 finish. Then again, that was before I was injured.
Once I realized that I would be lucky to even run this race at all, I basically abandoned that goal. It’s hard to say that because I fully believe I am capable of running a half marathon in that time, though with the hills it would have been a challenge either way. My goal instead was just to do my best and see how well I could do without pushing my knee too hard.
The first big downhill had me really worried. I was certain that my knee was going to start acting up before I was even a mile in and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to finish the race. By the time I hit the 3-mile mark I was feeling very good. So good, in fact, I texted Joe. I never text while running and do not encourage it, but I wanted to keep him and my parents updated since it was my parents’ first time waiting around while I ran a race.
I skipped the first two water stations at miles two and four, but stopped at miles six and seven for Gatorade and a Raspberry Cream flavored Powerbar Gel. I considered not taking the gel at all because I was feeling pretty good after the Energy Bits, but having not trained a whole lot, I figured an extra boost of energy wouldn’t hurt. It wasn’t the best tasting thing I’ve ever had, but also certainly not the worst. It helps that I really like raspberry flavored things, but it made me very thirsty. I didn’t get a chance at water for almost two more miles, so that was a bit unfortunate, but overall I think the gel was a great choice.
Also between miles six and seven I texted Joe again to let him know I was halfway through. I’m amazed that I had both the energy and coordination to do this. Even more surprising was that my knee still wasn’t hurting. At this point I probably could have picked up the pace a bit, but this is also around the time the near steady uphills started.
Between miles 11 and 12, I spotted Joe and my parents off to the side. Luckily, Joe and my dad were armed with their cameras and ready to grab some shots mid-run.
From the first picture you can tell that this was uphill, but somehow from the second one, which dad took, it looks like I was running downhill. I assure you, it was uphill and I have the leg soreness to prove it. Even uphill I can muster the energy to cheese it up for a photo!
Seeing my family also gave me a little bit of motivation to power through and pass by some of the people I had been trailing. Laser sharp focus, right there.
From there we went past the starting line and into the Franklin Park Zoo. When I ran last year I had been walking at this point for quite a little while. This year I still had plenty of energy to keep me going through the zoo and even took notice of the animals, particularly the rather large camels that were just sitting around staring at the runners. Last year I could have sworn we didn’t actually pass any, but looking back I must have just been too exhausted to notice.
Coming out of the zoo I noticed Joe and my parents again as I went past the start line and continued toward White Stadium. With less than 1K to go, I did my best to keep a steady pace. At this point both of my knees were bothering me just a little bit and my ankles had started to ache from the uneven ground and all the hills so I was very glad I hadn’t tried to push any harder than I did.
Then I saw the 13-mile marker at the entrance of White Stadium and pushed just a little bit more to finish strong. As I came around the track and saw the time, I was a little disappointed for a fraction of a second. I felt like I should have pushed harder and taken the risk, but then I crossed the finish and slowed to a stop and felt how much pain was actually going through my legs. Not so much my knees, which were feeling okay for the most part, but just overall soreness that was setting in from all the hills. I got my medal for finishing, grabbed a bottle of water, and headed out to meet my family.
Once I walked out past the medical tent and grabbed a bagel, bag of granola, bag of nuts, and a Gatorade from the recovery tent I was greeted by a volunteer who handed me a second medal for finishing all three races in the BAA Distance Medley, the 5K (which was before I started blogging), the 10K, and the half marathon. It was a great feeling to know that I had done what I set out to accomplish by doing all three of those races, despite the knee injury and all of the self-doubt.
When Joe and my parents found me, my dad got what is perhaps the best post-race photo to have ever been taken of me, breathing out a sigh of relief.
Then he made a comment that changed the way I had been thinking about the race. He said, “Way to go, Beck! You don’t even look like you’ve run at all.” When he said it, I didn’t believe him because I’m always a sweaty, exhausted mess after a race of any length. Once I saw the picture he took, I realized that I really did look just fine. I looked like the race had been effortless. Looking back at the pictures of me all smiles, I compare them to the pictures of me from the same race last year.
That photo was taken last year just as I crossed the finish line. I was barely able to walk and couldn’t muster a smile to save my life. My feet were bleeding and despite how proud I was, I was miserable. I put in everything I had last year and finished in 2:41:18.
This year I held back a little to protect my knee and still had energy at the end of the race. I didn’t hit my PR, but my official time was 2:22:18 (what is it with me and 18 seconds?), which is almost 20 minutes faster than last year! While not as fast as the half marathon three weeks ago, this course was much more difficult and I’m quite proud of that time. I know that I’ll be able to break two hours next year because I’m 90% sure I could have done it this year if I hadn’t been injured.
So what if I didn’t set a personal record for a half marathon distance? I set a PR for this particular course and that’s a huge accomplishment. So far this year I have run five races (one 5K, one 8K, one 10K, and two half marathons) and I have another 5K at the end of October. I have accomplished so many things this year that it’s silly for me to focus on perceived failures. I hadn’t been able to run for almost three weeks and I completed an incredibly hilly course in almost 20 minutes less than the last time I ran the course, almost a minute and a half per mile faster than last year.
I had gotten so used to always beating my previous times that I took for granted that I would always set a PR at every race. The fact of the matter is, I’m a legitimate runner now (at least by my own standards) and that means that at some point I’m going to hit my limit. There is going to come a time when I’ll start to get slower again, whether because of age, injury, or whatever. That isn’t for a long time, but this race was a great reminder of that. I won’t always be able to PR at races and that isn’t the most important thing about running them. Every time I run, no matter what the distance, I do something I would have never been able to do just a few short years ago. My life is totally different from how it used to be and, PR or not, no one can take that away from me.
I am incredibly proud of myself for running the race and for doing so much better than I did last year. I am also so happy my parents got to see me finish so strong. I could focus on the shortcomings, but what good would that do? Instead, I’m going to continue to focus on my accomplishments (and stare at my medals) while I move away from the negativity that tries to consume me all too often.
We all have accomplishments on a daily basis, but sometimes we forget to celebrate them. What was your biggest accomplishment this weekend? Celebrate it in the comments and #leafnegativitybehind!