Anatomy of a Pre-race Breakdown

As you may recall, I finally set some goals not too long ago. One of those goals was to break 2 hours in the half marathon. My current PR is 2:02 and some change, and that was set back in April 2011. I don’t run the half marathon distance very often, and I pretty much never try to run fast. Amanda and I recently started training with a new coach, though, and our workouts have been going really well. They feel a little murderous at times due to our general loathing of running at any speed other than really slow, but we’ve been training hard and beating the expectations we have for ourselves and that our coach had for us based on our previous times. Although we originally figured we would try to run under 2 hours sometime in the fall, things have been going so well that I thought “what about now?” The last half marathon in South Carolina until the fall is this Sunday in Myrtle Beach. It is a race that I theoretically despise.

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So much wrong with this picture

As most of you know, I am generally anti-chain races (I’m looking at you, Rock N Roll Series). I don’t really like the idea of women’s only races in general, but it depends how they are executed. I’m not feeling too confident about this one. The Divas Half Marathon series website offers such gems of information as:  “A handsome firefighter will crown your accomplishment with the most Diva-like medal out there, toast it with a glass of champagne and celebrate it with a rose because you are beautiful and powerful and you have just done something not many people can do!!!” Am I the only woman on the planet who is absolutely horrified by the idea of a “handsome firefighter” giving me my Diva-like medal after I’ve just run really hard for 13.1 miles and obviously look hideous and am potentially in danger of vomiting? Whose idea was this? God.

There are a lot of other hilarious things about this race that I can’t wait to tell you about in my race report when it’s over, so you might be wondering why I’m running it in the first place. Simply put, it’s my last chance to PR in the half marathon until Fall. That is the only reason. That, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my friend/pacer Chuck wrap himself in a boa and wear a tiara across the finish line. It’s worth it.

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At least if I fail, I can mock Chuck. I’m a good friend.

Yes, training has been going well. We’ve done speedwork, long runs, short runs, and I’ve recently started doing regular trail runs for reasons I don’t entirely understand. Actually, I do understand. The mental aspect of my running is by far my weakest area. I have absolutely no confidence in myself when it comes to my ability to do much of anything, much less run particularly fast for particularly far. Therefore, I’ve been heading out to the trails once a week and having my friend Doug kick my ass out there. He calls them “easy runs” and won’t let me wear my watch so he can torture me by setting the pace (since I’d get lost out there in 5 seconds) and yelling our mile splits out to me while daring me not to freak out. He’s an ultra runner, and ultra marathons are largely mental,  or so I hear. As such, I trust his expert opinion, and he’s been giving me some good pointers and helping me prove my ability to myself during tough runs. He’s also given me movies to watch about ultra runners who are very tough and very fast and never get discouraged.

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This is Anton Krupicka. He came in 2nd in the Western States 100 miler WITHOUT A HAIR TIE. He ran with his hair down the entire time. I can’t even deal with that.

On a related note, I kind of want to run a 100 miler one day. But I will certainly be wearing a hair tie if/when I do.

So you might be thinking “But Danielle, a 2 hour half marathon isn’t really that fast.” And you’d be right. The average pace per mile is 9:09. I know it’s not that fast, and I know I have plenty of miles logged faster than that this month, but there is something about the idea of running 9 minute pace for 13.1 miles consistently that intimidates me. I’m so used to running in the 10 minute mile range (or slower, depending on how long I’m running) that I have a physical reaction when I see the number 9 at the front of the pace per mile calculator on my Garmin. Even if I’ve felt completely fine and comfortable the entire run, I suddenly start breathing faster, my heart rate increases, and I start to panic. Stupid, right? It makes no sense at all. Recognizing this, Amanda and I have turned over pacing duties for the half marathon to my friend Chuck, who has promised to pace us to under 2 hours.

There is one small flaw in this plan. Over the course of our training runs for the race, I have discovered that Chuck is a decidedly horrible pacer. Apparently, he actually knew this already and just declined to tell me. He’s just as inconsistent as I am and much faster, so I’m slightly terrified about turning my Garmin over to him and giving him the reins. Fortunately, I will get my comeuppance when a handsome firefighter hands “Diva Chuck” his medal, rose, and champagne at the finish while he is decked out in a boa and tiara. Karmic justice, I tell you. In all seriousness, I am sure that he will rise to the occasion and deliver a perfectly paced sub-2 hour half marathon PR to me and Amanda. RIGHT, CHUCK?

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Excellent at helping me hand out beer and gummy bears. Pacing, not so much.

I’ve set three goals for this race, using a strategy known as “A, B, and C goals.” An “A” goal is your best-case scenario goal, what you ideally want to happen. A “B” goal is still a bit of a stretch, but more likely to happen than your “A” goal. A “C” goal is your goal for when everything else goes horribly awry and you’re just trying to hang on. My goals are as follows:

  • A. Sub-2 hour finish time.
  • B. PR for me and Amanda – under 2:02:12.
  • C. PR for Amanda – under 2:08:02 (clock time).

In order to conquer my fears and try to boost my confidence about the race this Sunday, I’ve been reading a lot about different mental strategies, visualizing crossing the finish line with a “1″ at the front of my time, and most of all, remembering all the successful training sessions I have had. Doug says that no matter what, whether I start out too fast or too slow, I must not panic. Much easier said than done, but I’ll try. I am going to be zen. I got a 90 minute sports massage today that hopefully worked out all the kinks and soreness from my hard training. I’ve been practicing keeping my breathing calm. I’ve got a pacing plan direct from my coach. It’s going to be fine.

It’s going to be fine, right? Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I need your help! Sorry I’m not sorry for all the whining.

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Scientific reenactment of me every time I think about this race.

Leave a comment and tell me some of your strategies for staying mentally strong and confident. It can be during a race or any other situation where you really want to succeed. TEACH ME YOUR WAYS, YODAS.

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