Thursday, June 5, 2014

Simulation Success!

Race day will not be a new experience for me.

Hours away from my husband, who is competing in his own event. Me running, him triathlon-ing.

2009 Chicago Marathon.

The first time I broke 3 hours.

Ryan was competing in the Life Time Triathlon Championships in Dallas, TX and my parents were off with my little sister on a college visit. The only family support I had would hopefully be my brother waiting for me at mile 16.

I won't pretend that I was upset going into this race. I had some great training under me, so to not have the three most supportive people in my life (Ryan, my mom and dad) there to watch me compete really made me frustrated. Luckily, frustration makes me run faster. In my mind, I'm thinking, "I'll show them what they're missing." And on that day in October 2009, I did just that.

That was over four years ago.

My life since then has changed quite a bit with my newfound love for triathlons.

After deciding to pursue this whole marathon thing, I have had countless thoughts about going back to the triathlon world. A miserable race at the Palos half and an almost-as-miserable race at Soldier Field only amplified my desire to go back to tri training. Watching Ryan crush his bike workouts, solo, simultaneously crushed my heart as I longed to be there with him. Plus, seeing Ryan just dominate this year while triathlon training didn't help either.

And then I blogged about Soldier Field. And got an overwhelming response of encouragement, support, advice...people really believe in me. I know it sounds silly, but after fighting the tri vs run battle in my head and heart for these past few months, I just simply needed that reassurance.

That reassurance came at the right time.

Sunday, June 1st was to be a simulation on many levels:

Dial in the pre-race nutrition: wake up when I would for Grandma's Marathon, eat and drink just like I would on race day

Focus on fueling during the race: practice taking my gels, storing my gels (more on that later), and hydrating based on the conditions

Practice the plan: Coach Dave and I know that if I want to run a 2:42:59, a lot of things have to happen. Obviously we cannot control the weather, but we can control my pacing. This simulation was meant to have me start off the first portion of the race at slightly slower than marathon pace (6:12.9 is the pace to hit), then bring it down below marathon pace for the last portion of the race.

Practice the focus: knowing that Ryan will be competing in his own race on the same day that I will be competing in my BIG race has been hard. I obviously want to be there with him to support him, and I know he wants the same for me, but with our differing goals, this just is not possible. Luckily this simulation was on a day when Ryan was competing in his own race as well.

Since this was a simulation run, I had a 4-mile warmup at 7:00-6:45 pace prior to the start of the race. My wonderful friend Dave ran this with me and made it just fly by. He is the one to credit for all of the pictures below!

After the warmup, I got to the line with about 8 minutes to spare (planned that way). After chatting with some of the other Illinois Elites (the category that we were put in to have a front row start!), we were ready to get this race going.

The gun went off, and I settled into pace. Normally, I would be keeping up with the other girls based on their times, but this race was about mental and physical control.

The first 6-7 miles of this race were planned to be at 6:15-6:20 pace.

Mile 1--6:17...perfect
Side note: the girl I'm running with is one of the girls I used to compete against in hs!

Mile 2--6:21...oops
Mile 3--6:18
 Feelin' good. What's up with that quad?!?!
 Powergel-ing it up at mile 3 (really mile 7 for me)
 I'm so lucky I am able to run this
Still feelin' good.
Mile 4--6:16
Mile 5--6:18
Mile 6--6:20
Somehow, Dave always caught me downing a gel!
 One last glimpse of shade until the hot sun section began...
 Flying along (or at least the picture looks like it...surely wasn't feeling it!)

Mile 7--6:14
Just after mile 7 is a HUGE downhill, followed by that same HUGE uphill. Not a nice mile.
Mile 8--6:33
Mile 9--6:17

This is where things started getting interesting. The last four miles were all totally in the sun, exposed, a lot into the wind, and some decent inclines were included as well. I heard feedback from other runners post-race that they think the course should reverse directions so as to finish in the shade (which I thought was a pretty darn good idea myself!).

Mile 10-- 6:26

In any case, we made a loop for two miles and mile 11 crossed paths with mile 9. At this point, I saw the presumed female leader sprawled on the ground with two helpers around her. Maybe 1/2 mile later, an ambulance was coming down the street. It was at this point that I reminded myself this run needed to be about effort during these last few unshaded miles, rather than pushing my body so hard to hit the sub-6:10 pace and passing out.

Mile 11--6:18
Mile 12-- 6:23
Mile 13--6:21

Many times throughout this run, I had to remind myself that this was a simulation and to not get caught up in the moment and race. I was pretty proud of myself for being able to do that as it required patience and maturity, something I used to rarely use in my racing in the past.

I ended up finishing as the 3rd overall female. I quickly chatted with the 4th place female before going on a 4-mile at 7-7:15 pace cooldown. Coach Dave was spot on when he said last week that I'm super aerobically fit: the cooldown felt like I was going SO slow, yet 7min miles clicked by effortlessly.

Overall, I am really happy with this performance for a few reasons:

1) Pre-race and during race nutrition was executed perfectly
2) No calf or hamstring cramping or pain
3) I used patience and maturity in knowing when to pull back with the heat/humidity
4) No post-workout soreness: this means 21 miles caused no lasting effects!
5) I stayed confident in myself and the plan, trusted the training
6) The race showed that if similar conditions exist on race day (80+, hot and humid and windy), I can still be around 2:45, which is a significant PR and something that I would totally accept!

....and as a bonus, I called Ryan's dad as soon as I finished to hear that he was closing in on the leader (who had a 3.5 minute lead on him going into the run). Then I saw a former study hall student who gave me a hug after finding out how I did. And then Ryan's dad called back to say he won after catching the leader at mile 5. Pretty freaking impressive if you ask me.

Thank you for all of the support and encouragement, especially from those who responded to my Soldier Field write-up. To hear such kind words after what felt like such a horrible day really made me stay motivated and believe in myself. With just over two weeks until Grandma's, I am becoming more excited about this opportunity that I am very lucky to have!

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