A funny thing happened on the way to the Eugene Half Marathon. I wasn’t going to run it, but then I did. And I crushed it (I now use this term for everything, thanks Gary V). What I mean is, I trained for it, had a race-day plan, paced it perfectly, did everything right from fueling to negative splits to picking off people in the last mile, saving a kick and PRed my half time by 11 minutes. This sounds like I did a lot of plotting and planning, tracking and racking my brain to make sure all workouts were nailed and all systems were go. Nope. I’ve decided my new strategy to have a successful race day is to ignore it for months before hand, then sneak up on the race and pounce.
Here’s how it went
Because I was going to have a booth at the Eugene Marathon Fitness Expo with the Run Momma Run goodies on race weekend, I figured I’d be too pooped to run after spending 2 days on my feet. I was so jazzed from talking to RMR fans, meeting so many runner mommas, race directors and other cool vendors while listening to race-day buzz, I couldn’t NOT run. (Ok, I couldn’t run the full, I was indeed a bit too pooped for that, but the half sounded like a blast!) Excitement? Check.
But what about training? My kick-butt training partner, Leah, and I ran together for all her training runs in preparation for her stellar 19 minute PR at the full. Soooo, I had plenty of miles in. (I even topped off our final long run of 23 miles with an extra 3.2 and ran my own marathon 2 weeks before.) Training? Check.
Ok, so what about a race day plan? No sweat. I whipped one up in a couple minutes. I’ve always wanted to run a half under two. With my 6-year-old math genius to help me, I figured that was a 9:06 pace. Reality? Nobody runs the exact pace without a hitch. There was the crowded start to think about, the first mile or two in which I HAVE to take it easy or I never figure out my breathing and, thirdly, the mile-long hill from Amazon to Agate up 19th street that was going to slow me down.
- I decided to give myself the first mile as a gift… keep it slow, don’t look at your Garmin, enjoy the buzz.
- Mile two, get on pace.
- Stay on pace or faster until the hill at mile 8.
- Give yourself a break on the mile-long hill. Don’t look at your watch, keep a smile on your face.
- Get back on pace until mile 10-11
- Give it all you have and pick people off till the finish.
- Mile 12 – kick
- Mile 13 – repeat to self, “Smile for the camera, turn off the Garmin. Smile, Garmin, smile, Garmin”
Race day mini-plan? Check. Now all I had to do was lace up and go run it. Because I live less than a mile from Hayward Field, I walked down to the start. Two blocks into the walk, people started coming out of their houses and joining ranks on the sidewalks, all heading in the same direction. Suddenly, the morning became a si-fi movie where aliens take over your brain and you walk, dazed, en masse to a spaceship. Was everyone within a 1 mile radius running that day? Cool. With only 10 minutes to spare, I crammed in at the 9:00 pace sign and waited until sufficiently squeezed by the pressing aliens. Then the gun went off.
Here’s what I learned
To say I executed my plan perfectly would be wrong. I did better than that. I ran faster than I wanted, even up the 1 mile hill, and subtracted an additional 3 minutes off of my 8 minute PR goal. But why did I have such a great race day? So many of my race days have been plagued by nagging injury, illness, screwed up fueling, uneven pacing, shot nerves or all of the above. What I did differently that I will try and do again…
- I didn’t go nutso with numbers. Because I wasn’t training, technically (I kept up my distance, did speed work, hills, trails, etc.), but I didn’t beat myself up if I needed a break, shifted workouts or replaced a specific workout with a different one.
- I listened to my body. When it said chill out, I chilled out.
- I made a realistic race day goal based on the fitness level I had on that day. Many times I’ve tried to stick to a goal even though I was nursing an injury or was sick or there was some crisis that had kept me up the night before.
- I had fun! Sure, I have had fun at other events, but I made it a TOP priority on this day. Smiling up that hill was actually easy to do cuz I was feeling it.
Next up is a 50K trail run. It sounds daunting to me. Maybe I’ll just pretend I’m not registered and do what I can till July 9, then sneak up on that trail and pounce!
Question for you… Stress can be a great motivator or a saboteur. How do you keep stress from derailing your race day?