(There really is a race report in here if you read long enough)
The last few weeks I’ve been reminded as to what bravery looks like. And it’s not the usual images we imagine of people performing great feats of strength and bounding over buildings in a single leap. It’s people getting out of their comfort zones and sharing the deep and scary stuff–the things that we believe no one else in the world can truly understand, and if anyone else ever knew, they couldn’t possibly love us if they found out. But those people stand strong and share their truth, and that’s brave.
I share a lot of things. There are many things I’m a complete open book about, sometimes to a fault. Yet, there are an equal, if not greater number of things, I play pretty close to the vest that only a fraction of folks that have earned trust in my cold dark heart learn about. It’s a hard thing to open up to people, to be raw and vulnerable, and lay it out there not knowing how someone might respond to our biggest hurts, fears, insecurities, etc. When you find those that listen and love you without judgement–that you can call on without hesitation, and they can call on you–hang on to those people, God brought you those relationships for a reason.
So, about a race…
It all started at 3:30am Saturday morning. I got up to head to a tri club open water swim clinic at Lake Mead (exceptional!) where I got some really great pointers on some things I struggle with in the water, especially on siting with my RX goggles and some siting wonkiness that I run into.
After that I headed into Las Vegas for the day to spend some time with a friend that I finally got to meet face-to-face after well over a decade! Through the miracles of modern technology we “met” prior to entering seminary and were in the same class, just in different territories in the USA–she enjoys a good racecation too and had decided on making her 3rd marathon out here in Vegas, I couldn’t pass up the chance to hang out! I wasn’t up to run a marathon this year, but I told her earlier this year I would do the half marathon race.
Oh, did I fail to mention this race was at midnight? At Area 51?
I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of the entire 13.1, because, boy, it was U-G-L-Y. I’m not exaggerating. Results-wise this was absolutely my worst race ever. However, I’m extremely proud of this race because I didn’t quit. I had several opportunities to quit, but I didn’t–I crossed that finish line with 13.1 miles under my feet that were physically and mentally finished.
How can I be proud of something that was so completely awful? Because of everything that I overcame. Let’s break it down:
- By the time the race started, I had been awake for almost 24 hours (except for an hour nap). I had gotten a pretty decent swim at the swim clinic, and had been out and about a bit in the sun through the day hanging out. This had been calculated–I had weighed it out with my coach on the pros and cons of doing the clinic knowing the race timing, and we were curious of my body’s reaction of putting race stress on it sleep deprived to get some working knowledge for going forward into the future (we have a lot of knowledge to work with now!)
- I’m used to pre-fueling for races in the morning after sleeping and breakfast, not after a full day of activity. While I had eaten good, filling, full meals and even added some snacks I didn’t count on, it wasn’t enough to put my foot on the start line appropriately. I’ve had running nutrition dialed in for so long, I forgot what it was like to bonk on a run…and it was bad. Like, thought I was fine at the finish line but grabbed a banana and some chips and was stretching while waiting for the bus and started seeing stars kind of bad. Behold the revitalizing power of a coke and a chair.
- I win the award for poor sportsmanship for the evening…I’m so sorry to all my fellow racers. By the end of the first mile, I had to turn my head away from every single person near me and I couldn’t utter a word for fear of puking. I’m not a fan of headlamps and they were mandatory for the race…but the bouncing, moving lights made me beyond nauseous. Since I run just by the glow of my noxgear vest at home (sadly my night vision is better than anything else) in the dark, I took off my headlamp and just shoved it in my pocket. I couldn’t even look or speak to anyone I was so ill from the lights–and that didn’t help my fueling case either. This issue with the lights makes me a little nervous for my future dreams of ultra running as that whole running in the dark thing around people with headlamps will have to get sorted pretty darn quick….but that’s another issue for another day.
- Last week I believe I earned the clutz of the year award. On my short run, I turned my ankle stepping off the asphalt. While it didn’t hurt or swell at the time, it stuck in the back of my mind….and came back to bite me in the rear early in the race with a throbbing/stabbing pain with every single step that continued to shoot up through my calf and shin as well for extra fun. The same day a pole driver fell off a table on my other foot–it caused a bunch of bruising and pain, but I didn’t think I damaged anything. Then that evening on the same foot I bruised, I dropped the gallon of almond milk I was pulling out of the fridge to make my evening protein drink directly on the top of my foot as well. So, that foot decided to be extra painful with each step after a few miles to make the other one feel less lonely.
- I was wearing a newer pair of shoes that doesn’t have a ton of miles on it and got a blister in a new place that I never have before–on my heel. I’m thinking it wasn’t my shoes or socks though, but rather the bottom of my leggings, as I ran in full leggings and I think they rubbed and there’s a mesh panel at the back/bottom portion of the leg and I haven’t worn them before for this distance. But, I did employ a good technique to push that one out of my mind from something I remembered from Deena Kastor’s book, Let Your Mind Run, that she learned from a coach about blisters, that “it’s just skin,” and it totally made it easy to put out of my mind and forget.
- From said swim, and the earlier swims in the week (I had one angry swim where I just booked it on Thursday morning…It was my best swim yet since valley fever), my neck and shoulders decided to speak their mind. That did zero for my running form, or my attitude.
- I just couldn’t get into the zone. I’ve found for long runs that music isn’t my thing so much, but I just couldn’t handle the audiobook I normally check into for running races this time, so I switched to music, but that wasn’t helping the nausea, so podcasts it was, but that got tedious, so switched to some backup playlists I keep on my phone of church hymn accompaniment tracks in case our pianist is out and that worked until I got to mile 12.8…then it was Eminem’s “Til I Collapse”…because, well, appropriate. I’m dying to see my finish line picture. I’m pretty sure I looked ready to collapse.
- I employed every single mental strength technique that I could recall from every book my coach has had me read over the last several reads. God Bless Coach Bill. They all worked for fleeting moments.
- This was an exercise is let’s see how far outside my comfort zone I could throw myself. It’s summer. In the desert. I ran in just a sports bra. Around other humans. Sure, I’ve done it before in the comfort of my own neighborhood–but that’s running at home before Jesus wakes up that the only people that are out then are the cops patrolling that know I’m the crazy person that’s out before Jesus wakes up and maybe one or two cars. I’m 99% sure the time I spent crying was not over the pain, nausea, or hunger I was experiencing, but rather over my severe self consciousness. I’m amazed I’m alive, but I survived.
- Altitude. Hey, yeah…that whole valley fever thing. I still don’t have 100% lung capacity. I tested at 83% yesterday. Running at altitude was kind of like having a vice around my chest for several hours. I don’t recommend it.
I’m sure there’s more that I’m choosing to blank out, and that’s okay–it’s not about the negatives, it’s about the lessons learned and the end result: I didn’t quit. I don’t want to be the girl that quits. The weekend prior, I had a crappy bike ride with a friend…more than just a training ride, it was nice to to get out and blow off some steam. However, I failed to mention some important facts about my physical state that day, and again, probably could’ve/should’ve quit because when I got into trouble, I couldn’t find the words to describe what I was feeling was wrong with me. No good. I know better than to do stupid crap, but I’m tired of falling short–and I feel like that’s all I’ve done in so many things this year across every arena. I need some wins. I want to keep pushing. I want to be brave.