This morning I ran the Clarksburg 30k out in California’s Delta. To give you a little bit of context I want to tell you about the first time I ran this race 2 years ago. It was only the 2nd time that I’d run more than 16 miles, I totally bonked at the end and ended up walk/running the final five miles. It was absolutely horrendous. I didn’t know anyone at the race and it was totally miserable, alone and sad. It was also the race where I found out that I absolutely cannot tolerate gu or gatorade– so you can imagine how that ended up. Anyway, I’ve always looked back at Clarksburg as the place where I decided to become a good runner. I just knew that I was better than the result I had there.
After an 80 mile week and a 63 mile week plus 4 days of business travel, not a lot of sleep and a weird diet I wasn’t exactly stoked to run this race. I woke up and instantly wanted to go back to bed. In fact, instead of warming up I opted to take a nap in my car. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s a very good way to start a race. I forced myself to run a mile before the race and lined up at the start. I felt bloaty and heavy and just… ugh.
So, I started running and was surprised that I was actually running about 10 seconds/mile faster than marathon pace. I felt ok and started running with a really nice girl who helped the 5 miles go by quickly. But after 5 miles I realized that today was not a day for me to run marathon pace. I was very, very achy and my legs hurt. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was like my quads were cramping and there were small elves with knives inside my glutes and hips.
So I decided to cut my losses and just treat this like a long, easy run with 5 miles of GMP at the front. Not ideal, but CIM is my goal race and this wasn’t worth killing myself. Um, the final 13 miles… they really hurt. A lot. Every one of them. I even stopped to go to the bathroom and to clear a pebble out of my shoe. And I’m not a stopper. In fact, there were a few times where I contemplated quitting. I just felt awful. Each time I saw someone I knew I shouted, “this is a death march!” Cheery, I know. But it’s how I felt. I consoled myself by thinking that it was good practice running while it hurts and that I actually was doing something valuable– becoming mentally tough. Although I felt horrendous, and I can’t overstate how bad I felt, I never stopped running and just kept running the mile I was in. I also completely ignored my garmin because, to be honest, I just didn’t want to know how bad it was!
There were a couple of moments on the course where I flashed back to two years ago– heavier, slower, no clue what I was doing… and felt so grateful for the amount of work and improvement I’ve managed since then. Even on a terrible day where everything hurt and I was exhausted.. I was 2 minutes/mile faster. I finished the race almost 40 minutes faster than last time and more importantly, know how to put it in context. I’m on week 14 of 18 weeks of hard training– of course I feel like crap. I smiled a couple of times when I saw parts of the course I remember feeling absolutely defeated last time because although I hurt, there was no way this race was going to defeat me.
The 30k met up with slower half marathon runners with about 5 miles to go. I decided that since I was running slow I would encourage all the half marathoners. I ran by 2 guys in their 40s who were running slower than me but didn’t look too miserable so I said, “great job gentlemen, keep it up! almost there.” Well, what an ass! It’s not ok to say that to guys, 3 miles from the finish when you’re bouncing by them in spandex. In fact, it’s kind of mean. But I was trying to be nice, promise! They sort of laughed and said, “well you look good…” I’m assuming they meant my running form and excellent stride.
I also found myself wanting to chat this race. I chatted with the girl for the first 5 miles and found a couple of friends along the way. I’m not normally a race-chatter but it was nice. It helped to take my mind off of the pain. It was also a pretty course– I love the Delta. The vineyards are changing colors, there were some cool birds and I love rural California. Since I couldn’t disassociate from the pain like normal I was glad for distractions.
Once the race finally ended (and I finished with a 9:00 pace– not, not, not very good but whatever, it’s fine) I got a Saucony shirt from the booth since I raced in Sauconys and hung out with my coach JackAlberto (who rocked the 30k at a 5:28 pace) and his wife. He was really encouraging and reminded me to chill out a little. I ended up with 19.6 miles on the day which is good.
And so, although my time doesn’t reflect progress, here are some things I’ve learned from this race:
1. Although it wasn’t my day I have made tremendous strides in two years. In context, today’s time is good.
2. I can run when it hurts and I don’t enjoy it.
3. I’m burned out and so, so ready to taper. I need some pop back in my legs.
4. Carrying my own water works for me. It’s mildly annoying but it works.
5. Cheering for dudes as you pass them is mean and condescending.
6. One bad race isn’t necessarily indicative of the full picture. Put your race in context with the rest of your life and make sure to consider all the other factors– sleep, food, amount of miles run, etc.
7. It’s just a race.
This week my mileage comes down into the 50s. I’m so excited. No double days or bone-crushing hunger or getting up at 4. Awesome. 4 weeks until CIM. Crazy. In some ways I’m so ready to be done– I can’t wait for running to fit into my life instead of fitting my life into running but on the other hand… I have loved training hard. 28 days!