I drove to Santa Rosa on Friday night to stay with a friend of mine and was pretty nervous about the race. I’d had about of the flu, ran 70 miles last week and didn’t taper at all for the race. But, like I’ve said, I tend to run well on my high mileage weeks so I wasn’t too worried. I enjoyed a relaxing night, a stop at the Nike Outlet and got to bed at a reasonable hour.
I didn’t want to make a big deal over this race because I think I got too worked up prior to Cowtown and I just wanted a long, solid effort run in a really smart way. My training is going well and I felt good, but… I just didn’t want any pressure or expectations.
My alarm went off at 5:15 and I got out the door to meet the girls at the Francis Ford Coppola winery (the start). It was really, really dark so I lost Aron and Katie a couple of times but didn’t stress about it and just got my warmup mile done. I also used a vineyard as a bathroom because waiting in the porta potty lines stresses me out.
Jack told me to run the 1/2 at threshold pace but I knew after being sick that was not happening. So I decided to be an idiot and run the first 2 miles at a little slower than threshold– go out faster than my race pace and hold on. The course was rolling hills the entire way which made it a perfect training run for CIM.
The course turned out to be perfect for me. I always forget (because I live in flat as a pancake Sacramento) that I’m actually kind of a good hill runner– they don’t stress me out and my legs are strong enough that they don’t really fatigue. I fell into a rhythm that felt great– going hard but not dying. I told myself to run hard for an hour and then I’d evaluate and adjust depending on how I felt.
The course was gorgeous– it wound through the dry creek portion of Napa Valley and around the Russian River and was just beautiful. I also really liked that the course was winding– you couldn’t really see what was coming so you couldn’t stress about up or down hills or flats or mile markers– just run.
After an hour my pace started to slow a bit- I’ve never actually had my legs hurt in a race before but they were starting to get tired and to hurt. I took a gu which gave me a little boost and calmly reminded myself that I’ve done a million track workouts where my legs hurt and survived each of them so I needed to stay strong. Miles 8, 9 and 10 were a bit slower than I wanted but I felt ok other than some aching legs. I reminded myself that I can handle aching legs easily as long as my stomach and heart felt ok (and they did) and sucked it up. I looked at my watch at the start of mile 11 and realized that I had a shot to PR but that I’d have to fight for it. I started thinking about my 30k next weekend and how I should save some juice but then I just reminded myself to run the mile I was in and not think ahead. My legs didn’t want to turn over very fast but every time I glanced at my pace I was pleasantly surprised.
I picked up the pace and miles 11, 12 and 13 were actually 3 of my fastest. I turned up the volume for the last .25 and just ran as hard as I could. I finished in 1:50 flat which is about 20 seconds off of my PR. But! To run 20 seconds off of my PR off a 70 mile week, when I had the flu on a somewhat hilly course makes me really, really happy. And I also think this was, hands down, the smartest race I have ever run. I stayed mentally strong the entire race, never once stopped (not even at an aid station), didn’t think about quitting and actually enjoyed racing. I love running but sometimes hate racing. Yesterday I loved racing.
I finished up, got some weird water-like substance they were handing out, slammed a banana as fast as I could (I hate bananas but they are so good after races) and ran 2 cooldown miles with Aron. My legs were tired but I was happy they were tired. That meant I worked hard! So what made this successful?
1. I didn’t put any pressure on myself. I had reasonable expectations, kept my emotions in check and had some fun out there.
2. I carried my own water so my rhythm wouldn’t be screwed up at aid stations and I could avoid all the jostling in there. I don’t like to carry my water but I do like being able to take small sips regularly instead of gulps intermittently. It keeps my stomach chill and allows me to do my thing.
3. I ran my own race. I wanted to run with Katie and Aron but the pace my legs wanted was different than theirs so I held back (btw they both ran great races and are such great girls!) and raced smart. This made a huge difference.
4. I wasn’t a slave to my Garmin. I did a much, much better job listening to my body, adjusting to the course and reminding myself to keep my effort level even. I glanced every 1/2 mile or so but I really did the majority of my running by feel.
5. I constantly reminded myself to stay relaxed and tall, use my core and to run the mile I was in. I didn’t stress over what I couldn’t control but tried to keep my form together and not collapse.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to have run a race without throwing up, feeling awful at the end or having to stop and stretch out a cramp. I am so glad that Aron suggested I run it (thanks girl)– gorgeous course, great race, tons of fun. I’m a bit sore today but it’s not as bad as I expected. My quads are tight and my recovery run was definitely “easy” pace this morning, but I feel good. It’s nothing that won’t go away.
Finally, OK MEB! I am so happy to have an American win the NYC marathon. I’m so inspired by his great run and pumped up to run my marathon soon.