I’m writing this from my hotel room bed, where I have been laying/sitting for approximately 5 hours – rotating between answering emails, eating snacks, accidentally dozing off and consistently cursing when I need to get up to go to the bathroom because I have never felt post-race soreness like I am currently experiencing.
What a run-on sentence. What a race.
Let’s back track.
To February of this year, when my friends and I ran 10 miles from Manhattan to Brooklyn because I really wanted to run with the Mikkeller Run Club. People who like craft beer and running are kind of my people. It was a great, sunny day in February and we had a really good time. My IT band was super tight by the end, but I successfully ran my longest run since last October’s half Ironman and I was stoked.
After that long run, I started running consistent “long” runs every Saturday or Sunday in preparation for Aprils’ Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington D.C.
They were going well. I was feeling good. And that led me to start thinking, “maybe I can run a PR in DC.” And I did! It was my first race PR in 4 years and I was over the moon. Granted, it was a very doable PR seeing as I had only run one or two other 10 milers.
But after that PR, a flip was switched – I let myself start seeing myself as a runner again. A runner who can’t run high mileage, but a runner who could compete with herself again. A runner who could stop comparing herself to who she was 4 years ago and feel strong and content with how she was running right now.
But I’m also a runner who has had a fair share of injuries and setbacks and has lost a lot of money signing up for races that I couldn’t end up racing.
I’m also a runner who, in the past, has put it all out there – Instagram posts on the daily with my splits and goals and race sign-ups. And that has always pushed me and kept me motivated and held me accountable.
But for whatever reason, this time I didn’t want that added pressure. I couldn’t have handled the disappointment if the race didn’t happen and my body didn’t hold up and get me to the starting line.
So I kept the Buffalo Half Marathon page opened on a tab on my laptop for a solid 7 weeks. I continued to run long (6-10 miles) on Sundays (I became a Sunday long run person, it’s still weird…) with one, maybe two short mid-week runs thrown in.
My runs between the Cherry Blossom race and the half marathon looked like this:
April 14 – 8.5 Miles
April 16 – 3.5 Miles
April 18 – 6 Miles
April 25 – 3 Miles
April 27 – 10 Miles
May 6 – 10 Miles
May 12 – 6 Miles
May 15 – 6 Miles
May 18 – 3 Miles
May 22 – 5 Miles
That’s it. 7 weeks. 61 miles. 10 runs.
And a LOT of F45 circuit training (16 sessions to be exact).
I went to Michigan, Las Vegas, Long Island, Idaho and Stockholm in those 7 weeks.
And I was surprised to find that I was feeling like this half marathon was totally doable. That it was going to happen.
I didn’t sign up until the day registration closed, which was Monday, May 20 – 6 days before the race. Clicking the confirm button felt so exciting and scary. Exciting because I was pumped to run 13.1 miles for the first time since the 2015 Brooklyn Half Marathon and scary because I knew I wanted to not only run it but to race it.
I thought this was how it was going to go down –
· Race the Buffalo Half Marathon
· Finish around 1:45
· Feel really really happy that I was soo close to my 2015 half marathon shape
· Get hungry for a half marathon PR
· Train harder for another half marathon
But, I’ve learned that the next start line isn’t guaranteed. Why wait until after the Buffalo half marathon to get hungry for a PR? If I knew that was the end goal, why not just go big right now while I’m feeling strong?
On Friday I played around on Excel with paces and tried to map out a realistic plan to a PR. And it seemed like a stretch. I wanted to be realistic and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. I like giving myself some leeway at the start, and the chance to relax into a fast pace. But in order to run under a 1:40:34 (my 2015 PR) I would pretty much have to start with a pace under 8:00. And that was really, ridiculously scary to me.
Despite it being a holiday weekend, the airport was empty and my trip to Buffalo was incredibly easy. I had my normal breakfast of yogurt, banana and granola and wore my CEP compression socks on the flight. We took off on time and landed early. The reason I had picked the Buffalo half marathon wasn’t because of the course or anything – it was because I had to be in Buffalo for the week for work regardless. So why not? Right?
As I walked over to the expo I got a salad from my favorite place in Buffalo – The Healthy Scratch. I had a salad with spinach, pesto, poached egg, avocado, quinoa and cherry tomatoes. Perfectly balanced meal.
The Expo had a solid number of vendors and was pretty empty – I waited behind one person to get my bib.
I bought myself some Sport Shield because I am a BIG convert. We tried it at the Cherry Blossom expo and I used it for the race and it’s AWESOME. I like it a lot better than Body Glide – it’s more slick than sticky and I can confirm that there was zero chafing during both the 10 miler and the half marathon. Plus – the regular vs “for her” version ACTUALLY has different ingredients (added aloe and shea butter I believe). Next time, I need to remember to put some on my feet though because I’ve got some gnarly blisters.
At the expo I also picked up my first pair of Goodr sunglasses – which I’ve been eyeing for a while. I got the Nessy’s Midnight Orgy and I love them! Race day was really gloomy, so I didn’t need to wear them, but excited to see what they’re like on the run.
I also got myself some RX nut butter and protein bar samples because I <3 RX.
AND picked myself up some Picky Bars and wowow the Chai and Catch Me was amazing!
Plus, the race shirt was a long sleeve hoodie and it’s pretty legit. The race itself was pretty expensive at $120 + fees (though I did register at the highest price point since I waited until the last day) but the shirts and medals made it seem worth it.
On the way out, I stopped by the table that said, “Ask about pacers” and asked about pacers. When I found out they had pacers for the half, including a 1:40 pacer – my mind started up again on the PR train.
HOW MY BODY WAS FEELING
Sore. Last week was my first week back at F45 in a couple of weeks, and while I only went to class two days (Tuesday and Thursday for strength sessions) I was definitely feeling it. Then again, the day before a race, I usually convince myself that everything hurts, my legs are broken, etc. etc.
While I almost always have Greek food the night before a race, I was feeling like I wanted to go to dinner with coworkers instead of ordering take out and sitting around feeling nervous alone in my room.
So, after some rolling around on a lacrosse ball, I joined them at the hotel restaurant and got some eggplant dip with naan (basically Mediterranean) and a giant Turkey BLAT. I ate every last bite and felt slightly ill but sufficiently carbed up.
I got ready for bed which included snapping a picture of my bib and outfit for the morning – finally announcing to the important world of social media that I was running a half the next morning. I slept fine – yay for comfortable hotel beds! Obviously wore my CW-X compression tights to bed.
I woke up at around 5:15 and had some coffee that I had made the night before and put in the hotel room fridge. Hot coffee would have been much better at getting me to…ya know, but the lounge wasn’t open yet.
I had packed my own multigrain bread, RX nut butter packet and banana and used the coffee stirrer as a knife to make myself a little PB banana sandwich – the real reason I wake up to run races.
Got dressed -
Adidas Sports Bra
Lululemon Muscle Tank
Old Navy Shorts
Remembered to take my ring off - nothing worse than swelling fingers during a race when you’re wearing a ring
November Project buff
Slathered on some Sport Shield, did a grand total of 15 glute bridges and decided it was warm enough to not wear a throw away long sleeve.
I wore my Spibelt for the race – hotel room key, debit card, phone and headphones and tucked my gel into my shorts pocket (it worked surprisingly well and didn’t irritate me at all while running).
I jogged the .8ish miles to the start line, did some A steps, hip openers, high knees, butt kicks and some strides and hopped in the porto potty line. Somewhat of a success, but at this point my stomach was filled with a LOT of butterflies.
I don’t remember ever feeling so nervous at a start line.
The 1:40 pacer wasn’t there yet, so I stood just ahead of the 1:45 pacer and eventually, 1:40 showed up. I was really going to try this. And I knew it was really going to hurt. But I also knew that at the end of the day I would be happy I was back out running a half marathon and would be disappointed if I didn’t try.
I started to tear up BEFORE the race started. I closed my eyes and imagined myself ringing the PR bell after crossing the finish line. It sounds cheesy, but I think I knew that a big part of this was going to be mentally willing myself to a PR. So doing some classic visualization seemed like it could help.
The last thing I said to myself before the start was: “is everyone in Buffalo cool with fireworks going off at 6:30 am on a Sunday?”
And then I also made sure to tell myself my favorite mantra, “You can do hard things.”
The race is a blur, I’m not going to lie. My race recaps are usually garbage because I swear I black out.
Mile 1 – 7:30
A lot of weaving, a lot of trying to keep the pacer in sight. Things opened up fairly quickly though. This is technically a “hill” – but it was really a slight incline. Compared to Central Park, it felt flat.
Mile 2 – 7:22
Uhhh, fast. Scary fast. Getting in my head, “this is in no way sustainable.” I also remember thinking, “Damn, my shoulders really hurt from Moon Hopper at F45 this week, maybe that will distract me from my legs hurting!”
Mile 3 – 7:27
This is still so fast! I already really want to slow down! I tried looking around and enjoying the view. But it was really foggy out and I was too in the zone to notice much of anything going on around me.
Mile 4 – 7:36
My mantra throughout the race actually didn’t end up being “You can do hard things.” It was “Run the mile you’re in.” I couldn’t get my head around 13 miles at this pace. But “one more mile here” I could swallow.
Mile 5- 7:40
Miles 1 – 5 felt hard. Too hard. I started telling myself that it probably wasn’t going to happen. I felt like I was going at an all out effort from the first step and I’ve never really raced that hard from the get go before.
It felt a little reckless and dumb and scary.
Mile 6 – 7:32
But then mile 6 hit and mile 6 is always when I find my groove. This race was no different. At mile 6, any negative doubts went away (momentarily) and instead I started saying - this is possible.
Mile 7 – 7:39
At this point we started sticking to the actual pace of 7:38 required to run a 1:40 - but we had given ourselves about a :30 cushion. While I hated this strategy in the beginning, I also trusted our pacer and told myself the back half was my half. I had hung on through the pain of miles 1-6 and I could hang on for 7 more.
Mile 8 – 7:41
Just a note that I was good throughout the race about drinking water. Its always hard kicking things back up after the inevitable pace slow down of a water station, but I knew I needed to do it and having the pacer as a point of reference for where I needed to be was such a huge help.
I had put off taking my gel up until this point because my stomach didn’t feel 100% and I had visions of eating the gel and immediately needing a portopotty.
But I also knew that I needed the energy boost at this point, so I sucked it up and slowwwwwly over the course of mile 8 had my gel.
Cliff Double Expresso is always my go-to!
Mile 9 – 7:36
Wish I could tell you more about the course – I know at some point the pot holes got pretty bad. And I also recognized where we were running from some previous Buffalo runs. It was weird – at certain points I remembered exactly which Ali on the Run podcast episode I was listening to the last time I was in town!
Mile 10 – 7:40
I kept catching myself thinking ahead to the moment I PR’d or crossed the finish line and had to keep dragging myself back and reminding myself I had to stay in the moment because we were not home free yet. At the same time, every step I believed a little more that it might happen.
Mile 11 – 7:35
At this point a girl joined the group and when she said she was running the full I started realizing there were a bunch of ladies in the group running the full marathon. My jaw dropped – I cannot fathom that pace for 26.2 miles (though that’s pretty much what’s necessary to BQ now!)
Mile 12 – 7:35
I told myself that 11-12 was the hardest mile. Once I got through that, I had it!
Mile 13 – 7:31
Of course, there was a final incline and the last mile felt like it lasted forever. But while my legs felt like they were dying, the rest of me felt like it was flying. I started tearing up, and remembering my first marathon when I woman I passed during the last 3 miles told me, “Don’t run with your legs, run with your heart.”
I honestly feel like that’s what I did this entire race. I don’t even know why I thought I had any business running a PR based on 10 training runs.
Mile .1 – 7:05
The last tenth of a mile we could barely see the finish line through the fog and it was honestly a very scary final straight away because my left quad and left calf took turns spasming and seizing up on and off. I was mentally screaming at my muscles “NOT YET” and I finally understood people who literally crawl across the finish line because if I had gone down in those final moments you better believe I would have been crawling.
Luckily, my legs stayed under me and I even distinctly heard the announcers say my name. Official results was 1:39:41 - 53 seconds faster than my 2015 Brooklyn Half.
As soon as I crossed the finish line my eyes welled up with tears and someone asked if I was OK. All I could do was nod.
I thanked my pacer and asked his name – JASON. I wanted to babble on and on about how much it meant to me and how I never would have even come close to a PR without him but instead I just said thank you again and walked off to get my medal.
I rang the PR bell, signed my name, and headed straight for the massage tent. I had three people massaging my legs at one time – 6 HANDS it was amazing. But I could tell they could see the giant knot bulging out of my calf.
POST RACE PARTY
I headed back into the Convention Center where they had a big spread of food and BEER even though it was 8:15 AM and it definitely would have been a fun place to hang out for awhile had I had friends with me. They had $10 medal engraving which I was tempted to do but, eh. They also had a huuuuuge area set up with foam rollers and looking back, not going there was a big mistake.
I spent some time in the bathroom, because, post race intestinal distress is always an issue for me. Yay.
I cannot believe how sore I am. I am 100% more sore than after either of my marathons and I’m trying not to panic that I hurt something but just tell myself it’s because I’ve never run so hard in my life.
MORAL OF THE STORY
My dad called me and asked, “What made you think you could go out and run that fast?!” To which I responded – I really don’t know. I really don’t think I had any business running with that pace group but I also didn’t know when I’d have the chance again.
I had multiple friends who seemed to think I could PR and at a certain point I had a moment of wondering why I should be the one who didn’t think it was possible if other people had confidence in me.
Looking back at the race, I still think a lot of it was mental. Obviously my body needed to cooperate to make it possible – you can’t wish yourself to a PR – but I do think I mentally willed my body into doing what it needed to it.
And like my previous post explained, I’ve been feeling a little stuck and uninspired. Chasing scary goals shakes out that uninspired feeling like nothing else!
I’m so glad I went for it. I’m so beyond happy that I beat a PR I had assumed would stand forever. And it felt so hard and so at my limit that I think if this is the half marathon PR I die with, I’ll be content with that.
(But…check in with me when the soreness has faded and I might tell you something else…)