The secret to a successful race is preparation, both training-wise and logistic-wise. In training, you should familiarize yourself with the course. Prepare yourself for any challenges you may face, from hills to bad weather. Know exactly where the water stops are and work them into each of your training runs. Fuel with the same gels or sports drinks you’ll use on race day. Eat the same pre- and post-run meals each time. Wake up at a similar hour. Wear your race outfit (right down to your socks) on a couple runs before your race. Understand exactly what you’re up against, and prepare yourself accordingly.
Since I was treating this race as a training run (replacing the 3 mile pace run I had planned), I didn’t follow all of the advice above. I wore new clothes, didn’t even glance at the course map, ate a new and different meal last night, and didn’t do a single training run prior to this in the rain. Up until last night, none of these factors had me worried. But when the voice in my head started nagging me about all the issues I’d be facing during the race that I hadn’t prepared for, I threw myself into ritual. No matter how the run went, I was going to have a stress-free race morning, giving me time to meditate on my performance and gain confidence in my abilities.
I picked up my packet on the way to dinner last night (always, always do this if possible). When we got home, I fastened my timing chip to my shoe and pinned my bib to my singlet. I set two alarms, one on my alarm clock and one on my phone, since my apartment complex is notorious for losing power any time we have even a miniscule storm. I packed my race bag. I laid out my outfit. I charged my Garmin. I set the coffee maker (which is fixed, by the way!). I hydrated and hopped into bed my 11:15. I was fully and utterly prepared.
My alarm went off at 7 am. I downed my typical short-race breakfast of coffee, water, Ezekial toast with jam (Trader Joe’s apricot preserves, to be exact), and a banana.
Then, I got greasy.
Petroleum jelly, aka poor man’s BodyGlide. I’m fairly prone to blisters, and knowing that I had never dealt with rain before was making me nervous. I slathered this stuff all over my feet and under the lines of my sports bra. I’m happy to say that I ended this race chafe-free!
I was also smart enough to check the metro schedule ahead of time to know exactly when to leave to get to Courthouse with enough time to drop off my bag, pee, and warm-up. I got there around 8:20 for a 9:00 am start. When I got off the train, it was just drizzling, not too bad. I peed, dropped my bag, and went outside to warm-up… to be greeted by a torrential down-pour of rain. I moved my “warm-up” inside Four Courts, which was so crowded that all I was able to do were a few easy stretches.
Of course I had to face the rain at some point. When I went to the starting line, I was seriously regretting keeping my rain jacket in my bag. Within minutes I was soaking wet, cold, and miserable. But then the band started playing and I gave myself an attitude check. I’ve recently dealt with the worst snowstorm DC has ever seen in recorded history. I scoff at rain. Bring it on, bitch!
The gun went off and I kicked my butt into gear. The first 3/4 mile was a considerable down-hill. I flew. I finished the first mile in under 8 minutes. I was on top of the world!
…Until I realized that the course is out and back, meaning that the last 3/4 mile would be all uphill. Crap. I slowed down to a 9 min/mile pace, which is what I should have been running all along. Training run, Suz, training run! Use your head, girl. I stopped racing and just let myself have fun. I was bummed at first that I couldn’t have my ipod with me because of the rain, but it didn’t seem to matter. I started chatting with people around me. I ran into one of my coworkers, and it was so nice to see a familiar face! I passed mile 3 and started to brace myself for that hill. I hit it and just concentrated on the motion of my body. I leaned forward to give myself momentum. I anticipated having to slow down… but I didn’t have to. All of a sudden the finish line was right ahead of me, and I easily picked up my pace. I finished this race feeling energetic and proud. Garmin stats:
- Distance: 4.15 mi (I need to stop weaving in and out of people so much during races! It adds a considerable distance to the run.)
- Elapsed Time: 36:05
- Avg Pace: 8.41/mi
- Calories: 423
- Ascent/Descent: 1039 ft/1040 ft
After the race I grabbed an unpictured Fruit and Nut Trail Mix bar, since it seemed like the only thing available with any protein, and a banana, which I didn’t eat but am saving for later. Pacers puts on a great post-race party, and I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t drink. Since Lent began, it was actually the first time I really missed alcohol. I wanted to celebrate with everyone else! But, I have plenty of time for that later. I’m over halfway through Lent and I can’t give up now!
This is after I got home from the race, soaking wet but feeling great! Up until today, I had been dreading this race like no one’s business. I didn’t want to run in the rain, and I was sad that I wouldn’t have a friend to run it with me. I’m so happy that I showed up and did my best. I ran a strong and smart race today. I resisted the urge to push myself too hard and race, but all the hard work I’ve put into my training lately has really paid off. This race got me excited to run again, and reminded me why I fell in love with this sport in the first place. It’s not just about winning. It’s about embracing all that you are capable of and the comradarie with other runners. This sport isn’t about being thin, it’s about realizing the power you have to accomplish the unthinkable, no matter what your shape or size. Today I passed muscular men, and was passed by older, overweight women. Running really throws all standards of judgement out the window.
What a morning. I’m still running on adrenaline. I just realized that it’s too late for me to make it to the Farmer’s Market today. I’m gonna catch up on some Food Network and head to TJ’s. Thanks for sharing in my experience, today. Next time you’re feeling down on yourself, hit the pavement. You’ll be amazed at what a good run can do.
Edited to Add: My official time was 36:04, finishing 463 out of 1,215!