Tuesday, March 18, 2014

South Carolina 24 Hour: Sometimes it Just Isn't Your Day

Well.  This is difficult for me to write, as I'm still really emotional about the race.  I got off plan within a few hours, and my race was pretty much shot at that point.  The first couple of hours felt great- I was running well and racking up the miles.  But after about 3 hours (1 pm) it started getting hot.  Very hot.  I'm guessing high 70s, which combined with bright sun on a blacktop track started doing a number on me.  First I got a stitch in my side that wouldn't go away.  I kept running but it was painful.  Then the pain moved higher up, just under my left ribcage, and I could feel the pulsation of my heart which really freaked me out and made it difficult to breathe deeply.  Kelley Wells and Joe Fejes were there to help, and gave me a wet towel and helped calm me down.  So that crisis was averted, but then things got worse...

I ate a piece of bacon and sweet potato at around 2 hours in, but that was the last solid food I could keep down for a very long time.  I lost my appetite and could only take in ginger ale and slushee.  At first I was able to keep going, but before long the lack of calories started catching up to me.  I kept walking but I just couldn't get running again.  I knew I had lost my chance at the team so I was really emotional...I kept crying and apologizing to everyone for letting them down.  I talked to Alec and Ray K and decided to at least give it until dark to see if I could pull it together a bit once it was cooler.  At about 9-10 hours in the sun went down and I did start running again.  But as I still wasn't eating I could only keep that up for about an hour.  At 11 hours in I was only at around 50 miles- I was supposed to be at 70!  I came very close to leaving, but at Ray's suggestion I decided to lay down for a little over an hour, then try to eat and run again- at least that way I might get a 2nd "training run" in in the morning, avoiding the experience being a total waste.

I laid down from 11 hours in until 12.5 hours in, then attempted to eat a chik-fil-a sandwich...and suddenly I could!  It was almost miraculous.  I put on some warmer clothes and headed back out for the last 11.5 hours.  I continued to run at close to a 5mph pace the rest of the race, which made it the fastest "back half" of a 24 hour I've done yet.  I managed to keep my emotions at bay while running, just trying to enjoy a strong 2nd half and think of it as a "100 mile training run" as opposed to a disappointing race.  I tried to concentrate on the positives.  I got to meet and talk to some amazing runners, and see incredible performances- new 200k records for male and female, plus 2 women and one man made the national team.  Although I was disappointed in my own performance, those runners were a joy to watch and they deserved all the accolades!

When all was said and done I ran about 52.5 miles in the first 11 hours, and 56 miles in the last 11.5 hours, with a total of 108.819 miles.  I am trying not to be too hard on myself, as I am still learning this whole 24-hour thing, and I am at least proud of myself for coming back strong in the 2nd half.  I know even the best runners have a bad race, but it's hard knowing that if I had been able to run my first half like I did at Delirium I would be on the team right now.  I also can't help wondering if I had tried laying down earlier in the race, whether I would have had time to come back and salvage my performance...but there's no way to know.  In any case I learned something that could be valuable in the future, and I proved to myself I can finish a race strongly, running consistently even in the last hours.  That was my "attainable" goal going in, so at least I made one of my 3 goals!

I know my endocrine system is highly screwy right now thanks to running for 24 hours, so I'm very up and down emotionally.  Intellectually I know I have a few chances this year to make the 2015 team, and as I'm still young and new to running I'll have many more chances after that as well...but I'm really paranoid that I lost out on my best chance.  What if next time I would need 133 miles to make the team instead of 123?  What if I never improve enough to get to that level?  I know I'm being silly, that my training has been haphazard and with good coaching I have a lot of potential to improve.  But it's one thing to know something in your head and another to believe it in your heart.  All I can do right now is remind myself that it's my screwy hormones making me feel this way, not reality.  And once my body recovers my number one priority is training to make the 24 hour team in 2015- I am far too stubborn to give up on my dream after one disappointment!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pre-Race Jitters

Oops, I haven't posted since my Delirium recap!  It's been crazy over the last few weeks with schoolwork, but I expect things to ease up a little now.  Two weeks after Delirium I raced a local 5k, which didn't go too well.  I went out faster than I'm used to only to be forced to stop and stretch when my calves cramped up.  I ended up with a time of 22:43, although I know I should be capable of a much faster time.  Once again, proof that I need to focus more on speed!

This weekend is the South Carolina 24H track race, and I am more nervous than I've ever been before race day.  The race is certified, and intended to be a last chance qualifier for the national team.  So although I'm one of only about 20 competitors, the quality of runner is incredible.  One woman has already qualified for the team, and the rest are all capable of it on a good day.  I looked them all up when I saw the entrants list, which may have been a mistake, since I'm so intimidated...then again, I always prefer to be prepared.  As far as the men go, they're not my competition but it's still crazy to think I'll be running in the same race as the US 100-mile record holder!

Basically, I look at the list of women with myself included and think, "one of these things is not like the others".  I don't feel as if I belong with runners of that caliber, although I'm trying to become more confident in my abilities.  As always, I'm trying to just focus on my own race strategy and not worry about the other runners.  It's also important to keep reminding myself that this race isn't my last opportunity.  I will be running as many as 3 more certified 24-hour races in 2014, so if nothing else I hope to learn from this weekend in order to improve in future races!  

I've heard it's smart to go into a race with 3 goals: one that is attainable no matter what, one that is challenging but quite possible, and one that reaches for the stars.  So my goals for this weekend are: 1- reduce walking time and continue running, at least in short bursts, even at the final hours of the race. 2- cover 120+ miles to reach women's qualifying standard. and 3- beat enough of the women to be selected for the national team...since goal 3 depends on the performances of others and isn't within my control, I will add: or cover 125+ miles (which, on current results, would be sufficient to make the team).  So, good, better, and best- I'll see in just a few days which of these goals will be met!  And I'll keep reminding myself there's always a next time...