Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Austin 3M Half Marathon-Where the Body and Mind Split

     Pretty much up until my legs touched down on the start line I was lying to myself about making this a competitive race.  Most of my races are run for fun but every now and then I like to see what I can do.  I can't do much.  I'm not a great runner and with the endometriosis and hypothyroidism how I feel is somewhat unpredictable.  That doesn't mean that I let myself off the hook or that my goal isn't important or just as hard won.

    It started out with an expo and a chiropractor there poking at the swelling in my hip that has been there for over a year and saying "Does it hurt?"
"No, it doesn't bother me much."
"Yeah, you probably have a high pain tolerance because that should hurt."
Super.  He both complimented me making me want to work harder and brought up an injury giving me a valid excuse to take it easy.  I like to take it easy.  It doesn't take much of an excuse to get me to kick back on a course and daisy-pick my way through the race, but it's been a long time since I'd run a half for time instead of enjoyment.  Maybe it was time.   Besides the Austin 3M had a reputation for being a mostly downhill course.  I'll take all the help I can get.

    Race day was chilly.  Jeremiah, Rich and myself arrived way too early so we didn't have to battle over parking.  Turns out there's pretty good parking around the race start but it's always nice to be there and relaxed instead of hurried and harassed.  The boys sat in the car while I did my typical pre-run mile and bathroom trip.  Everything was shaping up nicely.  I ran back to the car and soaked up some heat so I didn't waste unnecessary calories shivering in the cold.

     Finally it was time to line up in the start chute.  That whole process was pretty uneventful and easy.  The boys went to the smoking fast start line and I debated between the 2 hour and 1:55 pace group.  I've never run a sub 2 hour half.  I think the best I've ever run was a 2:05ish.  I know should know that but I don't.  I just know it was over 2 and that I've always wanted to break 2.  I settled for somewhere in-between the two, still not fully committed to pushing myself through this run.

    Bam!  We're off!  Somehow I found myself trailing the 2 hour pace group.  How did this happen?  My breathing is ragged and my heart is pounding!  Legs, are you still under me?  The course has changed from what I understand and I don't know all of the changes.  It continues to be a net effect of downhill but the course actually starts uphill.  Uphill? Okay, I can still do this.  I like uphill.  If the net effect is downhill how bad can it be? Bad.  It turns out that it's bad when your mind is not in agreement with what your body is willing to do.  The 2 hour pacer was suddenly well ahead of me and I was losing ground.  As much as I like to daisy-pick I do not like to lose ground.

    I started the self-assessment.  Do my legs hurt? No, no they're fine.  Am I working too hard?  Well my breathing is ragged and my heart rate is fast but it's not so fast I can't sustain the pace.   Are you standing tall like Scott Meyer told you to do?  Well he didn't actually tell me to do it.  He just said in passing conversation one day "I don't know how people can run when there all bent over and sitting down like that."
"Yeah, yeah me neither," looking around like I would never do that.  Well I would and sometimes I do.  Especially when I get tired and it actually just makes me more tired, but not this time.  I was standing up straight as an arrow.  Go me!  So what was the problem?  My mind.  My mind was the problem.  My mind hadn't accepting that was going to happen.  It was still hanging out back in that warm car thinking about pancakes.  Tough biscuits, mind.  We're doing this!

    I looked down at my watch and saw that I was 1.5 miles into the race.   Alright, no need to panic.  Sometimes it takes a good 2 miles for my body and brain to sync over this running thing.  Mile 2 found me gaining on the 2 hour pacer.  Are you really gaining on him?  Oh, he looks like a good runner.   You should slow down.  In that moment I reassessed, found out I was fine and decided to ignore my mind.  What does it know?  It still wanted pancakes and now a foot massage.  I caught the pacer and passed him.  Did I celebrate that I was running past someone that could clearly wipe the floor with me in a race?  Of course!  I may never have this chance to run past him again!

     Still physically feeling good but mentally fighting every step, I stripped off my gloves at mile 4 or so and dropped my water bottle.  I run with a water bottle filled with Powerade because liquid calories and I agree in a race.  If I have them I can pace them out instead of gulping them at a water station.  Ah fudge!  I have to go back and get it because it's my favorite bottle but darn I may not have the willpower to make my mind run again.  Oh well, I'll do what I have to do.  I ran back and quickly scooped up my bottle.  Luckily, it hadn't caused any issue or been kicked around on the course.

     One mile led to another and the feeling that my mind and body were not in sync never changed.  I just kept running and reassessing.  There was quite a bit of uphill on that downhill course.  I enjoyed it though.  What's race without a challenge?  Around mile 6 it sunk in that I was more likely to PR than not PR.  I decided at that point I was sticking with it even if my body decided to join my mind for pancakes.

     I'll spare you the details about the course other than to say the longest climb came somewhere around mile 9 and it made me wonder what more was to come.  Around mile 10 I knew I was starting to fade.  I was ticking off small increments on a watch I had pretty much ignored most of the race.  10.2, 10.3, 10.4, alright, we're getting closer! That is never a good way to spend the last 5K of a race.  If you want to make a race seem infinitely longer start counting down tenth of a miles.  Still, I wasn't counting down hundredths so there was hope I could hang on to this PR.

     Around mile 11 I started ticking off hundredths.  Oh dear.  My body had decided to join my mind for pancakes.  I had only taken in my 12 ounces of Powerade and not a calorie more.  I knew it was hunger.  My body was caving but my soul wasn't giving in.  I was too close to a PR.  The finish line was creeping into sight. One more uphill, a left turn and a sprint home.   I can do it!  I did.  1:55   Good enough to break 2!

    Inside I was celebrating.  Years of struggle with physical health and I did it!  I couldn't even talk to anyone around me because I was completely inside of myself congratulating me for not crumbling to my mind and later my body.  I stumbled up for water and the photographer yelled out "Get your official picture here," to myself and a couple that had passed him.  No one was in line so we stood to his left.  They took their photo then I waited since a line had formed to his right by this time.  I waited through 7 people then stepped in feeling like it wouldn't be an issue since I had actually waited well beyond my time in line.  As I stepped in a man with a female hustled in, pushing me out with his words "The line is over there!" his face formed into an ugly scowl.  I was caught by surprise and stammered "I know but there was no one in line so I passed the photographer with another group and he yelled out so we stopped here and waited.  I waited for several people and it's well beyond my turn, sir."  Just like that my moment of victory was crushed under his hateful glare.  I said "Forget it," and turned away.  I was working hard to hold back my tears.  I couldn't stand the idea of letting him see me cry.  Rich touched my back as he spotted me and I shrugged him off not realizing it was him in my upset.  I despise crying, much less in front of others, but between the low blood sugar, the physical effort, the highest of highs then the lowest of lows I wasn't controlling the emotion very well.  I sat down and got my hurt feelings under control.  It's a small thing but I included it in this blog for a reason.  You never know what someone has gone through to race.  I spent years of my life sick.  I pushed through life because that's who I am but I struggled.  I've advocated for myself with physicians, even firing one that wouldn't listen and I've trained through times of extreme pain and low energy.  That doesn't make me special.  My point is you just don't know what someone has gone through and on race day we should be celebrating each other.  We should be saying "You first.  You're amazing.  I'm so proud of you, complete stranger."  Not shoving each other around with ugly words and selfishness.  He hasn't stolen my joy but he did mar it.  I'll always have that memory first instead of the one where my husband hugged me and told me he was proud of me.

We quickly loaded up on the bus and were driven back to the race start.  On the bus, someone recognized us as the organizers of the Exygon & Baptist Hospitals Gusher Marathon, SETMA Half Marathon and Kinsel Ford 5K and told us how much they loved the race.  They complimented us on the work we've done.  Once again I smiled inside knowing they were complimenting the whole community and everyone that's been behind this race.  It was almost enough to wipe out my finish line experience.  It felt like divine intervention.  What an emotional roller coaster!  One minute someone is yelling at me and the next, two complete strangers were saying some of the kindest things I've ever heard. I was reminded once again that I don't really do any of it for me.  I do it to be the things I want to see in this world-grit, courage, determination, strength, kindness, connection and pancakes.  Maybe my mind isn't so split from my body after all.


  1. Very proud of you! I had no idea how you struggle at times. You make it look so easy peasy. Thanks for sharing and bring so honest!

    1. I just saw this! Thanks for the kind words. I guess I just feel so lucky to be able to do any of it so I do all of it with a veracious joy.
      You work hard too, Melinda. You're inspiring too.