Short Story: 1:22:25 for 24th place.
First, apologies for a bit of a bummer post. To me, it’s more valuable to be honest about disappointments than gloss over them. As another runner said to me in the Elite Tent yesterday, we often learn more from our failures than our great moments.
Second, it’s always a little touchy to complain about a time that many people would love to run, so please know that it’s not my intent to be ungrateful for the time, it’s just that it is far below what I expected for myself given my training and fitness.
I’ll get to the positives at the end, but unfortunately, this race was one of those where you just never feel good. I slept relatively well on Saturday night, waking up just twice at midnight and at 4 am. When the alarm went off at 5, I felt rested and ready. In hindsight, perhaps I was TOO calm. I ate my bagel and sunbutter and drank a cup of coffee while I put contacts in and got dressed. I left the hotel by 5:30 and walked to the start. It was oddly warm out but the wind was already blowing pretty well. I tried to stay positive and hoped that it would mellow with the sunrise. Security was relatively seamless and I got to the Elite Tent a little after 6. Headed out to jog at 6:15 and felt okay, but not great. Striders, however, felt totally fine so I figured things would snap together.
At 6:50, they asked us to walk from the elite tent to the start so we did. The wind was blowing and it was much cooler without warmups on. 7 o’clock clicked by with no wheel start. Then 7:05. Then 7:10. Finally at 7:13, they sent the wheels and at 7:15, we were off. Needless to say, any benefit of a warmup was gone and I was happy to just not trip over the starting line. From mile 1, I felt clunky and stiff. I tried to stay calm and hoped I would warm up. I went through the mile at 6:10, a little slower than I hoped, but not an insurmountable deficit.
By the time we reached mile 3, however, it was pretty clear that it wasn’t going to be a banner day. The wind was very strong at times, from seemingly all directions, and it was hard to find or hold a pace. Beyond this, my legs just felt punky. I found myself counting the miles very early which is never a good sign. I didn’t feel like I had gone out too fast, I just couldn’t move my legs. At mile 6, I saw my girls (more on that later!!) and had a few moments of feeling good so tried to capitalize on the moment. In fact, I went through the 10K in 38:24, which is a small 10K PR. By mile 7, however, the wheels were off. The 2:43 pace group for the full went by me, I had a shitty water stop (my fault, I didn’t really need it but thought maybe a gel would help) and I was flailing through the hills. Of note, I don’t think the pace group was running the right pace and I’m pretty certain they lost everyone by the end. When I ran Philly in 2012, I barely remember any hills. Today, it felt like mile 7.5 to mile 9.5 was ALL hills. I saw Erin just before 8 and gave her a thumbs down. At that point, I was just hoping for a PR.
The good news is, I never really crashed, I just couldn’t pick it up at all. I never needed to use one of my faster breathing patterns because I couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough. Even at mile 12 when I KNEW I needed to push, I just kept plodding along. When I rounded the corner and saw 1:22, it was all I could do to not burst into tears. I crossed the finish line and made my way back to the Elite Tent, just stunned at how badly things had gone. I think I would have liked to have cried, just to get some of the hurt out, but I honestly felt too shocked to do so.
The run didn’t feel like much more than a workout, so there may be hope to use the fitness for another race soon. I can’t discount the effect of the wind either; at race time, it was a steady 15 miles per hour with gusts up to 25 miles per hour. Even a modest adjustment for a 5 mph headwind predicts a 1:18 without wind. This is very, very, VERY little solace but at least I feel like it wasn’t all on me. The start delay didn’t help me at all either. Looking back, I wish I’d decided to run the first two miles much slower to warm back up. Ultimately, I don’t think it would have cost me a lot of time and I might have actually been able to make some gear changes.
On the great side, my girls team came down to Philly to surprise me. I was sitting in my hotel on Saturday (in my robe, having just showered) when the front desk called to see if I would take a package. I didn’t know who would send me something but thought maybe Will sent flowers. Imagine my surprise when I opened my door to see my girls!! They had been planning it all season and I had NO idea. They came equipped with giant pictures of me, tinsel and all their screaming voices. I will never, ever be able to articulate how amazing that gesture was but they saved the weekend for me. It would have been very easy to mope for the rest of Sunday but having them there made me realize I have to practice what I always preach to them about moving on from rough races.
It’s similarly hard to articulate what I’m feeling right now. Devastated, heartbroken and humiliated all come to mind. I know that one race doesn’t define anyone but I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to give it my all again. That’s the risk with taking a big chance! You might not get the result you want and when you put it out there and are vulnerable, failure stings that much more. As my sister said when I was pathetically texting her, it’s just going to be raw for a few days. And as the much more brilliant Lindsey said, some days you just don’t have the magic.
For the next week or so, I’ll just take it easy, run when I want and try to figure out what went wrong, what I can do to salvage the cycle and where I want to go from here. If anyone knows a great December half marathon, I’m all ears!