I’m still thinking over my 10k race from yesterday, the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. In truth, I actually ran two races yesterday and my race report could go either way. On one hand, I ran a bad race. On the other, it was a good race.
So which race report should I write for you readers? The positive one or the negative one?
I’m going to write both; I feel it would be unfair to myself and to you to do otherwise. I’ve been conflicted about my performance so the most honest thing I can do is share that conflict with you. I hope somehow that writing this and working it out will help resolve that conflict in my own mind.
Start time was 2pm so I had plenty of time in the morning to rest, hydrate, eat and get ready. In fact I actually prefer morning races, it’s nice to get a race over with and get on with the day!
I didn’t do anything unusually different and once it was time I stuck to my usual pre-race routine. I got ready in about 20 minutes then headed out to catch the bus (only to run back home as I’d forgotten my Garmin then dashed for the bus which had just pulled up to the stop. Warm up done!).
I got to the starting area with loads of time to spare so I wandered around, took my usual starting line photo then went to drop my bag off. Unlike previous years, I didn’t run with my phone strapped to my arm so when I got to my starting pen an hour early I had nothing to distract me.
I did enjoy the rain however, and remember feeling quite happy it was raining. I run better in the rain. It was quite the downpour but I would rather that than a hot sunny day!
But, like a sign of things to come, the weather decided to play Jekyll and Hyde. 20 minutes before start time the rain let up and the sun came out. It got hot. Really hot. And so we stood there for 20 minutes and then another 10 minutes more after a technical glitch delayed the start.
In the meantime I got to chatting with two women standing near me, Mairead and Ann. It helped pass the time and it was nice to connect with people.
Soon enough we were able to start, with the sun beating down and the air hot, humid and heavy.
It’s here that I can split my race in the middle, the Jekyll and Hyde of racing.
Mile 1 (12:35)
My coach and I had talked over my strategy the day before the race. I was going to aim for 12:30-12:45 minute miles for the first 4 miles, then kick on and run what I could to finish. So, first mile in and I settled into my paces. Even with the crowds and weaving and dodging I managed to hit my target. But the Dr. Jekyll in me was already hurting with a twinge in my hamstring and a stitch in my side. The Hyde in me knew what to do; say hello to the pain and ask it to dance.
So I carried on and when the mile beeped and I was in my target; I felt pretty good.
Mile 2 (12:50)
Jekyll: I was hating every minute of this run already and felt like a complete and utter failure already. I hadn’t started too fast; I’d started the race exactly the way I’d wanted to. To be slowing down this early was, to me, disgraceful. I felt as though the heat and crowds shouldn’t be an excuse, and to be slowing down so soon meant there was something wrong in the way I was running.
Hyde: I was doing ok though, the stitch had gone and the twinge in my hamstring remained just that, a twinge so I knew it wasn’t going to be a game changer. And I wasn’t THAT far off my target pace, the roads WERE crowded and it WAS hot. Denying it wouldn’t change anything. I didn’t have to weave around too much and for the most part was able to run the line I had chosen to run. I felt this would be an advantage and would benefit me in the end.
Mile 3 (12:53)
Jekyll: I was actually getting a bit angry at this point. If only the rain had held up, if only the weather had switched and it had been sunny before and raining during. How dare the weather wreak havoc like this! Of all the rotten, cotton pickin’ luck. I was so unhappy with myself, and not even half way through the race. I felt like I was letting myself down, letting my coach down, letting down all the people who had wished me luck and believed in me. I was still slowing down and felt unable to pick up the pace. I honestly thought I was better than this.
Hyde: On the other hand I was aware that even slowing down like this I was still running a better race than last year, and I was still guaranteed a PB. As long as I could keep the miles under 13 minutes, I’d run a respectable race. And really, running this race in these conditions was a more challenging test of my fitness than running a race in perfect conditions. I was still doing pretty good and felt that I would be able to hold this pace.
I got to the halfway point, aware that Jekyll and Hyde were both running with me and aware that I was feeling both awful and good about the race so far.
Mile 4 (12:42)
This mile, usually the toughest mile of the race for me, was this year one of the easiest. It’s a long ‘out’ stretch which doubles back on itself to become an ‘in’ stretch. Familiarity breeds familiarity so I knew exactly where I had to go, what I had to run and when I would get to turn and head back into town towards the finish.
There were some uphill sections to contend with so I concentrated on getting through those, breathing my way through the heat, grabbing water at the water station and dumping it over my head before taking a sip and carrying on.
Jekyll was still cursing, Hyde was still thinking it was a decent run.
Seeing a friend marshalling in this section helped quiet the voices, her cheer gave me a great boost and I’m sure that’s why this mile was faster than the previous two. Thank you, A!
Crowds in this section were amazing. The noise of the clappers and people cheering gave me goosebumps! I got a few high fives off some kids which was also a boost.
Mile 5 (13:07)
Jekyll: Not only was I slowing down but I was doing it even with some shade and cover! I was running close to the left hand side of the road which was definitely shadier than the other side but I was still slowing down. How? What the…? I was supposed to be speeding up! I was supposed to be running faster and chasing down that PB! Last two miles, remember? Kick on and pick up the pace? I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to.
Hyde: I knew there was no way I could speed up though. There were still two miles to go and the last thing I wanted to do was push myself too hard in the heat. Even with the slower pace I was still running more comfortably than usual. I felt fit and capable and able to carry on. For me at this stage that was the point. I wasn’t going to let the heat and the crowds get the better of me.
Mile 6 (13:10)
Jekyll: I was fading fast. I knew it. And I felt wretched with myself. I felt like such a failure for not being able to speed up. I felt like a fat, lumbering elephant. Who did I think I was anyway? I’m no one. I’m nothing. I’m stupid and dumb for even dreaming of running fast times. Who do I think I am? I don’t belong here. I suck.
Hyde: I wanted to walk at this point, I really did. I felt done for. I felt in danger of not being able to finish. I felt as if the heat and the pace were sapping my energy more quickly than it should. My Jekyll thoughts were getting me down but I was also feeling proud that I hadn’t stopped to walk, and I wasn’t going to stop to walk. Maybe I wouldn’t PB by as much time as I wanted, but I was still set for a decent chunk off my previous time. I just had to keep going. I had trained for this and was running this race better than last year. I felt smart and wise in deciding not to push the pace, even if I wanted to. I felt more in control.
Whatever my state of mind, I was hot, sweaty and tired. When I got to the firemen at Donnybrook I headed straight into the path of their water spray. Bliss!
The finish felt further away than it really was. I was tired and still thinking ‘I want to walk, I want to walk’ but there was no way I was going to walk, not this close to the finish. The Jekyll part of me had already written off the race but the Hyde part knew I would have to move my butt if I wanted to finish in a way I could be proud of.
Once I crossed the canal I found some energy from somewhere, kicked up some speed and sprinted my way to the finish. I felt strong, in control and pretty fast as I bounded my way along the street. I was only vaguely aware of cheering crowds, of the announcer saying my name, of the finish line appearing around the corner. I focused on the gantry and just ran.
My official finish time was 1:21:32. A PB of 6:03.
A PB is a PB right? I know that and you know that but I’ve been conflicted about how to feel about it, from the very first mile.
Did I really run the race as well as I could have? Was there anyway I could have run it differently so I could have taken off the 10 minutes I wanted to?
When I finished the race I was wobbly, aching and a little lightheaded. But I’ve been in worse shape after a race. Did I hold back? I’m not so sure. I don’t think I’ll ever be sure.
One on hand, I’m disappointed. Before the race I thought I was better, fitter, faster. I thought I was capable of more than what I had. After the race I wasn’t happy, or angry, or even sad. I was numb, disillusioned and also lonely. In a crowd full of wives, mothers, sisters, friends…I had no one. I’m normally used to being alone, and fine with it, but on the day and with the way I was feeling, the lonlieness didn’t help.
I emailed my coach with my Garmin time, and told him how I was feeling about my performance. He replied I should be proud of my race. He pointed out that the heat probably cost me at least a minute, maybe more and that slowing down at the end wasn’t to be taken as a bad sign. He reminded me that my training strategy has been a long, slow build up to improvement rather than fits and bursts of big PBs. In the long run (pun intended) it’s better this way. His comments have helped me put things into perspective and see this race as a stepping stone (successfully navigated) to my long term goals.
Today as I write this I’m still a little disappointed but I’m also very proud that what I consider a ‘bad’ race is still 6 minutes faster than what was once, to me, a good race. So I left the race and went home and celebrated with my usual bottle of beer and takeaway.
I’m also very proud to say I have raised over €420 for the Dublin Simon Community. I run this race every year for them so good or bad, I’m happy to know that my efforts are going towards helping them help the homeless. My Just Giving page is here if you want to donate.
I really want to thank all the organizers and volunteers on the day. Your support and efforts were really appreciated. It can’t be easy looking after 35+k women but you manage to do it, year after year. Thank you!
I have a few days of training this week before running another race on Sunday. The Irish Runner 5 mile. I think if I can get a few nights of good sleep in, and stay on top of the food and hydrating, I can go to the race with just Mr. Hyde and leave Dr. Jekyll at home.