Sometimes You Have a Bad Race

I was primed to go out and get my 1:15 goal this weekend. I watched the Olympic Trials on Saturday morning and I was completely inspired. Let me say I also wondered if maybe I was oversaturated on running. I woke up, watched the Trials for 3 hours, got lunch, brought it back to my hotel while I read coverage from the race. Then I napped for 90 minutes and woke up to watch the NBC coverage. Yeah.. I definitely geeked out on running all day. It also made me want to run 100 mile weeks after seeing how effortless those runners moved. Dan Browne finished in 2:42 and he looked like he was walking. I can’t even imagine.

Sunday morning is race day. I had to be at Corral A by 6:40 (which is 4:40 PST) but I had surprisingly adjusted to the time quickly. I was in bed before 11pm on both days. After a mile warmup and some strides I made my way into the corral. I was quickly at the front and sardined canned in. I could hardly stretch, it was not ideal. After the longest 20 minutes ever, we got to hear Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter say a few words and then we were off! I was running 5:50 on this long uphill stretch and passing people, just the way I usually do. (I make a point of not sprinting at the start, I’d rather run evenly and pass people the entire race). I went through mile one in 5:51, mile two in 5:41. There was a problem though.. I didn’t feel good. I had tunnel vision. I checked my systems, legs felt good. Breathing was easy. So what was the problem? I just felt like I was pressing and my form was clearly off, so I fixed the form but something was wrong. I figured maybe I just needed a few miles to warm up so I plodded along, knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy day.

Mile three, I get a stomach ache. Not the kind that sends you running for the port-a-potty, but the kind that just hurts. It was weird. After the 10k mark, it turned into a side stitch. Not again! The same crap happened at Silver Strand and destroyed that race. I suffered as long as I could before stopping and stretching it out. Then I resumed running, albeit a little slower. I just felt terrible, I couldn’t get my pace under 6 without serious effort. I really didn’t get to enjoy the course because of this. At mile 10, after some 6:0X miles, I heard someone say “5:52 pace!” and recognized that I still had a chance at a PR. It wouldn’t be a pretty race, but if I could suck it up, I’d still be rewarded and would live to race another day.

I kicked up the effort to stay in the low 5:50s. My stomach just wasn’t feeling right. Before mile 11, huge side stitch! I couldn’t run through it. I slowed to a walk, grimacing terribly, while spectators cheered for me to keep going. I wish I could’ve, but I couldn’t breath without big pain. I can tolerate a lot of pain, but that whole stabbing pain just isn’t doable. I tried everything and the side stitch wouldn’t give. I then realized my race was over and started walking towards the finish. I tried running a few times and quickly had to stop again. It didn’t clear up for close to 5 minutes. When I resumed running, I was expecting the cramp but it never came. I decided I’d blast the last mile and save face. I just wanted my finisher’s medal really, and to crawl under the pavement because I felt so bad. About a quarter mile from the finish, I realized I’ve got nothing left and slowed down. It was a very out of body feeling… I don’t give up like that. But there was a sense of peace. I jogged into the finish and did a heel click on the line. I’ve always wanted to do it. Unfortunately the pictures make me look like a doofus. I finish in the 1:22 range, horribly disappointed. But worse, I feel AWFUL.

You know that feeling when you finish a marathon and you’ve got nothing left? You just want to lay down… I felt that way. 15 minutes later, I still felt that way. I’ve never had this experience after a race. My legs were physically fine. It was just an overall feeling like my body was giving me a big “Hey fuck you!” Then I realized I was getting hypothermic because of my soaked long sleeve shirt. I quickly picked up my finisher’s shirt (you get a shirt at the finish in Houston!) and changed. After a bite from the hot foot station, I decided I needed to get back to the hotel before what I was feeling got worse. I jogged out to the course towards my hotel, teeth chattering, shivering. It was a while before I started to warm up from the jog but I was happy to be at my hotel. After a shower I still felt bad. The next couple days I wondered what in the heck went wrong, then I got my answer. I’ve got a bad headcold and sore throat. It hit me on Tuesday, although looking back I had some symptoms on Monday. I bet my body was busy fighting it off, so running a half marathon just wasn’t a priority.

It’s at least a little comforting to have an explanation. After some time passed I got some perspective and realized everyone has a bad day sometimes. You just have to shake it off and keep going. It’s amazing how my awesome motivation from the Trials melted into such disappointment so quickly. My original plan was to take this week off, but after that mess I need to stay on until Surf City in 3 weeks. I’m in phenomenal shape, I just need to have a normal race to prove it. Carlsbad is this weekend and I was originally going to pace Jess but after Sunday, I may end up racing it. We’ll see on race day. No pressure.


About thedillyruns

In 2007 I decided to join a running group to train for a marathon. I'd never run more than 4 miles at a stretch and never raced. I grew up playing basketball. After a promising first half marathon, I grew hungry to run faster.
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