I had this race on my program as a ‘predictor session’ for my upcoming marathon. Did I tell you I was running a marathon????? Seeing where I am in a Â½ would ideally help me set a goal pace. I had spoken with my coach about it a few days out and he thought I should be able to do a 4.20 â€“ 4.22 min/km pace comfortably. This would have given me a 1.31/1.32 overall time. I have only ever run one half â€“ the run leg of a 70.3 which was coincidentally also in Busselton â€“ and my time there was 1.39. So a big jump in pace but I was excited to see what I could do.
Well. Mother Nature had other ideas. Facebook messages started flying back and forth early on that week with “have you seen the forecast” panicked tones. It’s spring here in Australia which usually means fairly mild dry weather. Unfortunately for us runners we are having the wettest September on record.(Fortunately for the farmers of courseâ€¦..you have to say that after you moan about the rain or someone gives out to you.) I think I checked about 6 different weather sources six times a day all week. By Friday I had accepted that the weather was going to be awful. Rain I can handle. But the wind prediction was nuts. Considering the run was an out and back along the coast we could have done without the wind. J
We arrived in Busselton on Friday night. Our race was on Sunday and on Saturday morning there was a 5km and 10km. A bunch of the guys in our club were doing the 10km including my pal Vanessa. So we headed down to watch them and it was great to see them all out there. What wasn’t so great was their reaction to the weather when they finished. As each one passed the finish line and made their way over to us they all cursed the wind! Anyone who was gunning for a particular time was about 2 -4 minutes off it. Substantial enough for a sub 35min 10km runner.
Vanessa & Ronan
Despite the conditions they all did awesome. Vanessa got a PB and proved to herself she is way tougher than she thought she was. It was really cool to see her nail her race.
I find people accomplishing their goals very emotional!
Fran & Coach
In hindsight, I think we worked ourselves into a tizzy on Saturday. Normally, stuff I can’t control doesn’t bother me. But with everyone talking about ‘the wind’ as if it was this biblical plague coming for us I let it get inside my head for a few hours. I think it was because I had such a specific time goal I wanted to achieve. This goal would have needed me to run at 100% of my capability. I knew this wasn’t an option and for some reason I thought I was failing if I didn’t achieve it. Lesson 1: Do not give something out of my control any thought, focus or power.
Luckily, I spoke with my sister on Saturday afternoon and asked her advice about how to approach it. She is a triathlete and an awesome competitor. And living in the west of Ireland no stranger to inclement weather. She reminded me that running is an outdoor sport. And I chose this sport. I wasn’t out there by force. I was out there because I loved it. She reiterated that you need to accept the weather whatever it is. You can’t change or control it so there is 0% worrying about it. Accept what would be would be and try and just enjoy the day. So what if you are a little slowerâ€¦..focus on effort, not pace.
My rockstar sister, Cliodhna.
Her chat really helped meâ€¦â€¦sometimes as runners we focus so much on hitting every single time goal and split and km and pace and when we can’t control something we go all out of whack. (Spot the type A over here). Thankfully I just forgot about it, accepted what would be and just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately my focus turned to ‘carb loading’ and I ate way too much food. A huge pasta dish, garlic bread, biscuits, sweets, chocolate……. Sunday morning I had my usual pre long run breakfast of toast and jam and took some beta ananaline. Looking back I didn’t need that breakfast after all the food I ate the day before. I started the race with a heavy stomach and it took a few km for it to feel ok. Lesson #2….there is such thing as overloading.
We went down for a 7am start and at 6.50 the heavens opened! There was a collective groan from everyone standing around but it was all in good spirits. The race was a 5km out and back and repeat so I divided the race into 4 laps in my head. I knew the 5km back would have a headwind so I wanted to see if I could use the tailwind on the way out for my first lap.Â We sat off and I tried to get into a consistent pace. I couldn’t settle in for some reason; my stomach was too full and my head wasn’t focused properly. Stuff I can control next time so I need to learn from that. I think I am on 3 lessons now???
The first 5km I did at a 4.26 pace which looking back I probably could have done around 4.20 as I was a bit unsettled and not properly “in the zone”. Hindsight is a wondrous thing eh!
When I started to see the turnaround my plan was to try and keep my pace around 4.26. Under 4.30 at a maximum. The minute I turned, I realised that holding this next 5km at 4.26 wasn’t going to be an option! The wind hit me like a brick wall and I just got my head down and gritted my teeth and tried to get through it. All thoughts of sticking to a pace went out the window and I tried to run by effort. I dropped to 4.36km for this 5km.
At the 10km turn around the volunteer told me there was only one relay woman ahead of me! Sweet!!! For some reason I thought there were a few more. Hearing that definitely gave me a gee-up. The weather might be slowing me down but it was also slowing everyone else down! I took a gel which I didn’t want as my stomach was still full but thought it couldn’t hurt and headed off into my third lap.
This lap was definitely the easiest. The headwind was gone so it felt like i was flying! And I knew I wanted to try and make up some time. I was also conscious of not trying to make up too much time and blowing up in the last 5km. My average pace here was 4.17. Fast but not ‘blow up fast’. I ended this section feeling way better and was wondering how far ahead the winner was.
Coming towards the turnaround, again the plan was to try and keep a decent pace. I love how short my memory is. The minute I turned it felt even worse this time!!! I knew the same effort wouldn’t deliver the same pace.Â Those first 3km were the hardest kms I have run in a race or training run in a long time. I wanted to quit so bad. At one stage I thought “I’ll just lie down here and pretend I had crampsâ€¦â€¦but they’ll know I didn’t get crampâ€¦..what else can I pretend happened!” Then a car passed and I actually thought it would be good if it hit me â€“ gently of course â€“ so I could stop!
I knew I had to stop looking at my watch and just ran on effort and get through it and eventually I would feel less suicidal. The race was a long narrow road so you could see quite far ahead. With about 2km to go the female relay leader suddenly appeared. This gave me a huge mental boostâ€¦â€¦I realised I hadn’t fallen that far behind and again reminded myself that everyone would be struggling, not just me. There were a few club support crew here as well and that always helps with your spiritsâ€¦.you have to pretend to smile. Thankfully my focus went away from my suffering (which is different than pain and we shouldn’t indulge) and I just focused on finishing as close to the leader as possible.
Pretending I’m not about to quit
The last 2km brought us back into the town center so there were a few more spectators about. I say spectators….none of them actually clapped or cheered! So I asked a group of 3 women for a clap and we all had a laugh. After this I knew I was ‘back’; I love to run and love races and can usually enjoy myself – within reason of course! Â I tried to pick it up as much as possible and when I finally made it to the handover the leader was just a few seconds ahead of me. I saw her handover to a man and realised we were first female team! I literally collapsed with tiredness when I finished and was so grateful to be done. Vanessa was there and I couldn’t even talk to her! It’s a good feeling when you know you worked hard.
The last 5km was at 4.34 pace but very uneven kms. I did end up with a PR, not too hard when you only have done one race before it!
21.1km @ 4.27 for a 1.34.24 overall time.
After I finished I waited for my husband to finish. This was his first Â½ marathon and he didn’t do a huge amount of training. But still finished in 1.41!! So proud of him. J The baking jogger blogger did an awesome job on her leg and kept our lead so we ended up winning the relay! $400 each. Not too shabby for a days work. I’m a professional now.
Despite winning the race, my type a personality came out later that day and I felt annoyed with myself for not hitting my time goals. After an talking to from my coach I felt a bit better. There was no way I could have hit my full potential in the conditions that were out there. No one did so why should I think I am any different? Â I needed to remind myself that I got through a very tough mental race which in the run up to a marathon is actually better than everything going perfectly. Any old fool can do well when everything lines up. It’s when the chips are down that your true character and strength comes out. I was tested on Sunday and come marathon day I know I am not a quitter and I can handle anything the race throws at me. ( Do you think I have convinced myself?
It’s better to have a tough day in prep as opposed to race day!! J