This past Sunday, I ran the NYC Half-Marathon. It was probably my worst race ever if you only look at my overall time (2:38h). I am still going thru what runners call the “blues of a bad race”. This is because as a human being, I tend to focus on what went bad and I don’t pay attention to what I did to overcome the struggle of the race and at least finish it. You see, a good friend remind me yesterday that is not the outcome that matters but the effort. So I stumble with an interesting article about how to overcome a bad race day. LOL. Yes, that is me googling how to make myself feel better. It says, it helps to write about it. That is why you are reading this today instead of checking out my future painted dresser. I recommend everyone that races to read this article, because one day, you will also have a bad race day and is good to be prepared for it! I also learned that this will probably not be my first and last bad race day!
Overall the NYC Half-Marathon is a fantastic race. I recommend people to do it, especially if you are running the NYC Marathon. This is because the whole logistics of the races are similar. From waves, to corrals, from start to finish. Not to mention the weather. Usually the NYC Half tends to be colder than the marathon. So at least you’ll know what to expect.
Going back to my bad race day. I had a stomach bug Saturday, a day before of the race. Everyone knows what entails a whole 24 hours stomach bug process. Not pretty. I started to feel better at night. By then, my last meal was cheese and wine from the previous Friday and roughly 1 ¼ bottle of Gatorade. Sunday I woke up feeling better but weak. The fact that I stayed overnight in the city made the decision easier to pursue running the race. I had only a 20-min walk, compared to 1 hour driving plus parking. I decided to do it with a master-back-up plan: abandon the race on mile 7. Mile 7 would bring my back to the place I was staying in case worst comes to worst. The pre-stomach bug strategy was to finish the race on a good pace and try to be 2:15h tops. Even with little training I thought that was doable. Mile 7-13.1 are super flat! One of the biggest pros of this race.
Of course, pos-stomach bug strategy changed rapidly to “just finish it alive”. In this is the type of situation one needs to remember of that saying “70% mind, 30% body”. I am a living proof of that. I set my mind to find a comfortable running pace and stick with that no matter what. That meant, turning off any sort of GPS tracking and not watching the clock on the mileage count. Releasing the stress of time was essential to focus on just the run and in my body.
Once I found my pace, I broke my race in small goals. First, I told myself to make it to mile 7, one mile at a time. I focus at water stations/miles sign. I knew they were a water station in between mile signs, so, running to a water station then to a mile sign broke the mile into 1/2, and running 1/2 mile at a time seem less impossible than thinking a whole mile. After mile 7, I could picture how flat the course would be. That gave me hope to make the decision to continue to mile 13.1. Somehow, I usually get lost in my own town, but this time a miracle happened and I knew every single turn on this course. I was aware how far and how flat the course was.
I was lucky. West side Highway is usually very windy during the NYC Half and that day the wind was minimal. Quite comfortable, in fact. Following the breaking mileage strategy, I power waked at every water station counting backwards on the mileage to trick my brain. Instead of thinking, mile 8-9-10 I started telling myself, 2 miles to mile 10, 1 mile to 10. Then I only have 3 more miles. Which means in time 30 minutes give and take on a good day. So my mind got distracted with low, more achievable numbers. On mile 10, I had promise to send a message to my running friend that was probably at finish line by then 🙂 telling her I was still alive and planning to finish. So, I decided to do that seated in the rail that divided the 2 ways of the highway. I didn’t want to get dizzy of course! That break was a life saver. I took a breath and got determined to finish it. 3 more miles was all I had to go thru. By mile 12. I had one finger pointing straight. That was reminding me I had one more mile and done. I was done. That finger got me there. I finish it. Without any major problems. Slow but comfortable.
Post-race was really cold. Walking back to the apartment and going back home was probably more painful than running the race. My body was just screaming for some rest and a nice piece of pizza! After settled at home I struggled thinking on my time… and how slow I was. The issue is that when you run and start racing, even though not competitive you get better and better and then, it feels weird to have a bad race. When your time goes up, feels like a failure. I can only imagine how those Olympic athletes feel after training 4 years for a competition that takes just a few minutes for just one opportunity to get a gold medal and then they get a stomach bug the day before? How do they feel when they can’t perform their best? The best they know they can be? They just get up and try again for the next 4 years. That is what they do…
Yes – writing about this made me feel better… even that for you my loved reader… it was a damn long post! If you made it do far, of course!