Yesterday morning, I ran the Allstate Dallas 13.1 Marathon. (And yes, it kind of bugs me that they call it the “13.1 Marathon” when it’s actually a half marathon … there’s no full marathon even offered! But if that’s my only complaint about the race, I’d call it a success!)
This was actually my first “A” race of the season … when I set up my racing calendar each year, I choose one or two “A” races that I really want to try my best in, and as many other “B” races as I can (safely) fit into my calendar. I think this allows me to run a lot of races – since I love the racing experience – but it also helps me be realistic with my expectations (remember tip #1 of my post on Improving Your Running Speed?). So what does this really mean? Basically just that I set up a 12-week training plan to lead up to this race, that I paid extra attention to doing my special 7 Things To Do Before A Race, and that I went into the race focus and excited!
So how did the race go? It was awesome! Well, if you had asked me at mile 12, I might have said it was painful, but in general I had a great time, enjoyed the course, and felt grateful for and energized by the race experience. I ended up surprising myself with a 5-second Personal Record, too – stumbling in at 1:39:37 (7:36 pace)!
Here are 7 thoughts from my race … I hope they can be tips to help you out in future races, too!
- Believe in yourself. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I could PR this race. I’ve had a rough few months with some work struggles, and have been getting far too little sleep lately. I followed the training plan that I set up for myself fairly well, but I was failing to hit a lot of the speedwork paces and just generally not feeling as well-trained as I’d like going into a race. I even said in a recent post that I wasn’t going to PR this season and needed another 6 months. I told Kevin yesterday that I was going for a 1:41-1:42. But, Friday evening, I made a point to throw all of those thoughts aside and believe in myself 100%. I got to that starting line thinking that I could do it, and I made myself believe it. It really is amazing how far believing in yourself can take you! (picture source)
- Stick with familiar food before the race. I love my pre-race meal (sweet potato + ketchup, chicken or some kind of lean protein, and broccoli). It’s plain and simple, and most importantly, it works for me. For some reason, though, I just wasn’t feeling it Friday night – I wasn’t that hungry and it didn’t sound great. I knew I needed stomach-safe fuel, though, so I ate it, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a trusty combo, and I had absolutely zero stomach issues during the race, which is a huge success for me!
- Run a familiar course. I think this one varies by person and that some people prefer the thrill of the unfamiliar, but I know that, for me, courses that I’m familiar with tend to be the ones I do best on. This course has some uphills and downhills (well, at least “hills” for Texas), but it goes just a few blocks from my childhood home, and literally runs next to my current home, so I have covered every inch of the course MANY times. I could even run the 1.3 miles down to the start as a warm up (and hobble the 1.3 miles back as a cool down!). I know what to expect on this course, and it’s kind of second nature to run there. This course was also my PR last year, just 5 seconds apart – at least I’m consistent! Even though I’m not doing a formal race review, it’s worth mentioning that the Dallas 13.1 is incredibly well-organized, with plenty of water stops, port-o-potties, and post-race food. I’ve also done 13.1 Ft. Lauderdale and 13.1 Chicago (twice), and they’ve all been great, so I think the company knows what they’re doing!(picture source)
- Don’t beat yourself up over rest. I posted on Facebook earlier this week that I made it my goal to get 5+ hours of sleep every night last week, even if that meant skipping a workout. Due to my crazy work schedule this week, it did mean that I had to skip Tuesday’s planned run. I admit that this bugged me – there’s something about Race Week that just feels like you should be doing everything “right” and your brain tricks you into thinking it’s a terrible time to skip a workout. But the truth is – by the time you get to Race Week, all the important training is in the books, and there’s VERY little you can do to improve your performance. Rest is the right answer, and it’s far better to go into the race with an extra hour of sleep than an extra mile or two in the last week.
- Tolerate a little pain. I mentioned this in the post on getting faster, but I think it’s important to know that a good race experience doesn’t always feel like rainbows and unicorns. I was really feeling the not-quiiiite-prepared state of my training, and was uncomfortable to say the least, especially in the last several miles! But my race experience really helps here – I know that being uncomfortable is OK, and I know how to coach myself to push through the pain. (As I mentioned before, there’s a BIG difference between “injury pain” and “running hard pain,” and I never think you should push through the former).
- Finish strong. My pacing in this race was a little bit all over the place. I started with the 1:40 pace group, who did the first mile 25 seconds too fast – a pace I KNEW I couldn’t keep up. My first 4 miles were fast, then I slowed down a bit on some uphill miles, and by the time I got to mile 10 and was in pain, I couldn’t really do the math to know whether or not I was on pace towards my goal. I incorrectly assumed that it would be impossible to beat my old time, but I still kept pushing as hard as I could through the very end. Good thing I did – those 5 seconds really mattered!!
- I have the best supporter in the world. I haven’t mentioned it yet, because I know he hates thinking about it, but Kevin (who got me started with running, and who has always been my #1 source of running inspiration) has a torn meniscus and has not been able to run for several weeks. He’ll have surgery in two weeks, and we’re hoping for a quick recovery, but I know how much it kills him to not be running and racing (I know you relate, being a running spouse, too, Sara!). It would have been easy for Kevin to stay in bed and feel sorry for himself, but he boosted me up emotionally the whole day before the race, came out in the dark, chilly morning to see me FOUR times throughout the run, took pictures, and yelled encouraging words my way. In so many of my races, I have no one on the course supporting me, since Kevin is usually running with me, and we’ve mostly lived in different cities from our families (my Mom has seen several of the races I’ve done in Dallas, though!). Yesterday, though, knowing Kevin was there supporting me made such a difference. He is amazing and I am so grateful for everything he does!
For those of you who sent messages of support by Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – thank you SO much! I had no idea that starting a blog and jumping into social media would bring me so much happiness and so many virtual friendships, but I appreciate every single “like” or comment that you leave!
So tell me in the comments … Is there one race you’ve repeated multiple times that you really love? What have you done so far this weekend?