Respect the Run: Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday morning Sweet Thang and I ran the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon.  Sweet Thang is by far a  faster runner and could of finished the race easily in about 2:30 or so but she stayed with me the whole time because that is the way we trained, “In this together”.  Partially out of a desire to simply be a more hard core and better runner and partially out of a desire to work hard for her to make her sacrifice more palatable (to me and my own insecurities  not from any feedback from her that she wasn’t as happy as clam running slower next me to all summer long), I trained harder and smarter for this race than I have for any of the previous three half marathons I’ve run.  What did that get me, a race finish at just about EXACTLY the same pace as all the other halfs.  We finished at 2:59:15 and 2:59:18. I actually got the three seconds faster time which is total bullshit because we crossed that finish at exactly the same time and she did it with FAR more energy left than I.

On the drive home I found myself simmering in some disappointment that I didn’t finish faster, that I’d somehow let myself and Sweet Thang down.  Again I really don’t think she cares, and I more than realize the I’m running for life not just a certain race. There are ways to train into speedier times and I really shouldn’t be spending any time at all beating myself up over what in fact  is the strongest race I have run.

I trained my butt off:

  • I gave up smoking and a few other unhealthy regular habits in late June. Not only because I needed to for my health and sanity, but also because I wanted to increase my running prowess.
  • Sweet Thang and I started training for this race about the time the record heat and drought conditions were plaguing most of the country, yet we never missed a run in any of the weeks leading up to the race.  We never let the heat or sun derail us. We simply made adjustments  and found a way to make it work, one run at a time, 3 days a week, week after week until race time.  We often ran with less water than we should of been drinking.  Sweet Thang is a Camel compared to me and sweats far less than the buckets at a time I do.   In doing this we accidentally accomplished heat training and hydration training.  We didn’t plan it this way, we didn’t dwell on how badass we were really being in doing this. Mostly I think we just knew we needed to run, we wanted to run, we couldn’t control the weather so we just DID IT!  I can’t tell you how many times I climbed in my car after finishing, looked at the temp gauge reading something like 101-105+ and  just thought, “huh, we are crazy but it’s done”.
  •  Not to dwell on the weather,  but we live in Indiana, it does NOT get that hot here.  We usually have a few weeks of 90-95 temps in maybe July and August and the rest of the time it’s somewhere in the 80’s.    What we do have normally is humidity, which this year we had much less than usual but enough  thick air sticky days to condition us to running in that too.
  • In the past I’ve had muscle pain, tightness, and soreness difficulties and/or foot injury difficulties, this time I had none of that.  Towards the end I did start battling some upper back and shoulder pain and tightness which had me a little worried.  I think my lack of injuries this time was a direct correlation to the fact that I actually accomplished some cross training via spin classes and weightlifting.  I also stretched a lot more regularly and made liberal use of my foam roller.

Race conditions were extreme:

  • When Race morning came  we arrived to a course with about 3000 other runners  and discovered we were under a Red flag with talk already of what the plan was if it was Black flagged.   Red flag means the course and the day are under extreme weather. It means slow down, stop more, drink more water, don’t try to PR, don’t push yourself, don’t be stupid.  Black flag means the timers are stopped, the race is over, you can get your medal but there isn’t any official time.  I hated the idea of this because if it happens I’m  STILL OUT ON THE COURSE AND HAVE TO GET BACK.   I’ll get a medal but I’m not going to feel like I earned it.   If that ever happens I’m sitting my ass down on the side of the course and waiting for someone or  something to come get me.  If it isn’t going to count I’m not doing it anymore, harrumph!  All that training to waste, all that effort put in so far for naught, the pissiness this  would invoke in me would be pretty close to infantile and luckily it didn’t happen.     In our case it was 90-93% humidity and Isaac storms headed our way without ever getting there.   Temps were not too bad,  mid 70’s and over cast, but the air was Indiana thick and heavy already at 6:30 am.

In spite of them I still ran strong  and hard, I pushed myself:

  •  In my last three halfs I’ve run out of ability to run  somewhere around mile ten or so and had to walk most of the last 3 miles, one of my goals is to complete a half that I can run in entirety.  I REALLY wanted to be able to run all 13.1 miles this time.  I didn’t make it BUT I made it much further and felt much stronger than I have in the past.  I don’t know how you measure “running the whole thing”, but for me I have always considered it OK to walk through a water stop and not have that count against me.  This time we didn’t  even have the need to use every water stop and when we did I ran all the way up to them and started running sooner after them.   I felt strong in my run all the way to that dreaded mile 10.  I was starting to get physically tired, running for over two hours straight will do that,  but I didn’t want to give up.  Thus began the mental battle for  perseverance and strength of will vs. fatigue and the dementia that starts to set in when I can no longer think straight.   There is nothing worse than the battle inside my head during a half marathon.  I’m tired and I hurt, so I want to walk and shake it out a little. I’m stubborn and I don’t want to “fail” so I don’t want to stop running.  I want to cry because the two sides of me are really starting to piss me off.   This affects my confidence , which starts to screw with my head even further, which starts to make me acutely aware of every tiny thing on my body that is bothering me.  It is really easy to work myself up into pissed off despair. So I have to trick myself.   I start  with my head, I call upon some kind of inner strength. I tell myself things like ”  Shut up, Sherry can’t run anymore, but I get to.” or ”  My angels are with me giving me strength, I can just picture them up above me helping me along.”  In yesterday’s case I pictured my dead older brother running in front me with his back to me giving me the it’s ok you can do it pep talk.  Or ” All .runners have rough patches, I just have to push through this and I will feel better, that’s what those girls in the Olympic Marathon did.”   I also  try to be very logical with myself. I start at my toes and take inventory. Socks are soaked through with sweat but these are good socks, there shouldn’t be any blisters. My knees don’t hurt, my thighs don’t hurt, my back is getting a bit tight but I can adjust my form to accommodate this. My shirt is soaked through ( did I mention I sweat buckets), but my skirt isn’t dripping yet, so that is a good thing.  All this mental chit chat can take 10 seconds or 10 minutes depending on the “place” I am in.   I was able to run soley until after mile 10.  In  miles 11-12 I was able to run way more than I walked but it was starting to get harder. In Mile 13 usually the excitement of being almost done  allows me to force myself to the finish, this time the way Mile 13 was laid out and my extreme fatigue and mounting attitude problem caused me to walk more than I ran it.

Usually Mile 13 is “Wahoo,  only a little further to go I get another medal, let’s do this”. This time I was more like “F you and your stupid freaking medal, just give it to me you assholes, I don’t even want a finish picture I’m so pissed off about how you laid this last mile out I could spit in your face you stupid race organizers.  Who puts 4 turns, 2 water stops, 2 hills and 2 curbs into mile 13 and makes it so I can NEVER see the finish or how to GET there until the last .10, what kind of idiots ARE you?   What? I STILL finished right around 3 hours, this is pure crap, F you and the rest of the damn world except Sweet Thang because we were in this together” .  There is a reason they say hard core runners are crazy, this is what 13+ miles does to your brain.  There is nothing left at the end.

Then 30 seconds  after crossing the finish line someone handed me a full bottle of water and the  pride of getting another medal kicked in. Then I managed to stumble/fall into some nice soft grass and start stretching, oh man did it hurt but it was over.  I could even imagine doing another one, soon.  I suppose the lesson learned here is that you can’t judge  the success of a run by the  bib time, you really should judge it by how you feel.  I feel I  trained harder, smarter. I feel I pushed myself more physically and mentally. I  do not feel like I let myself down, I feel like I can actually consider myself a hard core runner now.   When I got to the end there was NOTHING left, I put it ALL out there on the course, and that  is the true measure of success.

Someday I’ll run the “whole” thing and some day I will break 2:45 and maybe even 2:30.  All I have to do is keep  up the good work and maybe find a freaking cool weather race!

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