Race Recap: Seneca7-77.7 Mile Relay Race 4/19/15

Back to back race weekends are not something I am used to and likely not something I would recommend. In short, my body and mind are exhausted, but it was so worth it.

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If you’re from the area and you are a runner chances are that you’ve heard of the Seneca7 relay race.  It’s fairly new (5 years old) and this is my second year participating in the fun.

Last year I was just on the mend from bronchitis by race day, this year I was facing a similar fate.  My cough was finally gone, but my body was still under-conditioned due to the 3 week hiatus and not quite ready for another long day of racing.  I was nervous and being runner 7 didn’t help calm my nerves.  I always get nervous before a big race (even if the outcome doesn’t matter) and I had to sit around and watch every other runner on my team complete their legs before I had a chance at my own.

Leg #7:  4.1 miles, 00:49:06, 12:01 pace

When it finally came time for leg#7 I was ready (or at least I thought I was).  I knew my distance was 4.1 miles, but I failed to fully checkout the elevation chart for that first leg.  Can you guess what it looked like??

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It was a lovely 4.1 miles of an uphill climb.  It wasn’t the worst of hills, but for someone like me who was still physically recovering from a hilly half, it was brutal. Not the way I envisioned starting out my long day of racing. Seeing my finish pace of 12min/mile was defeating.  How could I have slowed down so much since last year?  What was going on?

In short, hills suck.  They suck the life and energy out of every muscle in my body and are a literal pain in my ass.

Leg#14: 3.1 miles, 00:35:24, 11:26 pace

Leg 14 felt a lot better, but I still couldn’t get past the mental game that was going on in my head.  Why on earth was I still moving so slow?  Why were so many people passing me while looking so light on their feet?  Why couldn’t I push myself more? I’m used to being slow, but back to back weekends of getting slapped in the face with the slow stick was definitely starting to take its toll on my mind.

Leg #21: 3.7 miles, 00:43:13, 11:45 pace

My final leg was a relief, not because it was easier, but because I was that much closer to ending such a long day.  I was spent and all I wanted to do was drive home and get cozy with my bed and pillow.  Being the last runner was so much more challenging than I had anticipated.  Watching each of my teammates finish their final legs while I was still awaiting mine had me wishing I was runner 1.

I sucked it up and finished off as strong as I could.  By the time I reached the team reunification point I was running on E, but felt a final kick of power set in.  I picked up my pace for the last quarter mile and lead my team across the finish.  I was done.  We were done.  FINALLY.  Team Prepping For The Zombie Apocalypse had finished their last year with the namesake.  11149652_10204073362049783_2168526844668261403_o

 

 

 

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Race Recap: Skunk Cabbage Classic Half Marathon, Ithaca NY 4/12/15

“…talent means nothing, while experience, acquired in humility and with hard work, means everything.”
Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

   

 

Well, I did it!  I finished my second racing half marathon!  It wasn’t at all as I had planned–this was supposed to be the race I would PR in and where I finally hit sub 2:30, but that didn’t happen and I am okay with it.

Training for this half was touch and go and there were times where I wasn’t sure if I should stick with it.  At the end of February shortly after a 10K training run I was hit with the worse case of flu/bronchitis that I’ve experienced since college.  It hit really hard and took me out of training mode for 3 weeks.  Three weeks might not seem like a huge chunk of time, but it was and it left me with just 4 weeks to retrain my body to run 13.1 miles.

I went in without high expectations and accepted the fact that this would not be the race I had initially hoped for.  What I didn’t account for was how mentally challenging it would be.  This race was probably one of the most difficult ones to date.  I was (and still am) fighting yet another cold with a cough and the medication I take does wonders, but it also dries me out.  By mile 4 I was regretting my decision to stick with the half–I kept wishing I had just downgraded to the 10k.  I was parched and my lungs burned as I sputtered out dry coughs.

The inner dialogue I had with myself was at times comical, but mostly I kept repeating, “FUCK! Why is this so hard?  What am I doing here.  Why didn’t I downgrade.  9 more miles?!  What in the actual fuck?  How will I make it through”.

I am a slow runner, but this is the first time I’ve truly experienced true back of the pack racing.  It adds to the mental challenge.  You find yourself racing solo and the walk breaks are so much more tempting.  The urge to quit is that much greater and every ounce of pain is magnified.  I had no music to distract me and no friends to push me forward.  It was hard.  I felt like I was failing.

The rolling hills didn’t feel like rolling hills, they felt more like a constant gradual incline with the occasional downhill.  With the steeper hills I found myself walking and fighting so hard not to lose momentum.  I’m not typically a run/walker–I would much rather keep a slow and steady pace than break and restart.  This is the first race (aside from the full marathon) where I continually needed to walk and it was frustrating.

Though I spent a lot of time running alone, I was sandwiched between a couple of runners, yellow shirt guy and neon shirt lady.  Both had pulled ahead of me at various points during the race and my goal was to stick with them.  I didn’t want to finish behind them so I did my best to conserve my energy for a strong finish.  I took advantage of the downward hills and used them to catch up, but they still remained ahead of me until mile 11-12.

Having the finish on one of my regular routes was definitely beneficial for my final stretch.  I knew after mile 12 that the remainder of the course was on a slight downhill.  I knew that I’ve run down that same path on Tower road and that I would always finish my lunch runs strong.  I knew that I already had 11 miles behind me and that giving up in the last mile would have been for someone weaker than myself.  I knew that my heavy legs still had some life in them.

I powered through and pulled ahead.  I passed both yellow shirt guy and neon shirt lady.  I know it probably didn’t mean much as far as boosting my finish time, but I dragged myself across the finish at 2:55:30.  It was 21 minutes past my PR and I was legit 592/598.  It almost embarrasses me to post that time and place, but what can I do?  Why be embarrassed?

It’s these moments of humility that strengthen us.  It’s these moments where we wanted to quit but didn’t that show us we are capable of greater things. I know I will do better and that this race doesn’t define me as runner.  If anything it has taught me a lesson about perseverance and pride.  Pride for those back of the pack runners.  No one knows true strength and determination until you’ve experienced running a race at the back of the pack.   It’s an experience every runner should feel.  I know it’s opened my eyes for appreciation of what our bodies and minds can achieve.

Did you race this past weekend?  Were you at Skunk Cabbage?  Have you ever experience a lesson in humility during one of your races?