A little over a year ago, I ran the worst race of my life. I ran the Berkshires Half Marathon. The course was challenging and mentally I didn’t feel in it. I was teaching a lot of classes at time, 5 of which were spinning, and my body and mind were always exhausted by the time I hit the roads for my training runs. I did get the runs in and I did cross that finish line, but I became hungry to do it all over again and to do it differently.
Fast forward to March, my race itch got stronger and I was toying with the idea of running a marathon. My husband and I then got news that someone close to us has the LRRK2 gene mutation, which puts them at a high for Parkinson’s disease, and we got inspired to pull the trigger and run a marathon together to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It was the final sign that this race was meant to be. Everything seemed naturally to come together. We sent our application in, got accepted and I was excited and inspired to hit the roads. Mentally I was all in.
We started our base training at the end of April and have worked in yoga, interval training/race pace workouts, cross training and strength training and the work has paid of incredibly! I also became smart about my teaching schedule; allowing my spin classes to be easy additional cross training workouts on top of my runs, altered my yoga practice and have set strict ground rules for myself to preserve my energy and take care of my body. So far, so good, and the Heartbreak Hill 10K race was a true test of it!
Waking up that race morning, I did not know what to expect. Jon and I overslept (we set the wrong alarm), I felt dehydrated, my stomach felt awful (I went to a bridal shower the night before and ate poorly) and was an anxious nut! I spent the first 15 minutes of my morning rushing around to get ready and freaking out really. Not a good start for a race!
However, we arrived right on schedule and was even able to walk to the race from our apartment, a mile and half walk, and was an enjoyable way to get get the legs warm and get into the zone. We ate a cliff bar and split a big bottle of water on the way.
When we arrived, we picked up our bibs and went to the bathroom with time to spare. To ground myself down a bit, I took 5 minutes to meditate. Jon and I did feel a bit groggy still not having much time to wake up before the race, so we split a coffee. I never drink coffee but gave it a try. The great thing about prep races like these is that you’re able to try different things and see what works.
Right before the race, Jon and I met my brother and sister, also running the race as well, and I was able to see some of my fellow yogis! It was an awesome inspiration for the race and just added to the great energy!
Jon and I’s strategy race was simple. Finish with an overall pace of 8:15. Start off around 8 minutes per mile holding it down for the first 3 miles and then as the hills took their toll scale back the pace to 8:15/8:30 and hope for finishing with an overall pace of 8:15. The approach worked and we finished with an overall pace of 8:11. Oh yeah!
Easier said then done! The 8 minute mile pace for the first 2 miles was tough and I could feel it right in my belly. It was mostly down hill and flat so it was sustainable. But as mile 4 came on and the hills started to kick in, I started to get chills which is not a good sign. It means dehydration is here! Luckily, I was able to keep going without cramping and even found my fire at the last 0.2 miles and picked it up (this song helped push me too! Here’s the playlist). It’s amazing how mental the race is. The mind and body can always surprise you. It’s all about just finding that strength.
I rediscovered my strength as a runner today. I ran the fastest I have ever run for a race. I dug deep from a place within me that I never knew existed. What an incredible feeling. As we get older, we think our body will only grow more tired and weak but what we forgot is that our heart and our mind is what drives us to the finish line time and time again. We still need to do the work to be smart in how we take care of ourselves but the passion gets you there. I’m beyond inspired and ready to take on Chicago for my fastest marathon yet. Bring it on! Next race, Lululemon Seawheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver Saturday, August 23rd! Go Team Gilman!
Name your favorite race and tell us about your experience!