Thoughts Before Race Day
BY STEFANIE V.
Earlier this week, I was speaking with my husband about my goal race, Run for Chardon Half Marathon, this Sunday. I realized during that conversation that, for the first time, I’m not nervous about an upcoming race.
So, why did I begin running? I played soccer and softball for a couple years in grade school, but I never was athletic.
In 2013, I ran the Downtown Willoughby 5K. For someone who has never been overweight and perceived as “fit” because of how I looked, I definitely was not. I was just skinny and unhealthy. I panted across the finish line in 36:23, an 11:42/mile pace.
Fast forward to April or May 2014. I remember sitting on my couch one day. It was nice outside. The birds were chirping. My dogs probably were yapping and there was nothing on TV.
I decided at that moment that something needed to change. It was about the same time that I began working in downtown Cleveland, and it was inevitable that I would be out of breath at the end of the walk from my parking lot to my office building, which is just less than a mile.
In addition, I have a history of high cholesterol. So, becoming more active was not a choice, but a conscious step I needed to take for my future health.
So, I threw on some shoes and tried. And it sucked. Tremendously. So, naturally, I signed up for another 5K, and another and another. At some point, I signed up for the a half marathon that October.
“Don’t dream of winning, train for it!”
I thought that if I was going to do this, and if I was going to do it well, I needed to get in the habit. I went to Achilles Running Shop and picked up my first pair of running shoes: Brooks Ravenna 6. Then, I signed up for around ten 5Ks because that was the only way I knew I was going to stay motivated. As I crossed the finish line at each of these, I saw seconds shaved off my time, and I continued to pound the pavement.
The second annual DTW 5K came around on Sept. 2014. My goal was to beat my first 5K time by 10 minutes. I got a 25:49. That fall, my first half marathon time was 2:15, despite never running longer than 7-8 miles during training.
I thought at this point that if I could do a half marathon, nothing could stop me from doing more.
I spent 2015 running a different variety of races to see what I liked the most – two marathons, a half marathon in January, a 25K in March (which was half ice and half mud – my worst run ever). Did I like trails? Did I like road races more?
In 2016, I signed up to train with Great Lakes Race Timing. I made a decision to work on technique, speed and really plan ahead for future races.
My first race with a GLRT training plan was the Hatfield McCoy Marathon. While I absolutely loved the event, the 90+ degree temperature combined with humidity did not bode well for me. However, because I adequately was training, I managed to PR and finish with an above average time when compared to the other participants.
2016 was about figuring out what works best for me and building my overall fitness. I finally earned a sub 2-hour half marathon time and repeatedly achieved sub 2 at other halfs. I also broke 24 minutes in the 5K distance. But, I still had work to do, and most of it stemmed from the pre-race butterflies.
This typically is how race morning goes for me: wake up, get dressed, worry for 40 minutes about what I’m going to eat that won’t upset my stomach, try to dress some water, worry about getting to the race on time to warm up, determine if I should run with headphones or not, worry about how many miles I’ll last before I’ll crap out, worry about at what points I should drink water or fuel, etc….
For me, it’s like being in school. It’s great to pass a class, but it’s more satisfying when you get the grade you know you earned. You know when you’re prepared for that test, and it shows in your performance.
So, that meant following my training plan almost to a T. I mean, my coach, JT, didn’t BQ doing 15 miles one week and 60 miles another, right? His somewhat crazy, yet sensible training plans began to make sense as I saw my pace, confidence and performance increase. Why did I need to be worried on test day if I studied?
Even if JT credits me with “doing the hard work,” he helped a ton just by kicking me in the ass when I had an excuse and believing that I actually could meet the goals I set. And it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
I went back and forth and first, but then I looked at how many miles I logged, I looked at my pace and I saw how much work I put into it. The variety of workouts not only allowed me to work on speed and distance, but the easy runs gave me the opportunity to work out the kinks such as how much water to drink or what I should eat.
The past 18 weeks of this training cycle have been perfect, and I can’t think of any other adjective to describe it. So, I’m going to leave it at that.
Now, to crush this race on Sunday.
My goal for the Run for Chardon Half Marathon is 1:45. You can see my live results this Sunday at this link.
“The race does not always go to the swift, but to the ones who keep running.”