Last Saturday’s race was preceded by the usual day-before struggle-fest of a run and some unusually discouraging pre-race thoughts:
Upon waking up: “Ugh I really am not feeling this getting up early thing…”
While eating breakfast: “I can’t decide if I feel hungry or nauseated”
On arriving at the course: “Gahhhh it’s hot already! Should I run in a sports bra?”
On the warm up: “Well this was a horrible idea…this is going to SUCK”
With that mindset, I’m almost surprised I didn’t just walk back to my car for a nap, skipping the race entirely.
Luckily, I spent a few minutes surrounded by the excited crowd energy before the start, taking in the gorgeous views of the mountains and getting distracted from the persistent negativity in my head.
The starter counted us down and my trusty runner brain went straight into race-mode and the distracting negativity faded away. The course started out downhill (woohoo!) before turning into gradual uphill around the half-mile mark. From there a steep climb took us up to the 2-mile mark.
At the first steep dirt-road downhill right before 2 miles I was hanging on as the 4th woman with 3rd place 10 seconds ahead (thanks helpful spectator who yelled that information!) Due to the heat I stopped and drank a full cup at the aid station, but could still see 3rd place (the tutu gal from the Memorial Day 5-miler) up ahead when I threw down my cup and took off from the dirt road onto the single track.
Unfortunately, my legs were pretty much dead from the first climb on – I *really* need to stop doing sweltering 6-mile runs the day before these races…and maybe do some squats! However, my breathing felt good and I managed to stay in sight of my friendly rival until we hit the switch-back downhill with a couple miles to go.
At this point in the race I had started to fade pretty badly in the heat, and my heavy quads were struggling to hold any kind of decent pace on the switchbacks. A gal who I knew from skiing (and who I knew was a beast of a Nordic skier) was coming up on my tail and I fought to hold her off until a stomach cramp ended that campaign and she flew by. She kindly offered some words of encouragement and I managed to relax from the cramp and ease back towards her on the smoother downhill of the dirt road and bike path coming into the last half mile. Alas, I didn’t manage to get back up next to her before the finish and ended up in 5th, but first for my age group once again.
Mentally and physically the race was MUCH better than the Boneyard race (only partially due to the slightly shorter distance…) and I’m pretty pleased with my result and ability to hang so close to two extremely tough runners/athletes. I’ve started adding in some more trail work and hill work (owwww….) and am hoping that I can race myself into good enough shape to just maybe sneak onto that overall podium later in the season.
Overall, it was a great reminder that those scary, negative pre-race thoughts don’t necessarily portend a scary, negative race. Staying calm, working through a regular pre-race routine, and drawing positive vibes from the pre-race scene can help clear the way for the necessary race focus and prevent the almost inevitable negative thoughts from sabotaging a perfect opportunity to get in a challenging, fun effort out on the race course.