I didn’t PR at yesterday’s Mini 10K, but it was a successful race by so many other standards. Marathon training is quickly teaching me that there are more ways to measure a race than by your finish time.
Here’s how the weekend went down…
I used Friday as a total rest day in order to let my body recover from a week of hard runs. I had in my mind that I wanted to PR at the Mini, which would mean coming in faster than 49:35 (my time from the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K). Thus, I needed some rest.
After a wonderful lunch with my coworkers at 5 Napkin Burger (the veggie burger there is pretty spectacular — I recommend it), I met my guests for the weekend, Emily and her delightful boyfriend (she calls him The Rocketship), fresh off the bus from D.C.
I first met Emily in person at the National Half Marathon back in March. I think she’s pretty much the coolest person ever, and her boyfriend is the funniest person I’ve met in a long time.
We stopped at my apartment so they could drop their stuff off (and so I could change, because I had sweat through my work outfit trekking through the city all afternoon — sexy, per usual), and then we played around on the Upper East Side.
Naturally I took them to JackRabbit.
The restaurant was good and the food was fine, but of course the best part was reuniting with some of my favorite people.
Nice hand placement, Theodora. Gosh we’re classy.
I stuck with whole wheat penne and red sauce for dinner because I didn’t want to try anything crazy the night before the race.
After dinner we headed back uptown where I slept like a baby, dreaming of Coach Cane’s advice for me: Stay calm early on. Stop telling yourself that you can’t run well on the hills. The only significant climb is Harlem and then it’s fast from there. Just behave today and tonight, stay hydrated and have fun tomorrow.
Easy enough, right?
Race morning went like any other race morning. The race started at 8 am, and my body woke up naturally at 5:30. I took a shower, did some abs, ate a Luna bar and used the bathroom roughly 16 times. Thanks for being cool about that, house guests.
I felt great all morning. My stomach seemed to be behaving, and although I’ve grown to seriously hate the 10K distance (too long to sprint, too short to get a good groove), I was eager to run the race with Mrs. Coach Cane, who (at 17 weeks pregnant) graciously agreed to be by my side helping me out with pacing.
We took a cab to the start line at Columbus Circle…
…then happened to run into some familiar faces.
We all headed for our corrals and I did a warm up around the Time Warner Center with Mrs. Coach Cane. We did a slow jog and a few short “pick-ups” with increased speed. Nothing crazy.
Mrs. Coach Cane (let’s call her “MCC” here for now, shall we?) didn’t want me running with music, so even though I had my Shuffle on me, I didn’t really use it. That was definitely new to me. I use music as a distraction. I hate hearing myself breathe and struggle, and I like tuning out and listening to music.
Apparently Coach Cane wants me doing just the opposite — tuning everything else out, and tuning in to my body.
To be honest, I was really nervous about racing with MCC. I worried about the tiniest things, like how close to her I should be running, whether I should keep up with her no matter what and if it was OK to smile for the photographers or if she wanted me to take the race super seriously.
I got my answer to the last one during Mile 1 when I was cheering while running as I saw familiar faces and she said “That’s enough woo-ing. No more. Just focus.”
Mile 1 was great. As we ran the straight, flat stretch north on Central Park West, I focused intently on the pace MCC set for me, which was a pretty easy 8:20-8:30 pace. For the first time ever I appreciated going out slowly in hopes of being able to finish strong.
I didn’t weave. I didn’t try to pass people. I just stuck with MCC, who was giving me tons of advice along the way.
That brings me back to my first point: It’s OK that I didn’t PR yesterday, because running with MCC helped me learn a lot.
At one point she had me run ahead and watched me from behind. She assessed my form — I twist my torso too much when I run, she observed, and gave me lots of corrections on my arm swing. It’s clear that I run with a very tight torso and with my shoulders up by my ears. She must have said “Relax” 16 times over the course of the first four miles.
Once we hit Harlem Hills I realized that I was hurting a bit.
We had settled into a 7:50 pace, and when MCC asked if I could maintain that for five miles I confidently said yes. I felt good at the time, so why would I think I couldn’t keep that up?
As we approached the first hill, she told me to lean into the hill from my ankles (this felt weird) and shorten my stride, quickening my steps.
On the downhill, we saw Coach Cane! I knew he would be at the top of the park and wanted to make sure I looked strong when we saw him.
17 weeks pregnant and she’s still got better abs than I do. Life is unfair.
I started to lose my pace on the second uphill. The humidity (which was at 96% during the race) was getting to me and I felt like I was running on empty. Maybe I didn’t fuel enough in the morning, or I ate too early. But I began to feel like I was a car running out of gas. It wasn’t a good feeling.
Around the end of Mile 3, MCC started to pull ahead and I felt like I couldn’t keep up with her.
Then the mental game began. I got so frustrated that I was struggling and I sort of gave up. Yeah, my body was tired, but in retrospect I wish I had pushed a little harder to stay with her. My stomach felt off a few times, but there were no major issues. I just felt wiped. And mentally I gave up. I knew within the fourth mile that I probably wasn’t going to PR, so I tried to just focus on the advice MCC had given me. I thought about my arm swing, tried to keep my shoulders down and, though I sort of failed at it, I tried to “relax.”
As I approached the finish, I just wanted to be done.
I do not look happy at all. I saw Emily on the sidelines and I didn’t even fake a smile for her.
I ended up finishing in 50:41. No PR, but many lessons learned.
I found MCC when I finished and without even thinking, the first thing I blurted out was, “I’m so sorry.”
I felt like a failure for not being able to keep up with her.
She told me not to apologize. And later that day, she sent me the best email ever.
“Remember why you do this: to have fun and test yourself. Don’t race for Coach Cane or anyone else. Carrying the burden of disappointing someone is too much to bear. Remember, we love you and would NEVER be disappointed because of your race time. People who are like that are losers and stay away from them.”
I know I’ve been saying this every day, but I can’t emphasize enough how lucky I feel to have a Coach and a Coach’s wife who both want to help me succeed. I was so disappointed I couldn’t keep up with Mrs. Coach Cane, but she gave me so many things to think about when it comes to racing. Even on my toughest days, when I want to beat myself up, I feel very supported and loved by my “running family.”
I was thrilled to find more members of that running family at the finish line.
Apparently at women’s-only 10K races, you get medals. Excellent.
I also learned yesterday that I really like pears. Good to know.
After the race, a big group of us headed to brunch (I have no photos from this because I was too busy demolishing a plate of chocolate chip pancakes). It was awesome being surrounded by seasoned marathoners and basking in their advice.
My favorite point of the day came from Emily. She said that races during marathon training aren’t always for PRing. There are so many other goals you can set for yourself for each race, whether it’s to negative split, to practice fueling or to (for once) have fun and not go time-crazy.
Every race I do teaches me an important lesson. In this race, thanks to Mrs. Coach Cane, I learned a ton about my form and also about the things I can be doing differently in the days leading up to the race (like, ahem, fewer two-a-day workouts — much to my chagrin).
All in all, the race was a success. I didn’t break any records. I didn’t force a smile at the finish. But I will now obsess over my performance for the next week and figure out how I can do better next time.
Most importantly, I got to spend the weekend with awesome friends.
I also ate 16 Handles.
And maybe drank a bottle of wine.
Success? I think so.
Congratulations to all of the amazing Mini 10K racers yesterday. I loved meeting so many great people during the race and at the finish line!