I have always said that I love running, but I don’t love racing.
So why am I signed up for the Las Vegas Half Marathon again? And a handful of other races before the year is over?
Racing is fun, sure. I like the energy on race day. I like the pre-race nerves I get. I like the camaraderie of the runners as we all pack into the corrals. I like when the gun goes off, and I love the rush I get when I cross over the start line and, hopefully not too long after, when I cross the finish line.
Crossing a finish line is one of my favorite things in the world. I wrote about it once, in fact.
But it’s all that stuff that happens in between the start line and the finish line that terrifies me a little. I’m an extremely competitive person and I don’t race “for fun.” If it happens to be a good time, great. I love running because it’s an individual sport — I don’t have to care about your pace, your negative splitting or your PRs. I only have to focus on my own.
That’s what scares me, though. I am afraid of failure. Big time. And that’s why I get excited about the idea of racing, but I panic when it comes down to the actual execution of it.
Running the Hamptons Marathon was its own beast. I was never particularly concerned with my finish time because it was my first marathon. I had no idea how my body was going to react once I passed that 20-mile marker.
Before the marathon, I had never really trained for a race. For my first two half marathons, I ran 5 miles or so most days during the week, and then built up my mileage on the weekends. I never tracked my pace. I never cared about time. Blissful!
I ran my first half marathon — the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon — in 2 hours 14 minutes.
For my second 13.1 venture — the Las Vegas Half Marathon — I followed the exact same “training plan” and somehow managed to shave 7 minutes off my time, finishing in 2:07. I’ll chalk it up to the fact that the Napa course was hilly and it was 90 degrees, and Vegas was totally flat and a brisk 40 degrees.
I ran my third half marathon — New York City — three months later, and again shaved 7 minutes off my time. At least I was consistent. I finished in 2:00:03 and was thrilled.
After the New York City Half Marathon, I didn’t sign up for any more races. I was just happy to be out running every day and didn’t think about it much beyond that.
Eventually though, I wanted to do another half marathon. I had kept my mileage up even though I wasn’t technically training for anything, and I decided I wanted to break two hours in the half. Yay goals!
I signed up for the National Half Marathon in Washington, D.C., which would fall one year after the New York City Half Marathon.
Again, I didn’t really train. I didn’t do speedwork. I didn’t know what a tempo run was (confession: still kind of don’t understand that term). I ran in Central Park regularly, but I’d hardly call that “hill training,” and I finally got a Garmin to track my pace and distance, but it wasn’t something I relied on too heavily. I also did a ton of cross training, including spinning, TRX classes and strength training.
When I toed the start line in D.C. earlier this year, my goal was to break two hours.
Everything went well for me that day, and I ended up finishing in 1:44:48. Trust me, no one was more surprised about that finish time than I was. I think I blacked out during the race. I barely remember it.
I went into that half marathon with no plan. No solid training. No fuel. Just me and some sneakers and some leg warmers.
I haven’t PR’d in the half marathon distance since then. I’ve raced a few 13.1s, but they were all during marathon training, so while I of course would have loved a sparkly PR in there somewhere, it didn’t happen for me, and it wasn’t my goal. The marathon was my goal for the bulk of 2011.
Now the year is wrapping up, and I find myself signed up for the Las Vegas Half Marathon on December 4.
This morning, I ran four gloriously slow miles along the East River. I convinced Brian that “the sunrise is so pretty, we have to go see it,” but we were out a bit too early to actually catch the sun.
My stomach was a little bitch today. I had to stop within the first mile at a Starbucks. Then, as Brian and I ran, I started to inflict myself with self-doubt regarding this upcoming half marathon.
I really want to PR in Las Vegas. The course is flat and the weather should be ideal. It’s a night race, which worries me, though I can figure that out. Minor detail.
But now I’m preoccupied with numbers. In D.C., I had no idea what kind of pace I had to be doing in order to hit a certain time. I just didn’t think about it. Now it’s all I can think about. If I want to go sub-1:44, I need to run sub-8:00 miles…the entire time.
Forget negative splitting. We know that’s not going to happen. Have you met me? I’d like to crown myself the Queen of Positive Splitting.
I haven’t been following a training plan for this race. My stomach has held me back a bit from doing speed training, and this morning I panicked about that, too.
But now I think maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I over-think racing too much. Once I started working with the phenomenal Coach Cane, my brain was auto-tuned to constantly focus on numbers. Pace, distance, splits, negative splits, super positive splits, striders, etc.
I know a million professional, successful runners will tell me that my “no training plan” strategy heading into Vegas is not wise. But I PR’d without any plan, so let’s see what happens, shall we?
I might break my own little record on December 4, and I might not. But I really don’t want to spend the next month worrying about it every day.
Oh, and I’d email Coach Cane for advice, but he’s a little busy.
Mrs. Coach Cane gave birth to this little munchkin on Monday! His name is Simon and he is 6 pounds of perfection, from what I’ve been told. So yeah, Coach Cane may not have time to waste thinking about my race day strategy. Fair enough. (And if you’re so inclined, shoot a little love message to the new dad on Twitter.)
For my next trick, I will run a half marathon without a plan. I will start running when they tell me to, and I’ll stop at the end. See you at the finish line.