Alternate title for this post: “The Time I Talked A Big Game & Told Vegas To Be Afraid Of Me & Then Blew It On The Race Course.” But that seemed a little long, don’t you think?
Hi, and welcome to my pity party!
No, not really. That party was yesterday. You missed it. I’m sorry.
So by now you’ve probably figured it out: I did not PR at the Las Vegas Half Marathon liked I had hoped. In fact, I didn’t even come close.
I’ll take you back to the beginning, because that is where all stories should start.
I woke up around 7 am on race day. I would have liked to sleep a little later, but I was like, “Hey! It’s Race Day! Time to rise and try to shine!” I had a granola bar — the Entenmann’s chocolate chip kind with no real granola in it — like I always do and hung around the room for a while. Eventually Brian and I made our way to get an actual meal.
Everywhere in the Mandalay Bay area was packed with hungry runners. We ended up at The Luxor buffet, where we waited a lovely 45 minutes to be seated.
Sadly, we had just missed breakfast and they were turning the buffet over to the lunch menu. It was weird. We had some eggs and some pasta and then decided we had eaten enough. It was a very mediocre meal.
Brian and I spent the rest of the day walking around the casinos and losing more money at the slot machines. I may have a slight gambling addiction at this point. I hear the Wheel of Fortune music in my head at night…I dream about hitting the Double Diamond…
We took a nap, which was a great idea, and woke up to get ready for the race around 2:30.
I followed the usual routine: shower, abs, bib pinning, listen to pump-up music, work on jazz hands.
But the thing is, I never really felt pumped up. I tried to get psyched. I was happy to put on my leg warmers, of course, and I was excited that Brian was about to run his first half marathon. But to be completely honest I never really felt that this was going to be my race. I tried to ignore that feeling and assumed I was just nervous, but I just never got as excited as I wanted to be.
At 4:00 we worked our way down to the Mandalay Bay lobby where we met up with all the NYC Team Challengers.
Everyone was so excited, which was cool, and tons of people asked me what my goal time was. And I told them all, just like I told all of you for so long, that I was, “Shooting for 1:43.” Though really, if Brian and I had stuck to our pace plan, we would have come in at 1:41, but saying that out loud seemed crazy to me.
The running coaches wished us all luck, and then it was off to the start line.
This was madness. There were no signs telling us where to go and Mandalay Bay was so crowded that it took forever to get anywhere.
Another thing: I used the bathroom a bunch of times, but was never really satisfied with what was happening in there. That is all.
Brian and I made our way to the start, making a quick stop at bag check (easy and efficient).
Next stop: The VIP Porta Potties. These were awesome, once I found them. There was a guy standing at the entrance to the trailers with Gu Chomps on a silver platter, which was kind of hilarious, and the bathrooms were real toilets! That flushed! And were clean! I did, in fact, feel very VIP.
It took us forever to work our way into our corral. We were seeded in the third corral, which was great because we managed to avoid all the crazy crowds people seem to be ranting about.
We stood together while the National Anthem happened, and then high fived and kissed a bunch of times — and then we were off.
The plan was to stay between a 7:45 and 7:50 pace. We knew not to go out too fast, and we didn’t want to waste time or energy weaving.
The crowds thinned out immediately and I never felt like we were too close to other runners. The first mile was a blur, and I was excited during the second mile because I knew I’d see my Sparkly Friends screaming on the sidelines.
I felt great when we saw Emily and Sarah. Brian had to tell me to slow down several times to stay on pace — thanks, Brian! — and I remember at one point asking him what our pace was. “7:45,” he told me, and I smiled at him and screamed, “Easy!”
I felt good. I felt comfortable.
And a few minutes later, I got a sweet ass slap from Page, who cruised by like she was on wheels.
We cruised down the Strip and I’d love to say I took in all the sights, but I really didn’t. I’ve done this race before. I’ve seen the Strip. I was there to run. I focused on keeping my arms relaxed and my head up.
I started to hurt a bit around mile four. Yes, mile freakin’ four. Seriously, Ali?
My legs began to feel heavy and my stomach was not thrilled at all.
We left the Strip and ran through some side streets for a while. By mile six I had fallen off pace a bit. I was trying to keep up with Brian but my legs just wouldn’t speed up. People say that flat courses are great, but I would have killed for a nice rolling hill to help me out.
Bitch bitch bitch, whine whine whine.
I know. It’s pathetic. Trust me, I’d rather be sitting here telling you about how gloriously fast and effortless this race was for me.
At this point, all I could think about was the fact that if I continued to slow down, a PR was going to be completely out of reach. I didn’t have much wiggle room, so I either needed to speed the heck up or accept that I’d PR another day.
I kept running, and Brian was great, constantly motivating me and telling me, “You can do this. You’ve got this.” I just remember thinking he was insane, but I appreciated his efforts.
At mile eight, I saw Porta Potties. I told Brian that I wanted to stop, but that I didn’t necessarily have to. My stomach was miserable but I wanted to push through. He told me that if I stopped and made it quick, and then picked the pace back up, we could still hit our goal.
I darted into the bathroom, took care of business and was back out in less than a minute. Mentally I felt relieved. I didn’t need to worry about my stomach anymore. I could focus on running and trying to run fast again.
Within half a mile, I got knocked with a killer side stitch cramp, and I had major marathon flashbacks. This is when I knew this race was over for me.
I gave up.
I told myself, “It’s fine. You’ll PR another day. Today isn’t your day. Enjoy this run. Do it for Brian.”
I slowed down big time. I tried to breathe through the cramp and I got water, but it wasn’t going away. I kept telling Brian he could go ahead because he looked so strong and I hated the idea of my bad race ruining his first one. I know he could’ve hit 1:43 — and probably even 1:39 — no problem. But he refused to go ahead. Silly stubborn boy.
I seriously struggled through those last miles. Our pace continued to drop. I was fighting the cramp in my side and my legs just would not go. Brian asked a few times if I thought I could pick it back up, and I tried. But it was like my legs were being held back by someone behind me and they refused to move forward. It was an awful feeling.
As we ran back down the Strip, Mandalay Bay seemed so far away. We were no longer hitting 7:50s, or even 8:50s — our pace was in the 9:00/mile range. That was never the plan. I am the Queen of Positive Splitting. It’s not a title I’m proud of.
Around mile 10, I asked Brian if there was still any chance we could PR. He just sort of looked at the watch, looked at me and shook his head. It wasn’t going to happen.
Instead of feeling sad, I felt overcome with relief. It was like this huge weight was lifted. I remember thinking to myself, “Now I can relax and enjoy the rest of this race.”
I didn’t really enjoy it because that damn cramp stuck with me until I crossed the finish line, but I do think it’s interesting that as soon as that time goal was gone, I felt happier. The pressure was gone. I wasn’t happy about not hitting my goal — or even coming close to it — but I felt relieved that I didn’t have to think about it so much anymore. And as I type that, I hate myself a little bit, because it sounds so weak and so pathetic.
Finally, after struggling through a handful of miserable miles, the finish line was close. Brian and I rounded a corner into the Mandalay Bay starting area and Brian grabbed my hand. I was shot at this point. I just wanted to be done. I wasn’t enjoying myself.
We cruised toward the finish together and I forced a smile. I kissed Brian and told him I was so proud of him — his first half marathon!
But we were both bummed. I know it must have been frustrating for him to continually try and motivate me and get nothing in return. He also ripped his knee to shreds and he is currently walking like a very tipsy, lopsided human.
And on my end? I’m pissed. I’m disappointed. I’m embarrassed.
I talked this big game. “Watch out Vegas! I’m going to crush you! PR here I come!” And then I had a little stomachache, I got a cramp, and I gave up.
After we finished, Brian and I wove through the finisher’s area. I drank a ton of water and a slice of an orange, but I couldn’t get anything else down. My body temperature immediately went into Crazy Mode — this happened the last time I ran in Vegas, too! — and suddenly I was sweating and shivering and needed to get back to the room as fast as possible.
Brian and I didn’t talk much after the race. I was upset. I wasn’t ready to talk about the fact that I felt like a quitter.
Fellers don’t quit. Except when I was younger and I quit gymnastics because I fell off the high bar too many times and was deathly afraid of the balance beam. That was legitimate though. I could have died on those bars!
So we got back to the room, and I don’t really remember what happened immediately afterward. I know I showered. OK, I kind of showered. I stood under the water for about 20 minutes and then had to sit down in the shower because I thought I was going to pass out. Not so fun.
And then I remember napping for about two hours. I was drained, but I also hoped that if I fell asleep, the race wouldn’t have been real. Maybe I could re-wake up and get a redo.
Sadly that wasn’t the case.
Eventually, even though I had no appetite, Brian and I went to dinner around 11:30 pm. I ordered French Onion soup and some crab cakes. I took about one bite of each. I got two glasses of wine, downed them, and felt nothing. I would have liked a nice buzz, but that didn’t happen.
I know this all comes off as tragic and whiny, but that’s how I feel. I’ve cried a lot since the race. I’m sure that seems a little ridiculous — trust me, I know it’s just a race and not something serious, like the fact that Celine isn’t playing her show while I happen to be in Las Vegas — but I am really disappointed in myself.
I wish I had pushed harder. I should have pushed through the pain. I should have been more hardcore.
I wish I had felt better.
I wish I had made people proud.
Going into this race, everyone was so sure I was going to PR. I got all these nice comments and Tweets and messages saying, “You’ll crush it in Vegas.”
I never believed it though.
Mentally, I don’t think I ever felt confident that this was going to be my A-race.
Brian keeps telling me that I get too “in my head” about all this stuff. I spent a lot of time yesterday crying. I woke up and then I had the greatest pity party of all time. I’m really sorry you all couldn’t make it.
I know I didn’t run an impressive race. I know that I put too much pressure on myself. I’ve always been a go-getter and the idea of failing isn’t really something I’m OK with. I thought I was in the midst of my great post-Crohn’s comeback, and while a 1:52 finish time is by no means a bad time, it isn’t my personal best.
I kept telling Brian yesterday that I felt like I let everyone down. I know that my race time is so irrelevant to so many people, but I still felt an incredible amount of pressure to race well. And then, just when I thought I could move on, I got the email I had been dreading.
Naturally he looked up my splits. And he saw that I ran the first 10K at sub-8:00 miles and the second half of the race at 9-minute miles. He wanted to know if I slowed down to wait for Brian or if Brian had to slow down for me.
I responded as succinctly as I could: “Brian slowed down for me. I hate racing. I’m done.”
Nice, right? I’m such a gem. So positive. So pleasant.
I sobbed my way through Coach Cane’s response like a sad little puppy: “I don’t think you suck at racing. I think you do a bit of a number on yourself, but I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell yourself you suck and you will suck. If you ever want to discuss it some more, I am happy to give you my $.02, which is guaranteed to be worth every nickel. If you really just don’t want to race, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and I won’t try to dissuade you, but if you don’t want to race because you think you suck, then I think you should reconsider. Regardless, please enjoy the rest of your trip.”
Yesterday morning Brian and I met up with Emily, Sarah, Page and Aron for breakfast.
Thank you, wonderful friends, for making me feel so much better. I was still pretty upset when we all met up, and I had to choke back tears as everyone consoled me. But as each of these badass runner chicks shared their own stories about missed PRs, I started to feel so much better.
Sarah, thank you for telling me about that time you printed “Sub 4 or Die” on your race bib and then didn’t, in fact, hit a sub-4 hour marathon.
Emily, thank you for sharing your story about the time you wanted to go 3:20 in the marathon and finished in 3:52. You’re right. Those times are basically the same.
But it was Aron’s story about her quest to Boston Qualify that really helped me go from sad and sulky to less sad and less sulky. Aron wanted a BQ. She devoted months of her life to that one goal, and it didn’t happen — three times in a row. But eventually it did. And I think she kicks ass.
It seems every runner has a story about a missed PR and a disappointing race. I guess this is mine. Won’t it be fun when I have a story about actually nailing a PR? That’ll be a great post to write.
I was in a crap-ass mood yesterday morning and I was hating racing and hating life. I still kind of hate racing, at least for now, because I need to learn how to race without putting so much pressure on myself. Surrounding myself with runner friends helps. They get it.
After breakfast, Brian and I decided we were done being little bitches. We suited up, hit the Strip and spent the rest of the day eating (a lot), drinking (too much, according to how I feel this morning) and riding roller coasters. It ended up being a pretty perfect day.
Also, Brian won $532 on a slot machine.
I lost $100.
I put off writing this recap for a while because I knew it was going to read like a lame tragic novel. But now that it’s all out there, I actually feel a lot better.
It was just one race. It wasn’t my day. I’m not a professional runner. My race times do not define who I am. My life isn’t over.
I’ll PR in the half marathon someday. And it will be glorious.
Congratulations to all of the racers this weekend. You inspire me.