Demand More From Your Body

I used to have a really great spin instructor, back when I went to the Y and went to spin class. She was a little intense but also super nice and fun. She'd always crank up the music during tough parts of the class and she would yell things at us to keep us going, so we wouldn't give up, so we'd hang on just a little longer. The things she said always resonated with me, but none more so than this:


That class was almost 2 years ago. I was training for a big PR at my second half marathon, and I was willing to push myself as hard as I needed to get there. I thought I really got what she was saying, but I really didn't fully understand it until this weekend during the Richmond Half Marathon. 

I know I've been harping on this for like 2 months now, but this was finally, FINALLY my last big race of this year. A year bookended by two big races: my first marathon in January, and my (hopefully) first sub-2 half in November. If you've been paying any attention here lately you know that I actually hit that sub-2 not once but twice over the last month. Still, I hoped to go out with a bang at my last big race of 2014 in Richmond. I didn't have a specific goal in mind other than another sub-2 (I like to think of it as the Triple Crown). I had some other goals in mind, none that I was willing to admit out loud, none that even came to me until the day before the race. Here's the thing: I think my days of being married to a time goal are over. I've run a lot of races with a very specific time in mind. I used to spend a whole training cycle, leading up to one race, trying to reach a certain goal. I've achieved some and blown others. It's been a long time since I trained for a specific time, and I kind of prefer it this way. It's hard banking all that training on one day. It's a lot of pressure. I didn't train for any particular time for Richmond and I waited until right before the race started to entertain the thought of any goal times for the day.

As we stood shivering in the porta-potty line on Saturday, I was talking to Ben about how weird it is that I don't really get nervous for races anymore. I'm sure it's a combination of things, not the least of which is that I've stood at a couple starting lines in my day. I wholeheartedly believe that one of the best cures for race anxiety is simply to race more often. But another contender for the top spot is something I've only managed to start doing recently: trust my body. I used to race by the mantra "Trust your training," which was great for when I had been following a strict training plan, but that hasn't been the case lately. Don't get me wrong, I've been training, but not for anything in particular. I've been training for everything and nothing at the same time. So when I lined up on Saturday, "Trust your body" seemed more accurate and more appropriate. 

The morning of the race was cold, so cold, freezing actually. Starting temps were 28*, making this one of the coldest races I've ever run. I tend to do better in less-than-perfect weather (as long as it's of the cold and/or rain variety, not the heat and/or humidity variety), so I hadn't resigned myself to a less-than-stellar race like I think a lot of people had. The beginning of the course was easier than I remembered from last year. The first few miles were more or less flat and all I could think was that I was finally getting my reward for all the tough hills I've been running. I knew from almost the beginning that a sub-2 was pretty much guaranteed, and after a few miles, so was a PR. I started out fast but in control. Like I said, I hadn't committed to any time goals, but I did have 1:50 in the back of my head. I had already looked it up, just for funsies, and found out I needed to average 8:21 to pull it off. So starting after 5 miles, when my average pace was at 8:15, all I could see was the number 4. As in, come hell or high water, the number that came after the 1: on my finish time would be a 4. 



That was that. It was decided. And that's when I thought about what my old spin instructor had said. Demand more of your body. It will give it to you. I hadn't thought about that in a long time, but all of a sudden it popped in my head and became my mantra through the rest of the race. And, oh, the rest of the race. If the beginning was easier than I remembered, the rest was harder. There were hills where I didn't remember there being hills (not even close to Hokie Half or City of Oaks level, but still not easy). There were long straightaways that maybe could have used a small hill or two to break up the monotony. There were a couple sizable hills and my average pace dropped by a couple seconds but not enough to throw me off target. By mile 9 I was starting to get tired, and right before mile 10 I walked a water stop and got a drink. I walked another one and got another drink right before mile 11 and I watched my average pace go up to 8:22, just over where I needed it to be for 1:50.

This is not the first time I've gotten to mile 11 and had now-or-never choice to make: are you going to give up and just miss your goal, or are you going to keep going and finish this thing? I thought some more about what my spin instructor had said. And about what a friend texted me the night before the race: "Remember lay it all out on the line!! this is what you train for!!" That was the same friend who jokingly-but-not-jokingly suggested I go for sub-50 at the Wicked 10k a few weeks ago, his words, "Leave it all on the course" echoing through my mind and carrying me to the finish line that day. So once again, I let his words and my spin teacher's words carry me through to the end of this race.

I knew I had a big downhill coming at the end, so I just needed to do the work until then and then I could let gravity take over. I felt a little bit like I was running in slow motion at that point. I got to mile 12 and I just remember thinking, "Only 8 more minutes." Eight more minutes and this big, awesome, intense, crazy, rewarding, humbling, triumphant year of racing would come to an end. I ran my heart out this year, and I wasn't about to stop with only 8 minutes left. I knew I had to give it all I had, to finish strong. There were a few turns during mile 12, which was nice after a lot of the course running straight down one road for a mile or two at a time. I remembered that part of the course from last year and once I got to where I knew I only had a half mile left, getting really close to that downhill, I started booking.



I finally made the turn to see the long, steep downhill to the finish! I didn't know at that point if I would be just under or just over 1:50, but I knew I had given it all I had and that was all I could do. I took that downhill aggressively, looking at my watch frequently. Once the 13 mile marker was in sight, I had about 2 minutes to get to the finish, and that's when I knew I had it. The finish is very, very steep so as much as I was trying to push my pace, I was also trying to reign it in to make sure I didn't trip and fall on my face. Running downhill is harder than it sounds! 


 

I crossed the finish line and immediately checked my watch (duh). It read 1:49:34 (later official time was actually 1 second slower, SORRY I LIED ON INSTAGRAM). I know I sound like a broken record saying that I never, ever in my life dreamed I'd run ________ (fill in the blank with my most recent PR), but a 1:4X:XX half marathon is something I never even thought about until Saturday (for those of you keeping score at home, I've now taken 52 minutes 46 seconds off my first half 2.5 years ago - bet you can guess what my ultimate goal is ;)). Still, crossing that finish line, I wasn't totally surprised that I did it. I knew from 1/3 of the way into the race that I'd finish with a 1:4X:XX time, but it still wasn't a guarantee. I got it because I demanded it (and also because of that big ass downhill at the end...gotta give credit where credit is due). I'm still getting used to being able to trust my body, to know that it will give me what I demand of it.  I spent so much of my 3.5 running years not being sure what I could ask of it, not being able to trust it, being surprised and overwhelmed and crying tears of joy every time it actually did what I wanted it to do. It feels strange to all of a sudden know that I control my body, my body doesn't control me. Strange, but awesome. I can't think of a feeling I'd rather have to end my 2014 racing year.

21 comments :

  1. Congrats on the PR and the 1:49 and change :) Your recap was outstanding and I felt like I was running with you. It is a nice feeling to know you will PR on the onset. I know I would like to work on my mantras and positive thinking during the race. It is really inspiring to hear about your 52 min improvement in 2.5 years! I remember last year breaking 2:30 seemed impossible to me... or a BHAG. I can't imagine what I will be thinking next year - 2:00-2:15 seems so "far away" but never say never right? :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Jenny! My mind is my own worst enemy. It has carried me through some races and sabotaged others.
      Never say never is absolutely right! A year ago breaking through 2:10 felt impossible for me. I ran a few races right around that time but just couldn't break through. It's hard to believe that was only a year ago and I've finished a race over 20 minutes faster than what felt impossible then. You will definitely get there, just keep pushing!

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  2. Congrats!! I loved reading this and so am so happy for you. I totally believe you will meet any and all goals you set for yourself. Downhill running sucks sometimes, I always feel like I'm going to fall flat on my face! Ps I just love race photos where both feet are off the ground lol.

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  3. Congratulations!!!!! 1:4XXXX is crazy amazing! I literally go chills when I read your review because you made it seem possible.

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  4. Dang speedy! Way to work it. Congrats on the new PR! :)

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  5. Good for you! I love your attitude and yes, "demand more from your body" is a great mantra. I also used to run with "trust your training" but even when I trained hard I was always plagued with thoughts that I could have done better. I like your new mantra so much better. I remember in the last 4 km of my half-ironman this year it was so hard and it was the toughest part of the race because mentally I was done. I had to barter with myself but I think in the long run that's what make races so great, we learn things about ourselves and our bodies we didn't know were possible.

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    1. That used to happen to me to, even when I got the time I trained for I always had a thought in the back of my head like, "Well I did it, but could I have done even better?" I don't think that attitude was entirely productive for me.
      Very true! I think that feeling of proving yourself wrong is one of the most rewarding parts.

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  6. YOU ALWAYS LOOK SO CUTE IN YOUR RACE PHOTOS. so not only are you a rock star runner, you are also a rock star race model. My last half finished with a pretty serious downhill and i found it to be one of the harder parts of the race- i had to try SO hard to keep my legs moving at a slower pace to prevent going for a nice tumble.

    You are amazing. I love reading your recaps. you make me feel so inspired to get out there and kick some ass. relish in the feeling- you deserve it!

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  7. Congrats again! Amazing time!

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  8. Congratulations!! What a great accomplishment I loved reading this recap!! Makes me want to run - if only it wasn't cold outside LOL!

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  9. Congrats again, and thank you for being so insanely inspiring I would hate you if I didn't adore you so much. Currently hating that I don't have a race scheduled until March. I'm thinking it's time to look for a small race in January so I can feel half as badass as you ;)

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  10. Yay, way to go on the race and PR! That's such a great mantra. And dang, running when it's below freezing? I'm way too much of a wimp for that. Awesome race and great recap!

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  11. Congrats!!! Such an accomplishment! So inspiring! Every time I read a recap of a race, I think to myself....I really need to start getting in to running!

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  12. Amazing! Gosh, the colors of all the leaves are so pretty. Sounds like the perfect run to end your season on. Great recap! I don't know if I've run in a race with a downhill finish like that. I need to find one!

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  13. First off CONGRATS on that amazing time- it's awesome to see your progress and see you pushing yourself!!! And secondly, I needed this :) I can't wait for a day where I (hopefully) no longer get race anxiety-- mine is out of control, but I know it's also because I don't race very often. I get excited and train and do one... and then I'm just done for way too long. I always beat myself up about being a slow runner, but I never seem to stick with it consistently enough to SEE the progression and the improvement-- hoping that time is now!

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  14. Congrats!!! Thats amazing!!!
    I've found that when I am not training for a race, I need to give up the garmin and run for pleasure. I get so addicted to that thing, and a bad training run can send me into a bad mood for a few hours. Its hard not to obsess over the numbers!!! Argh! I've been running without my watch for a few months now, but I am getting the itch to race again, but I've been enjoying running blind lately, so we will have to see about it. :)

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  15. Erin took the words right out of my mouth! (You are amazing. I love reading your recaps. you make me feel so inspired to get out there and kick some ass. relish in the feeling- you deserve it!) I've so enjoyed reading about running this year!! Congrats on 1:40!!!! I'm going to read this post again the night before my race :)

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  16. CONGRATS! This post almost made me emotional! So much passion and inspiration! I loved everything about this post. everything!

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  17. Congrats!! That is so amazing! :) You make me want to actually like running. LOL :)

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  18. You are such an inspiration girl. I always have to tell myself that, "PUSH yourself, Kayla" and it always seems to pay off. Hoping I can become a consistent runner now. (Gone 4x in the last week woohoo!) and am trying to get back in it for my half in May. Training will start ASAP!!! congrats again in your huge milestone girl, that's so incredible!!!!!

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