I did not finish.

This past Sunday was one of the toughest running days ever. I had high expectations for the Newport Liberty Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon last year and since it is a course I know well and so close to home, I chose this race again in hopes of breaking two hours and setting a new personal record.

I’m the nutty one with the visor and sunglasses,
looking happier at mile 3

Last year, I ran a 2:05 on this course and in my most recent half – the NYC Half Marathon in March, I ran a 2:01 with a teammate. We had talked about how we should go for sub-two hours during this marathon training cycle while we are in tip-top shape. He completed his months back and even in high altitudes. Since I knew the Newport Liberty Half Marathon is a good, flat course, I figured it would be a good race to PR in. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way for me this weekend. I ended up not finishing the race, not because I was injured, but because I stopped myself from doing so around mile 11. I know I could have finished, PR no, but finish, yes, but it was a conscious decision to stop running. A lot of factors went into why this race did not go well and why I chose to stop running.

  • Anxiety – I am a drama queen. I don’t usually like to make a big deal about my goal times because it adds to the stress and anxiety of needing to meet them because now you’ve told the entire world. This race was different; I felt like it was pretty well known by anyone I talked to the weeks leading up the race that I really wanted sub-two hours. Not only did I want sub-two hours, which I thought was an easy enough task (after all, it would only be a one minute PR), I was hoping for closer to 1:50 to 1:55. I talked to all of our coaches and teammates about this to the point of exhaustion. I don’t know why I treated this race differently, maybe because I felt like I needed the encouragement and positive reinforcement and to me, it was a big race because it would be a good indication of how well I could do in the marathon. I knew that if I came out of this race with a great time, it would help me feel like sub-four hours in the marathon is possible and that I am on the right track. In hindsight, I put too much pressure on myself.
  • Food – Our Saturday eating was a little thrown off since I didn’t need to wake up early to fit in a run. As a result, we got off to a late start and my normal eating schedule was off. When it came time for dinner, I was hungry but didn’t feel right. We ordered from a restaurant that we’ve eaten at numerous times but not before a long run or race. I even ordered two entrees because I was afraid I wouldn’t like my original choice. However, the dinner(s) did not sit right with me. The rest of the evening, I felt off to the point where I threw up (sorry, too much information) most of my dinner. Again, it’s hard to say whether or not it was really the food that made me sick or if it was the nerves. Regardless, I learned my lesson to stick with what I know.
  • Dehydration (as a result of food above) – I tried to drink as much water as possible (with nuun) too on Saturday night and Sunday morning. However, as soon as the race started, I was feeling dehydrated. My right hand starts tingling when I am dehydrated and my right hand was tingling for pretty much the entire race starting at mile 2. I skipped the first two water station (there were stations roughly every 2-3 miles, which in my opinion are not enough but I guess it forces you to take water at each one) and at the third one around mile 6, I tried to drink some water and take GU. I ended up at the side of the course throwing up the little water and GU that made it into my stomach. At the next water station, I tried water again, with no luck of keeping anything down.
  • Poor mental state – Aside from knowing I was dehydrated, the race didn’t start terrible. I was averaging 8:50 – 9:00 minute miles which would have put me around 1:57 – 1:58. I knew it would be close and once I started feeling sick on the course, I mentally broke down. Everything came crashing all at once – I started getting worked up about not being able to PR, anxiety about the marathon, and stressors with work and life in general. It was not a good feeling and despite trying to talk myself out of the rut, it kept spiraling out of control. (P.S. good article I read today about building mental muscle.)

By mile 9, I made the decision that I would not continue the race. That was a tough decision because I knew I was physically capable of finishing but I also knew that if I finished, I would beat myself up about the time. It was already bad enough I would beat myself up about the poor showing, I didn’t need to add to it. At mile 9, I called Josh crying on the phone for over three minutes (yes, I was overly dramatic and emotional) and was surprised to actually see that no one on the course (and I wouldn’t expect the runners to, they are running a race, but the police were just feet away from me) stopped to see if I was okay. At that point in the course, there wasn’t an easy to get off of it, so I had to continue the run. I ended up running another two miles to meet up with Josh and head home.

I still question whether or not I made the right decision to not finish, but deep down inside I think it was the best decision given the circumstances. I still don’t know how much of it was my stress and anxiety and how much was dehydration or being sick, I’ll never know. I have a feeling it was a good combination of both and I am trying very hard to hold my head up high and plow through the last five weeks of training.

My family, friends, teammates and coaches have been great supporting me through my craziness this weekend. Today at practice, Coach Brian pulled me aside and gave me a pep talk that had me tearing by the end of the conversation. He reminded me that I had been working for two years for this race (NYC Marathon) and to not let anything screw it up for me. He reminded to have fun and that is exactly it, on Sunday and leading up to Sunday’s race, I forgot to have fun. I run for fun and I run in hopes of helping end Alzheimer’s. I cannot forget that.

While the outcome was not how I would have wanted it, I am glad I received the rude awakening now instead of weeks later. I am glad for the lesson and reminder to have fun.

What do you do to overcome a bad run or race? Any advice is welcome! I need it! 🙂

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