Monday, November 17, 2008

Rocky Road to the Finish Line

San Antonio was my first race for the season, since the 3M Half-Marathon in 2007. Considering, it was my first double-digit miler since January this year when I ran 10 miles, I suppose it was alright.. Not quite the rah-rah experience I was hoping it would be.

The high point of the SA Rock N Roll experience for me was Arvind doing his Half Marathon in 1 hr 58min! Simply fabulous! I'm so proud of him. After having a rough time this year with training and health, he's back in form and clocked a minute more than his first ever half-marathon race. All this inspite of barely training for over 2 months. This was quite a confidence booster for him and I know he's going to set a PR in his next race!

As for me, it wasn't a great race. More than anything, my lack of training was apparent. Sure I can go out and do a half-marathon. But it's no longer about just finishing the race for me. It's about having a good experience with it. And Sunday's race was hard in the last few miles.

I was going to list all the things went wrong.. Until yesterday, when I went for yoga. With a bad back, I could not do most of the asanas, and feeling frustrated, I asked the teacher for alternative poses. She said, if you can't do it, then just honor yourself and sit in child's pose. It hit me then. Honor yourself. No point thinking negative thoughts. Just honor whatever you did and build on it.

So that's the approach I will take with my race report. Am going to focus on the positive aspects of the race, what I did RIGHT instead of mulling over what I did WRONG (albeit there were plenty of things I would change for my next race)

Pre-Race & All That Jazz

Arv & I had fun travelling with Steph, Bradford & Kristen to San Antonio where about 12 of us piled on at Vishi's. It was awesome chillin' with friends, meeting new folks and tucking into a sumptious carb-loaded meal - pasta with alfredo sauce (Arv's cooking), pasta with marinara (cha), mashed potatoes (steph), herb bread (vani), coconut rice (cha), hummus & pita chips (kristen) and some tangilious lime juice (charmi & niraj). Oh, and fudgecheez cake to celebrate Google's birthday. I discovered mashed potatoes with mango pickle is MOST delectable.

At night, I packed my race day gear:

- Shoes & socks
- track suit
- white long-sleeved shirt
- Team Asha t-shirt (IMPORTANT!)
- Gloves
- Headband
- Salt tablets (note to self: pack more of this in future, two aren't enuff)
- Gu shot
- Cliff shot blocks
- Water bottle & hand grip
- Race bib (pinned onto tee)
- Timing Chip (attached to shoe)
I packed a drop-off bag containing a towel and an extra tee just in case. Would definitely do this drill for future races.

Next time, I will ensure that I sleep comfortably.

Race Day Morning

Had my usual few sips of coffee & banana. I wish I could eat more in the morning, but it doesn't work for me. Ideally, oatmeal and/or bagels is what is recommended.

Good idea to pack a power bar so that if lines are long (which they usually are in large races), you can have a snack before your race.

Miles 1-3: Doing the Trot

I need at least 3 miles to warm up. So the first part of the race was spent waving at bands, jogging along, getting my muscles going after being tensely cold. We even took a 10min (unavoidable) porta pottie break. There was a woman at the front fussing over the lack of toilet paper and jumping from one loo to the next. Note to self: if TP is that important to you, then BYOTP.

After the 5K mark, Cha & I spotted some folks offering donuts & pastries! We were both hungry from the endless wait at the start, so we split a quarter of a donut. Probably not the best choice for a snack, but the sugar felt good.

Miles 4-9: Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

It was awesome running with Cha. She was really good about hydration (which I'm not good about) so whenever she took a sip of water, I was reminded to do the same. This kept me well-hydrated. It was definitely a good decision to take a water bottle along and get a bottle grip from Ganesh. We barely stopped at any of the water stops because we sipped our water along the way. Since I'm a sipper, it really worked well to carry my own water and not have to wait for a water stop to chug it.

I had a salt tablet after about an hour and a half of running. Will probably take more along in future because it minimizes cramping. I was feeling pretty good because I had trained well for 9 miles.

Miles 10 to finish: Ker-plat!

I was thrilled to see Savi & Varsha (who drove down at 5am that day) cheering us at Mile 10! By this time, Cha's stitches were really acting up, and I couldn't stop my running gait because it hurt too much to walk. Once Varsh started pacing Cha, I plodded on.

I went about 500m ahead when my feet hit the lights on the road divider and I went SPLAT on my face (also known as "doing the Superman"). My buddy, Santhosh (who did a crazy 156K trail running feat over the same weekend) later asked me how I managed to fall in a road race. I was probably dragging my feet from the pain and tumbled. I heard a huge wave of "Ooooh" around me, as people rushed to help me up. I dusted myself and continued running, unsure of how seriously injured myself. Tears welled up for no apparent reason. I told myself, if I was really hurt badly, it would become apparent soon enough. The experience shook me but also made me upset enough to stubbornly continue running. I knew if I started walking, I wouldn't make it.

Something took over me. I think it's the idea that I had worked so hard to make it that point in the race inspite of everything, and I just HAD to finish this. I pushed inspite of aches, pains, nausea, and mentally committed myself to better training for a future race.

After a while, it was sheer momentum carrying me forward. When I finally crossed the finish line, I couldn't stop running.

My biggest takeaway: For the distance that I had trained, I felt great. For the rest of way, I needed to have built my stamina further by training harder. Well, if the race doesn't kill ya, it only makes ya stronger. So, hopefully, I'm poised for a better race at Dallas next month!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ready to Rock!

It's slowly dawning on me that my first half-marathon race for this season is coming up next week! No, less than a week. November 16, 2008, is about 6 six days away. The sold-out race looks to be an exciting one with over 30,000 people running it, and supposedly there will be a band at every mile! We're going to run in a group (though I suspect I will be alone for most of my run considering my speedy running buddies) as Team Asha, so it will definitely be a blast! What's also going to be fun is that we'll be spending the night before the race at a friend's place in San Antonio (thanks, Vishi!!) and head out for the race together.

Truth be told, my training has been anything but exciting. I haven't been as regular with training as I would have liked, and I confess that I'm missing the steely discipline and determination that is helpful for workouts. I've tried to focus on my form and consciously worked through mental chatter/complaints while running. Most of my workouts and runs have been pretty good, and fairly enjoyable. The fact remains, however, I can do more and train a lot harder. One of my goals for this race is to finish strong, and speed up in my last mile. What has limited my running is the fear that I will lose steam at the end. I need to overcome this fear if I hope to do any better.
This will be my second half-marathon since 2007, so it's pretty exciting. It is also one of my three half-marathon races this season, so I'm looking to build on my experience at this race. I'm ready to rock!