Stage Three: The Actual Race

A race report from magical and exotic Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Part 3 (catch Part 1 here, and Part 2 here)

10632891_716796906448_8039759965038456960_nAll three of us, Alicia, Anna and I were going for BQs at this race. Josh was shooting for an epic halfer PR. We’d all had mixed training camps this summer, and the pre-dawn tension was high.

The race had 450-ish full marathoners total, so there really were no corrals, and it started on the high school track/football field. The weather was perfect, 55*F or so, so we spent most of the warm up hiding under the bleachers out of the “wind.” When the start time came close we all said good luck and went to line up behind our respective pacers. Josh was starting somewhere else with the half marathoners, so we wouldn’t see him until afterward. They sang the anthem, prayed the prayer, and we were off! Coming out of the track onto the road my main goal was to stay between the 8:12 pacers (BQ time) and the 8:35 pacers (for a 3:45 marathon). The 8:35 pacers kept riding me, and I had to keep going fast to avoid getting passed by them. I noticed that my Garmin read 7:55. About this time I heard him say to his pace group: “I’m really counting on y’all to let me know if I’m going too fast, my race pace is 7:35.” PACERFAIL. I mean, really. The guy had ONE JOB. In any event, they backed off, and I slowed down to 8:24s.

Originally, this was my BQ attempt. However, the Great Fairy Step-Godmother of Injury came calling and I had 12 days of inactivity right in the middle of prime mileage. A 3:35 seemed unlikely, so I was mainly hoping for a 340, figuring that if I was feeling strong around mile 17-18, I could try to pick it up and close with a negative split race and possible BQ. As one of my friends put it, “maybe you’ll have a heroic last 8 miles.” I would argue that the last 8 miles of any marathon are pretty heroic regardless of pace.

We headed out of town, northward towards the regional airport. I was clicking off my miles at pretty much goal pace, which is new for me. About mile 2 I was passed by a lady who had the unfortunate habit of getting right on people’s shoulder, hocking a loogie to the side and then trying to pass on the right. I want to be clear that I think this type of race behavior is not acceptable, and also that I passed her later in the race while she was walking. It serves her right!

It’s not a big race, so you’re spread out fairly soon, and I could actually relax and concentrate. Everyone around me in this race had an accent that sounded like a character from A Prairie Home Companion on NPR. It was pretty amusing! I played leap frog with a group of three ladies who were talking very loudly and enthusiastically. Eventually we ended up talking about our MGP goals, and we were right around each other. However, waterstops and mile markers were the main places that spectators were gathered, and I have an inability to maintain my pace when I know people are looking at me, so I generally just sped up going through those areas. The spectators were very supportive and enthusiastic, considering how cool it was and how spread out the race was. After we looped around the Sioux Falls Regional Airport (scenic!!!) we headed back down south and cut over to the levies along the Big Sioux River.

This section was pretty flat and sparse and was also a bike path that had surprisingly NOT been closed for the race. It generally wasn’t a problem except it was kind of annoying now and again to put up with bikers who clearly had no idea a) a race was happening and b) how much I was already hurting. However, while the terrain was flat, it was also exposed and the whole section involved running into a headwind which contributed to the effort level of holding MGP (that’s what Im telling myself). We finally got done with the levies and headed back into town across a bridge that overlooked the Water Treatment Plant (scenic!!!!) and jogged immediately past a Correctional Facility (scenic!!!)

After that we maneuvered back into downtown where the waterstops were populated with a lot of high-schoolers and there was a lot of energy and hilarious cheers. There were not a lot of signs along the race course, and certainly not any I hadn’t already seen on other courses before, but the cheer that seemed to be the most popular was the USMNT World Cup cheer: “I believe-.” There were some very hilarious middle school cheerleader types that were simultaneously encouraging “you’re doing so goood!!!!!” and bossy: “stay to the right of these cones, right around this corner!”

Downtown was also a head game similar to Duval, where it’s just enough of an incline to feel awful, but not enough of one that you know why it feels awful and then it gets in your head and fear and doubt start flying. I did however, basically PR coming back down that stretch (this was a mistake. At no point in a marathon, except the finish line, should you PR) and happened to see my teammate Alicia go by on the other part of the course (victory high-five!!). The course wandered back over to the Falls Park (actually scenic!). Going around the twisty-turny park, I was still hitting my 8:24s, but I was starting to dream about my delusions of grandeur (“oh I just ACCIDENTALLY BQ’d at this race! I wasn’t even TRYING!!”) and I told myself that if I was going to go have a heroic last 8 miles, now was the time. So I tried that for a mile or two, and then I hit the wall.

I don’t know if in my previous races (they have a history of not going well) I was just distracted from the concrete-leg feeling by my concrete-stomach feeling, or if my legs were just shot from pounding the downhills and trying too hard, but they were like anchors at this point. Mile 20-24 were slogs. I knew I wasn’t going to hit my 3:40, and I walked through one or two water stops. This section looped largely through neighborhoods, where the roads were also not closed, and it was unclear which side of the cones we were supposed to be on. Until the cars came, that is. Later, after we went around a high school, we actually got out onto the access road of a highway (scenic!!!!!) which was also not closed, and we were all just running in the right side lane, assuming that the cars would see us and not hit us. At that point, I would have taken death. Not to be dramatic.

The last 2 miles were on another jogging/bike path that had also not been closed to the public. At this point I was passed by the 3:45 pacer guy (he had ONE guy with him), and I also kept leap-frogging a guy in a bright yellow shirt and visor who would charge past me, and then I would pass him later when he was walking. I passed him and he told me “good job blue” (I was wearing blue Team Rogue jersey) and then he caught up to me at the mile 24 water stop and said in a very wanna-be personal trainer way “here we go Blue, let’s get this.” I didn’t have any energy to think of a response, and running with someone when you’re both hurting does help, regardless of how patronizing one of the people might be, but I came out of that stop actually feeling revived and started putting back in effort and he dropped after a quarter mile.

The final mile was pretty good, a guy at the mile 25 water stop jogged with me to hand me a cup of Powerade (I really appreciated the effort, but I didn’t get a chance to thank him), and then there was a guy on the last stretch who was very aging-track-coach who got down in my eye-line to make sure I was looking at him and told me “doing good, keep it moving.” The turn to the homestretch was a welcome sight. I finished up with a 3:46, which was not what I wanted, but was still a PR, and I don’t think I could have done more on the day.

After my traditional sit down and cry a little (no reason, is just how it goes) I called my mom to tell her how I did, and then I spotted Josh in the crowd. We talked about the race and the course and the deceptiveness of the hills/role of the wind. They were also giving out DQ ice cream sandwiches (TEXAS!) and we soon spotted Alicia and Anna in short order.

None of us ended up with what we were hoping for, and we all had some bruised egos getting back into the shuttle bus. But that’s what teammates are good for, suffering together and making fun of the terribleness after. As Alicia put it: “Stupid Falls.” Anna also had the ingenious idea of getting beers at the bar before heading to our rooms to take a shower (shower beers) which all the other runners at the hotel agreed was a good idea and one they wished they had thought of. We all met up in the hotel restaurant after showering and changing for some more beer, good food, and story-telling.

If I can be effusive for a moment, I think the best feeling is the post-race feeling. The work, the suffering and the challenge is over, and the rest of the day is a celebration of how it went or didn’t went and however it did go, it generally doesn’t end up mattering. To me, winning and losing are two sides of the same coin and it’s a mistake to read too much into either of them. Certainly all the encouragement I saw when I logged into Facebook and had 25 notifications from all my teammates, past and present made me feel better. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Coach Amy for putting up with all my ridiculous and neurotic emails, and my teammates for putting up with all my dumb jokes/attempts at humor (particularly Anna, Alicia and Josh on this trip), and the Rogue community at large for reading my blogs and not making fun of me (so far).

We went, we tried real hard, and we all left alive! I’d rate the Sioux Falls
Marathon as a pretty good experience over all. 5/5 for the weather, 4/5 for crowd support (not a lot, but the ones that are there are very supportive), 3/5 for deceptive hills, 3/5 for scenery (very pretty in places!), 2/5 for the ratio of snot rockets to pavement (too many) and 1/5 for BQ-ing, just because I didn’t manage to. Thank you.

The Beast

by Josh Benge

This past weekend, I traveled up to Sioux Falls with a few of my fabulous TRPM teammates to take on the Sioux Falls Half Marathon while they were taking a swing at BQs and PRs in the full edition. After a day of mild shenanigans with the team to take our mind off the race (See the blogs of one Mandy Deen), I headed to the hotel and rested up for the night.   I had what I would consider an ambitious goal, and long story short, it didn’t pan out for me the next day.  That’s not the point of this though.  On the plane home from Sioux Falls post-race, I was re-reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and something struck me (if you know this book, kudos… if you don’t, buy the damn thing or I’ll loan it to you).  In Chapter 19, a reference is made to ultrarunner Lisa Smith-Batchen, one of the most accomplished distance runners of all time.  She speaks of the exhaustion and fatigue of the later parts of races as “The Beast”.  The text from Born to Run is as follows:

Lisa Smith-Batchen, the amazingly sunny and pixie-tailed ultrarunner from Idaho who trained through blizzards to win a six-day race in the Sahara, talks about exhaustion as if it’s a playful pet.  “I love the Beast,” she says.  “I actually look forward to the Beast showing up, because every time he does, I handle him better.  I get him more under control.”  Once the Beast arrives, Lisa knows what she has to deal with and can get down to work.  And isn’t that the reason she’s running through the desert in the first place – to put her training to work?  To have a friendly little tussle with the Beast and show it who’s boss?  You can’t hate the Beast and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.
 
I am by no means an ultrarunner or anywhere near the caliber of Lisa, but there is something to be said about the Beast.  If you have raced, you know what the Beast is, and it isn’t necessarily the fatigue or exhaustion.  I think we all have our own Beast(s).  You don’t know your Beast?  It could be the thing that you wrestle with in miles 20 through 26.2 of a Marathon.  Or in every damn bit of a 5K.  Maybe you have several Beasts working on you at once (mind, body, weather, combination)?  Maybe your Beast is a chameleon that can change colors and bite you in the butt when you least expect it.  Don’t know your Beast(s)?  I applaud you, or I challenge you to dig a little deeper to find it. For now, I’ll tell you about the Beasts I met in Sioux Falls.  My mind and my anger.
This wasn’t intended to be much of a progressive race.  That is, unless I was ready and willing to take my pace much lower than intended race pace as I was starting right around my goal pace.  But what could go wrong?  Weather was perfect, course was perfect (mistake number 1: respect the course, don’t assume), and I was confident.  Mile 1 through 5, perfect.  It couldn’t have been better and I was clicking off miles at race pace or slightly under.  I tucked in with a group of Collegiate XC runners from Gillette College in Wyoming and a few locals that were a part of the 605 Running Crew out of Sioux Falls.   I let them lead the way to block the wind and keep the pace as they were right around where I wanted to be (one of the smarter things I did all day).
Then, things went a bit south on me.  Enter mile 6 and enter the Beast called Josh’s mind.  Too much thinking can be a bad thing kids, especially if you aren’t thinking straight. My mind was about to get as crooked as it could.  I wasn’t intending to do a progressive run and the crew I had been latching onto was going to start cranking down significantly.  I had been listening to them discuss this plan and started playing with the idea myself, giving myself a few scenarios.  GREEDY!  Instead of listening to my heart and my race plan, my mind got greedy and way too involved…  here’s a 5 second snapshot what my thought process looked like before things went south….
“You’ve banked a good 40 seconds and are feeling good, so why not go with these guys (Mistake 2: Never bank time, bank energy… Allison Macsas, I could hear you preaching to me) …. you’re past the hard part of the course, why not? (Mistake 3: see mistake number 1 again, always respect the course)… you recovered on those early slow climbs really well… you’ve raced and trained on harder courses (Mistake 4: once again, see 1 and 3, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS respect the damn course)… If you have a bad mile 6, you can always back off the pace above your race goal and recover to make time up later (Mistake 5: now I am thinking way too much and I’ve given myself Plan B if I fuck up mile 6.  There should be no Plan B or out unless I know I am injured)….

Licking my Chops and Being Greedy
So with all of these thoughts looping in my mind throughout mile 6, I started seeing the group pulling away from me.  I then realized that I was on the Sioux Falls equivalent of Austin, Texas’ very own Duval St.  You know? That slow, deceiving climb over about 3 miles? To add to the slow mind misery, I start seeing my time bank fading, my energy going down, legs feeling lead like and worst of all the looping thought process is getting perpetually worse.  This leads to round two of thoughts over a much longer period of time (miles 7 through 8 in the last two miles of my climb)….
“Well so much for a sub-1:30, might as well back the pace off and just PR (Mistake 6: I have COMPLETELY abandoned Plan A and started relying on my watch when I should have said “screw the watch” at this point and stuck with #JFR)…  my legs are feeling tired.  Was it my nutrition?  Was it my hydration?  Did I go out too fast? Why do my legs feel like lead?  How could I be so stupid to put myself in this position?  This is so embarrassing! (Mistake 7: Why are you thinking about the inconsequential at this point, what’s done is done, #JFR)
Those 3 short miles (6 through 8), were nothing more than me over focusing on why my race was going wrong rather than finding a way to embrace the Beast that was my mind. I was convinced I was wasting an opportunity on a race I had flown a 1000 miles for. I was letting the Beast punch me right in the face and I knew it.  I didn’t have to love the Beast at this point, I just needed to find a way to control and tame it.  Racing isn’t fun at times.  In fact it is never really fun, but I had just made it more of a grind than it needed to be.  I’m not going to bore you with the details.  Miles 9 and 10 were no different.  More mind minutia and convincing myself that I had fucked up.
Then, something happened coming down the bike path when mile 10 turned to 11.  I was still convincing myself what a crappy race I was having and how much time I had given up when I got passed by a smiling racer who chirped, “Good Job, only 5K left”.  At the moment, I thought that was the last thing I needed to hear.  It pissed me off beyond belief.  You’re going to pass me and tell me what a good job I am doing?  How dare you?  Retrospectively, however, I wish I could have found her and thanked her after the race, because she had brought out another Beast of mine that I am much more experienced with controlling… anger. Unlike the mind Beast that overtook me mid-race, I embraced my anger Beast and channeled it like it was an old friend.  There was only one thought in my mind that entire last 5K.  Catch her if you can, and anyone else along the way.  Simple thoughts, simple goals, good results in those last 3 miles because I knew my Beast, and used it to my advantage.  My last last 5K just was just over my original intended race pace.  There was no pain, no extra thought, just an end goal.  Did I break 1:30?  Nah.  Did I PR?  Nope.  But I channeled and embraced one of my Beasts.  I’ll call that a win.

Mile 11 Water Stop … From What I Can Remember… I have dropped the mind Beast and Channeled the anger Beast
I still have a lot of work to do to locate my race Beasts and find out what my relationships are with them.  In fact, I don’t have to love them like Lisa Smith-Batchen does. To each their own! I just have to try to understand them, nurture them when I can, and respect them every chance I get.  Love may or may not come in time.  There is no clear answer for any of us trying to take control of the one or many things that haunt us during the race. I think we just need to know that no matter what we do, Beasts are always going to be there.  We just need to find a way to fine tune our relationship with them.

Stage 2: Distraction

A race report from magical and exotic Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Part 2 (catch Part 1 here)

by Mandy Deen

After a terrifying plane ride on the world’s smallest commercial plane (one seat, aisle, 2 seats, 12 rows), I succeeded in arriving in SCENIC Sioux Falls, South Dakota (upon landing the weather was about 60*F outside and everything smelled fresh and clean and delightful. I had to put on my sweater). Being very much earlier than my teammates (overanxious over-achiever!), I had a large amount of time to kill until they arrived and we could go about killing time (driving each other crazy) together. Luckily the Sioux Falls Sheraton had a TV on which there was both a Law and Order marathon and US Open tennis!

As much as tapermadness is a part of gearing up for a race, the last few days, I find, are best spent distracting yourself. There’s nothing you can do about it now, and worrying about hitting the wall, or body parts falling off (always a concern), or cramping, or the amount of pain you might encounter is not going to stop any of those things from happening. I know because I’ve tried. I always try to remind myself that my fear of the pain when I’m sitting in my comfortable hotel room is worse and scarier than the actual pain when it happens on mile 20 (more on that later).

After a surprisingly good meal at the hotel restaurant where the waitress didn’t even know that the marathon was happening or that it started next door, and a long discussion about how much better and nicer my view out my window was (Sioux Falls is flat, green, with lovely wide avenues and picturesque little houses and neighborhoods where everyone is friendlier than a wet dog, dontcha know. It is Everytown, USA), we all retreated to our rooms for an early night of obsessing about race strategy/watching hilarious South Dakota regional commercials.

The next day we got up, made it to packet pick up at the expo which had an adorable small-town/disorganized feel to it (high school basketball gymnasium). I had to help the woman at the Clif table work the iPad credit-card attachment thingy because they don’t take cash, and because I’m a librarian, and also because I didn’t bring any Gu’s from home because all I brought was my carry on and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of security regulations regarding liquids on planes. Btw, fyi, jsyk. Alicia and Anna got sucked into a vendor tent with some kind of miracle pain-relief cream (cures plantar fascitis! migraines! Ebola!!!!!! AND menstrual cramps!!! anyone who HASN’T been using this product their whole lives has been living a life of needless suffering and pain!) made from Emu oils? (?????!!!?) with very enthusiastic sales people who were distributing samples whether you wanted them or not. Everyone immediately started applying it to their problem areas. Later it was brought to the attention of our group that Alicia thought the lady said it provided 45 hours of pain-relief instead of 4-5 hours. Which, when you’re all slightly on edge due to impending race-ness (there was annoying number of people in the hotel/expo wearing their Boston gear. I thought this race was for people who HADN’T qualified for Boston yet!!!! #smugbq-ers), is nothing short of hilarious.

We took a cab into downtown that day, because there was not ONLY an art festival, but also a German Fest (sponsored by Shiner!!!!! what an exotic, specialty beer!!!). After deciding quite quickly that being surrounded by well-meaning but decidedly in-the-way families (there were a lot of toy bows and arrows at the art fest), was not good for anyones nerves. We walked down the length of the main drag, Philips Ave, and took lots of dumb pictures with the local “sculpture walk” sculptures. #art. (I am assuming Allison will insert multiple photos from my Facebook account here.)

(note from Allison: yes I will)

10659417_716484093328_5937588786660773351_n 10590513_716484108298_8460387352287927627_n 1609711_716483689138_5943008317322149281_n

Due to the local cab service failures, we ended up just walking down to the Falls Park, which was across from the German Fest. I did not realize until I was in the shuttle from the airport to the hotel that there would ACTUALLY be falls at Sioux Falls. But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. We took lots of pictures of the very pretty falls and got a stranger to take a team picture of us all in front of them (which certain teammates have failed to upload to the internet so far, just saying.) After that we headed over to our selected Italian restaurant (Luciano’s, or, Lucifer’s as we kept calling it) for an early dinner. Due to another local cab service failure, we actually got dropped off on the southern area of the street instead of the northern area of the street we requested. We ended up just re-walking the entire length of the street down to the restaurant which was by the Falls. Funny story, there’s only ONE door to get into the place, and it’s not labeled and it’s very well hidden. Which we took as a sign of it’s exclusiveness and also small-town Sioux Falls-ness.

At this point, everyone was pretty tired and the pre-race crazies were setting in on us all, and we were all noticing how tired we were and we all kept agreeing to stop talking about the race, and then starting up conversations about the race/our race plan/our race fears. But the food was good and the wine and beer was good, and we were all sad we couldn’t take the leftovers back with us. There was nothing left to do, the next thing was the race.

One more cab ride back to the hotel, a final check of email/Facebook for race plans/internet pressure (the entire Rogue internet is watching us all!!!!!!!!!!!!) we all went our separate ways to settle in for a night of trying to sleep. THE ALARM CAME EARLY THE NEXT DAY.

A Taper Madness Flowchart

A race report from magical and exotic Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Part 1

by Mandy Deen

Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 6.23.00 PM

Get it guys? Guys, guys, do you get it? IT”S A TAPIR!!!

But seriously. The flowchart.

Should I go run?

Down_Arrow_Icon

I don’t HAVE to, tapering is about rest, right? I can’t gain any fitness here.

Down_Arrow_Icon

Maybe I really should go run, I haven’t been running much at all lately.

Down_Arrow_Icon

You can’t seem to motivate yourself to run lately, I bet there’s something really wrong with your head. And you don’t want your body to get TOO relaxed before the race.

Down_Arrow_Icon

No, You need more sleep, everything feels really draggy, and there’s no way you can sustain MGP for 8 miles much less 26.2 if you feel this way in a week!Stay in. Don’t run.

Down_Arrow_Icon

Holy crap, you’re probably completely losing your ability to motivate yourself to go run, I bet you never have a consistent training program again and in fact stop running all together, but only due to incredible mental weakness. You big weakling!!!!

Down_Arrow_Icon

Untitled1

…but I mean, I don’t feel too bad about these crazy thoughts and emotions, we all have them during a taper, right? Right?? RIGHT??? Just me?

That’s all for now, Part 2, The Pre-Race, to follow.