To say my 20K race in New Haven on Labor Day this past week was bad, is a massive understatement. It was the worst I’ve ever felt in a race. Ever. This is saying a lot since my first ever marathon was run in pouring, driving rain. I also had the bad luck of running the Boston Marathon in 2007, also known as “the year it was almost canceled” due to the horrific weather.
Now, as you may know, runners are a tough bunch. We suffer all kinds of bodily harm in the name of sport – bloody nipples, chafing, stress fractures – and are often subjected to horrific race-day weather. But, like any good football player knows, the show must go on, and a little rain or heat or humidity, will not stop us from lining up and getting it done. However, toeing the line for 12.7ish miles proved almost too much for this athlete, on this given day.
As I mentioned in last week’s rundown, I have run this particular race seven times before. It’s become something of a ritual with me and a few close running friends. We meet before the sun comes up, drive the hour into New Haven, and talk about races past, compare running and training stories and dream about the end of the race, when we all meet in the park, for an entire loaf of warm bread and an ice cold beer. Little did we know the hell we would go through to earn that beer this year.
The weather forecast sucked. We were sweating as soon as we got out of the car. It was about 85 degrees with 93% humidity, and as anyone in New England will tell you – it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity! Then the sun came out. Now, usually at the start line of any race, when you’re packed in like sardines (because 10 min milers are lining up with the 7 min milers!) it can be a little unpleasant. On this day, it was downright disgusting. People were sweating profusely while we were still listening to the National Anthem. Not good.
I had reassessed my game plan in the morning. I knew it wouldn’t be a day for a PR (personal record) but I thought I could manage a 7 min per mile pace (my original goal was 6:43) because of the heat. At the cannon blast we took off…and when I say “took off” I mean it was a meandering shuffle. My first mile was around 7:05. Ok, I’m feeling good. It’s hot, I’m breathing soup, but definitely manageable. By mile 4 people were starting to walk – strong, athletic looking people, with marathon tattoos. At mile 6 I saw the first person throw up, and then another puker at mile 8. It was getting ugly.
It started to unravel for me around mile 7. Don’t get me wrong, this race was horrible by mile 4, but my mental game came undone around the 7 mile mark. My legs felt like lead, I was grabbing two cups of water at each station – one for my head and one for my mouth – but it was no match for the water pouring out of my body. I have never mentally struggled so much. My self-talk sounded like this:
This sucks so f*cking bad! Why the hell am I even out here?
Ok, you can do this. If this was one of your clients, what would you say?
This is how most people must feel when they run. No wonder they hate it so much!
What would Tina Muir do?
Any elite who knew they weren’t going to win the 10K purse today, has probably dropped out by now because they are smart and this is stupid, stupid, stupid!
So you can see that was not helpful at all. I could not get it together. Every positive thought was immediately followed by a negative one. I seriously contemplated just walking off the course, something I have never done before. Every ounce of my being wanted to just.stop.running. But I didn’t.
Somewhere near the end, as I poured yet another cup of water over my head, I thought about the ice bucket challenge. I thought about all the people who suffer from ALS who would kill to run, even in these conditions. I started to think about what I could control – my attitude, my thoughts (kind of) and my legs. And then I got pissed. I decided to show this race who was boss, and run the last three miles as fast as I could, even if it killed me, which was a very definite possibility.
Miraculously, I crossed the finish in 1:31:29. I tied my PR for this race, but I was pretty mad. Here’s the issues I have with it:
1. This is a 20K which is just shy of a half-marathon. My half-marathon PR is 1:29 so clearly, I should be able to at least do that, if not better.
2. Obviously, if the weather had been better, I would have smoked 1:31. I guess this should make me feel better, but it doesn’t.
The worst was yet to come.
As I was coming down the finish, one of my friends who was running that day, was cheering me from the sidelines. Now, she runs a slower pace then me, and didn’t seem to be properly trashed from just running what I ran. I was so confused. Turns out, she dropped out of the race! In all her 20+ years of running she never has.
Don’t worry, it gets worse…
After raiding the food tent (Yasso yogurt bars are the bomb people!) I made my way to our designated meeting spot and found my other friend, waiting under the tree. As soon as she turned around, I knew something was wrong…and then she pointed out the bandage on her ankle. She went down hard at a water station, slipping on one of the bizillion water cups strewn about, and badly sprained her ankle.
My third friend? The worst yet.
She came off the course all fine and dandy. She held an 8 min/mile pace with no real issue, until mile 11. Yeah, mile 11 is pretty much when it’s supposed to start sucking in a 20K. We told her how annoying she was, and she tried to keep her joy to a minimum. It was appreciated.
So, what did I learn from this race? New acronyms: BR (bad race) AR (annoying runner) and we were all just slightly happy no one had a BM (bowel movement) on the course, although my friend with the bad sprain may have preferred it.
Ever had a bad race? Tell me your coping skills!
Ever DNF (did not finish)?
How has heat and humidity effected your summer plans?
I’ve most definitely had a BR (I like that one – and will be using it!). My first marathon was a miserable pouring rain slog. HORRIBLE. And from now on when things get tough I will be asking the question – What would Tina and Allie do? Your answer would be GET MAD! 😉
I can’t wait to hear what Tina says. I’m pretty sure it will be different then my advice – hahaha!!! Thanks Angela 🙂
Wow sounded truly like a bad race indeed and will say this, this weather has been bizarre. Seriously, this was the weather we should have had in July around the 4th not on Labor Day weekend and as the kids went back to school. No joke just standing waiting for the bus the past few days, I think I have sweat out my weight in worth! So, the humidity definitely has been less then fun and can’t even imagine having to run in this. So you are still my hero that you did it even if it wasn’t your best race! 🙂
For real! I actually just came in from putting the boys on the bus and it’s awful out there. Luckily, I’m swimming today 🙂 Thanks Janine!
Beastly race you all lived to tell…now that is a good life chapter! You finished and none of you smacked the enthusiasm out of Chrissie..LOL! But seriously, Theodore Roosevelt once said “Hit the Ground Hard”…that you sure did! MiyagiStrong!
My face almost hit the ground hard!! Thanks Marisa :-)…and I love that quote!
Well, at least that’s not YOUR ankle? Ugh, sorry the race sucked. Is it fall yet?
That is a sort of bright side. And seriously, where is fall??
PS – it’s funny you’re commuting on this because a guy was running in front of me, almost for the entire race, in true T-Rex form. I shit you not! I was definitely thinking of you and only wished I had the stamina to snap a pic!
Ouch! I hate days like that! I have had my share of crappy races like the one I did two days ago. Again, heat and humidity! That sprain made my ankle hurt! At least you didn’t puke!
Misery loves company 🙂 and this weather has got to GO!
I nearly did puke…especially when I saw other people doing it. Just so gross!!
Oh my gosh–that ankle! Horrible! I hope she is feeling better.
Bad races happen. I’ve had more than my share, whether from the heat/humiidity, my own “off” day or whatever. You just have to not let it get inside your head. Seriously–not many people can pull off decent times in those conditions. You still did! So I say you pat yourself on the back for an amazing effort that day. You know you’ll get another go at it, too, so focus on the next one, AND the stellar year you have had. You’re good to go!
Thanks Amanda! I definitely needed to hear that. I know it’s all true, but you understand how it is in the moment. I’m definitely ready to attack my next race – hard!!!
Ugh! Sounds like a great day! :/. That ankle looks SOOOOOO bad, I would be freaking out!!!! This actually makes me a little nervous because I have my half tomorrow and it is supposed to be so hot and crazy humid!…I just keep telling myself that I have been running some of my runs in the crazy heat of lunch time so I am ready for it :/….we’ll see!!!!! Way to gut it out and finish with a totally great time!!!!!
Oh Jen – you will be FINE! Learn from my mistakes and don’t let the weather get to you. My biggest fault was letting my head get the best of me. Keep telling yourself what you wrote – you trained in this heat and YOU ARE READY! Best of luck!!!!
See, I would have been a DNS (DID NOT START!) I can’t believe you ran a 15k through the soup but I can believe that you still had an amazing time because you are a beast!! I am happy you didn’t give up and selflessly thought of patients with ALS to get you through.
Dude that ankle is CRAZY. Is she okay? Is she sidelined for a while?
If I was as smart as you are, I would have been a DNS!!! I should have called you 🙂
My friend is a true athlete and, a physical therapy assistant so that comes in handy. As of yesterday, the swelling is way down and she’s able to walk on it. Of course, she can’t wait to start running again…
Wow, sounds like a rough race! Put way to pull through anyway. I would say I don’t miss the New England humidity after growing up in it for 20 years, but the humidity is just as bad here in DC….totally agree on the Yasso bars…amazing. Holy sprained ankle batman, that looks horrible! I hope she is ok!!
Ugh! It’s always the humidity that gets you! It’s the worst. I remember having to run during double sessions for field hockey in high school and feeling like I was just going to die. It was the worst. And yes, what you felt that day is probably how most of us feel when we run! Haha! 🙂
Good for you for finishing and tying your PR! I think that says a lot about what kind of competitor you are!
Thanks Britt! I was just so glad it was over!!
Oh – that race sounds brutal and miserable in every way!!! You are so mentally tough – I need to channel some of that this week!!
How is your friend who sprained her ankle?! I’ve never seen swelling like that!!
Your smiley friend cracks me up – I’m glad that at least one person was happy:)
My friend is doing a lot better. That swelling was insane! She was in Freeport, ME this weekend cheering on her son who was doing his first Olympic TRI so, she’s fine!! My other friend is too funny. She did a 22 miler solo today and loved it. I guess that’s why we’re friends 🙂
Why, why, why didn’t I read this post before heading out this morning??? I had the pleasure of an UGLY 14 mile training run through the soup that is suburban Philadelphia this morning. I ran 6 alone and my running partner joined me for 8 since I’m doing the Philly full and she’s doing the half. I pretty much looked like I peed myself when we met up and could barely talk. Type A that I am I continued to slug it out and have a pretty similar conversation in my head to the one you posted 🙁 I finally succumbed around mile 12 as I was almost out of water and getting dizzy We ran 2/walked 1 (awesome friend she is she wouldn’t go ahead and kept up both ends of the conversation) for a little while and then I got REALLY dizzy so she informed me I was done. This weather STINKS and I can’t wait for it to go away. Thanks for the great post as it did give me a chuckle and probably better I didn’t read this am or there would have been no 14 miler 🙂
Oh no!!! Well, at least I can say I know exactly how you feel. Hopefully we will both learn for this, right? And so awesome that your friend toughed it out with you and knew when to call it. Running friends are amazing like that! Better luck on your next one and at the race!!
It’s not the heat! It’s the humidity that slows me down and makes breathing with asthma a b*tch! ugh! The only reason I’m ready for summer to end. Yes, I’ve had a BR and it ended in a DNF. How’s that for sucky! It gets better. The DNF trashed me emotionally. That was several years ago and thankfully it has never happened again.
You looked so happy coming into the finish. You’d never know it was a bad race.
Oh Jill – that is awful. I’m sorry that happened but I can completely understand why. I can’t imagine how hard it was to come back from that. I’m struggling with this and I still finished…but it was so, so ugly. Thanks for the comment and knowing that we ALL have bad races and running life does go on!
My worst race was running a 20km in pouring rain and 50 degree weather. We waited an hour before it started, then a 2 hour race where my joints completely stiffed up, then it took me 45 minutes to get out of finish area. Almost four hours in cold rain, it took me almost 3 months to recover !
Holy whoa!!! That is incredibly horrible. What an awful experience! The cold wind and rain is a killer when you don’t have shelter and/or dry clothes. After the hurricane like weather in Boston, I ended up in the medical tent. Awful.
Of everything you said, of everything going on, I was like oh, okay. I’m from the midwest…we have 100% humidity many, many days. My soup is thicker than yours. And I’m sure if I ran for time, I’d see where I might think these things. But when I saw your friends ankle I was like that f*cking hurts me just looking at it. Seriously. That is some crazy, crazy stuff right there. I hope she heals soon.
I’ve had one DNS (did not start/show). The half marathon in April I signed up for but did not run due to a needed surgery. And lack of training. But we’ll go with the surgery excuse.
Yes, definitely go with the surgery excuse!
As for my friend – it was an ugly injury for sure but she’s recovering nicely. Thank God!!!
It’s the humidity! It’s awful! I skipped a birthday party today because it’s 90 degrees and humid, but mostly because I had to work. The humidity doesn’t sell it!
This sounds like my worst nightmare! You all rock!
Thanks Tamara. It was my worst nightmare too. My poor husband was golfing in that soup on Saturday. They cut it short to 9 holes. Luckily I was inside with the bride-to-be getting massaged and manicured 🙂
This reminds me of what my boyfriend told me about his Boston experience. He ran it in 2012, the year it was in the 90s and they were allowing people to defer their entries to the following year. He qualified with a 2:48 and ran a 3:37 that day. He said he was absolutely miserable and was doing the same as you at the water stations–one for the head and one to drink. Heat and humidity are just a horrible combination for running and in my opinion, it’s best to give up on time goals in conditions like that and just try to enjoy the experience of running.
So true!! You absolutely have to forget time goals and just get through it. It’s funny because my one saving grace was saying to myself that at least it wasn’t a marathon!!! Kudos to your husband for getting it done but how awful to run Boston like that!
I love the what would Tina do? Ha! She’s awesome. And so are you. I almost DNF’d a 4 miler because I am ridiculous and dramatic. I don’t know what happened to me that day. And this humidity has been horrendous.
She is my hero. Obviously. I’m also ridiculous and dramatic so I get it!! ugh.
Oof, that ankle looks PAINFUL. I’m so sorry you and your friends (bar one) had a bad race. I guess the only way from here is up, yes?
It had better be!
East coasters definitely know it’s the humidity that will kill ya. Way to push through even though bad races suck. And OMG that girl’s ankle. Yikes!
Thanks! I’m just so glad it’s over and my friend is recovering nicely. Bring on the fall weather please!!!
I can’t believe your BR ended with you tying your PR for that race! The humidity that day was BRUTAL. Awful, horrible, I can’t believe you ran it.
I’ve had one DNF, an 18 mile race during marathon training in 2010. I thought my ITB syndrome was all better, then at mile 5 it aggressively told me it was not all better AT ALL. I hobbled/limped/ran-walked for 3 miles, then just had to admit to myself there was no way I could keep doing it for another 10. I was devastated and angry at myself. Irrationally, of course, but that doesn’t make the feeling less real.
Sorry your race sucked, but at least we are on the cusp of Autumn and you will be reaping all the benefits of pushing yourself through soup now.
Ugh, Carly, that is truly awful. And, you’re right about it “not making the feeling any less real.” It’s tough being a runner and such a stubborn one at that – isn’t it?? I guess it makes us stronger, and YES to Fall weather!!!
I love love love this post. I’m very sorry you had a bad day, but I love the humor you found in it. Honestly, these are the races that teach us the most and make us better for the long haul. You are always a beast, and even beasts need a day off every now and then. In mid 2011, I went through the rest of year with every race being a terrible race and a complete sufferfest. We all bounce back and I have no worries you will too. xo
Thanks so much Jesica! I know it will make me a better runner (I hope!) but ugh, the agony of it all. I can’t imagine having an entire year of that!! Here’s to hoping that each leg of Reach the Beach goes well…at least it will be cooler up there in New Hampshire!
Ugh! That sounds pretty much awful. And you tied your PR! You are amazing!! I can’t believe your friend’s ankle…that is horrible. That must have hurt so much. I hope she is ok. My worst race ever…I had the stomach flu for Big 8 conference championships in college. I threw up multiple times before the race, and immediately after the race (although there was nothing left at that point). To be honest, I don’t even know how I ran. It was the most miserable race EVER.
OMG I cannot believe you ran that??? Why do we do these things to ourselves?? Runners are a truly unique bunch!
As for my friend, I texted her last night and she’s going to try an easy 4 miler today. Let’s hope it goes well or no one will want to be around her for a while!!