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Will It Be the Best of Times (or the Worst of Times)?

January 11, 2011

I couldn't figure out how to visually show a personal record, so I settled for vinyl ones

This Sunday, I’m running a mile-marker of a race for me. For the past three years, I’ve done the tabletop-flat Cascade Half Marathon with the specific intent to lower my personal record. Starting with the 2008 race, I religiously followed a 10-week training plan that worked its magic every year. I shaved at least 90 seconds, often more, off my PR from the previous year’s race, then that record would stand through the rest of the year’s half marathons until I clipped off more time at the following Cascade Half. In 2009 I specifically hauled butt just to have a sub-1:50 PR to tout in the intro chapter of Run Like a Mother. (Come on: I’m the competitive, bordering-on-bragodocious one of duo!) A year ago, I skimmed nearly three minutes off that record.

I doubt, however, I’m going to have bragging right after this year’s race. After running–and recovering from–the Philadelphia Half in late November, I jumped onto the tried-and-true training program at, gulp, week 6. Then, unlike years past, I wasn’t nailing my workouts. Not sure whether it was the toll two marathons plus four half marathons in one year had taken on my 40+ bod or my untreated Achilles tendonitis, but my results were disappointing. My intervals and tempo runs were slower than they had been in years past. In week 7, for instance, I had an awesome track workout—6 x 1000-meters at 10K pace—then my tempo run a few days later was a slog. The following week, I flip-flopped: Lousy times at the track, but I rocked the 6-mile tempo.

I was glum about my prospects for a 1:45 PR. Then, just as the rains stopped in Portland, the clouds dissipated over my workouts: I had banner times at the track and in my tempo run. Like the weak winter sun that shone down, I had a glimmer of hope I might be able to do well on Sunday.

But I’m being a realist: I’m not feeling a personal best is in my grasp. And that’s tough for me to emotionally reconcile. I was fine running 1:57 in Philly because I did that race as a lark. But Cascade is my half, my time to shine. I guess all I can do is my best—whatever that might be right now.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2011 5:21 am

    SBS! Before the September marathon I wasn’t even sure if I should GO because I was just not feeling it. Got to the starting line completely ho-hum and then… well, you know: Hello, BQ! It’s great to feel great just before a race but I know for sure that feeling blah before a race is not a definite indication of how it’ll go down.

    And, finally, remember my motto after my way un-fun marathon in June: You don’t have to GET a good time to HAVE a good time. Enjoy “your” race!

    • January 11, 2011 9:57 am

      Phoebe, I LOVE that motto!

      • Angie permalink
        January 11, 2011 4:12 pm

        What a great motto for every race!

  2. January 11, 2011 5:33 am

    Wishing you luck and swift feet!!! I’m sure you will do great!!

  3. January 11, 2011 6:19 am

    Whether or not you PR (and I hope you do), the fact is you’re out there making it happen. And I’ll holla to that!

  4. January 11, 2011 6:46 am

    I think it’s awesome you are out there making it happen. I know we all want to PR, but sometimes you just have to take a step back and look at where you’ve been and what else is going on – like it or not, being on call 24/7 to a family takes it’s toll! I’m proud that you’re out there doing it anyway!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 11, 2011 3:18 pm

      Love your phrasing it as, “being on call to a family.” So true. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. January 11, 2011 7:52 am

    oh SBS I’m in the same boat with a 1/2 this weekend… but you NEVER know what can happen out there– Have an awesome run!!!

  6. January 11, 2011 8:00 am

    You are blessed to have improved your PR so many times through your training efforts. I am sure you will accomplish a goal during this race, as well. It may not be your best PR, but there will be something there……..I always have to tell myself (with anything I do) that there is a lesson waiting to be learned.

    I ran my second 1/2 marathon this past week, slower than my first, and I struggled to come to grips with it, as I knew that was going to happen. However, I was running it with my sister-in-law who had never ran more than 3 miles at a time, prior to training. We finished together, so the slower time was worth it.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 11, 2011 3:20 pm

      So cool you ran with your sis-in-law, who is such a newbie runner. You must shine as her inspiration.

      I think the problem with this race is it’s just stood as my PR watershed…and the thought of it not happening makes me feel like I’m getting old. Sigh.

  7. January 11, 2011 8:42 am

    I know it’s cliche, but it’s awesome that you’re just out there doing it! I’ve struggled with the same problem though, so I know that knowing that you’re running while loads of other people are sitting on their couches watching football is not enough to make you feel better. This is still YOUR race. You’ve rocked it before and whether you PR this time or not, it’s still your special race. It’s taught you a lot and encouraged you to be a better runner. So go out there and just run as best you can!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 11, 2011 5:25 pm

      Deby–Your suggestion to think of this as my “special race” resonates with me. I’ll carry that thought with me on Sunday. Thank you.

  8. January 11, 2011 9:50 am

    SBS you’ll never know until you toe the line. I know that when the moment comes you’ll run the best that you can on that day, in that moment…and there’s a celebration in that effort! Wishing you swift feet and a fun race!

  9. January 11, 2011 10:04 am

    Good luck! It should be a good run and despite all the thoughts swirling in your head right now, when it comes down to it, when you get to the line you’ll be ready to race and you’ll do just that. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  10. January 11, 2011 10:27 am

    Great post, I’ve already read it a couple of times!

    On 1/1 I ran a 10k “fun run” with some friends, it was the race that was going to mark the return of my running mojo. Even though I hadn’t been running much lately, I felt like I could easily knock out 6.2 miles. Instead it was hellish. The weather was chilly (-15 wind chill and blowing snow) and about 1 mile in my facemask froze solid (even though it’s made for this stuff?). So, couldn’t use that anymore. About 3 miles in I got a terrible cramp in my leg (took off too fast on cold muscles?) and there were several times I tried to stretch and walk it off. My friends stopped and walked with me (ugh). My face felt like it was frozen solid. And to top it off, with the finish line in site, literally 50 yards away, my frozen lungs just could not take in any more air, I could feel tears well up and then I started to walk. One of my friends with her big mitted hand, reached down and grabbed my hand, gave me some encouraging words and I somehow ran that last bit across the line.
    Looking back, our time was not so bad, 1:02. But I was embarrassed that I couldn’t run the whole way and I felt terrible that I slowed my friends down. It took me a few days to realize that it was all good, though. I started the race and I finished it- and in less than ideal conditions, with less than ideal preparation and I won’t soon forget the sight of the big mitted hand that grabbed mine and reminded me that I could haul myself across the finish line. It was not a PR by any stretch but it was a personal victory.
    Have FUN at your race, Sarah!

    • January 11, 2011 2:29 pm

      That is a lovely race recap, Jo. Thank goodness for the mitted hands of the world. 🙂

      • January 11, 2011 5:16 pm

        I LOVE THAT IDEA! “You may not have a PR but you will certainly have a PV” (Personal Victory… Also, Phoebe VanScoy…. but, you know, you can’t ALL have THAT!). Add it to my stock go-to mantras!

  11. January 11, 2011 1:44 pm

    Have a great race, SBS! I’m feeling the same when I try to be realistic about my ability to train at my peak this year. My knee/leg is still giving me heck and I need to come to terms with the fact that I may get to run races this year, but they most likely will not be PRs. I’m hopeful, but the fact I was only able to drill out 3 miles today with out pain that stops me, is not good news. I’m learning through this, that just being able to run is a blessing…hitting PRs is an extra bonus. Good luck this weekend!

  12. sarah permalink
    January 11, 2011 2:17 pm

    You will rock it, you always do! I am hoping for a perfect race day. See you there, I will be catching up with my BRF, way behind you. Have a great race,Champy!

  13. January 11, 2011 2:55 pm

    I like the motto Phoebe shared – Have a great race SBS!

  14. Angie permalink
    January 11, 2011 5:11 pm

    I have a mile marker race, too. The past 5 years I run the same 5k, getting a PR each year. Except last year. I thought I was in the best running shape ever, but had a pretty slow time. It took me a while to get over it. This year I’ll run it again with hopefully a new and improved attitude even if it’s not a new improved time.
    I love all the comments here! Phoebe’s motto rocks! And I agree with Julie D.- it is a journey to realize that running is a blessing and a PR is just a bonus. And Jo, yes every race we finish is a personal victory, isn’t it?

  15. Jennifer F permalink
    January 11, 2011 6:18 pm

    I did my first half this fall after getting clobbered in the Baltimore 10 miler. I ran the race not only for myself but in support for the “Every Yard for Yeardley” charity for the college student killed at UVA. I was hitting a wall at mile 9 when a bystander reminded me that I was running for a little girl who would never run again. Just remind yourself that there are so many people who can’t run for one reason or another and that YOU CAN and YOU DO because you enjoy it and are good at it. Every race will be a PR for you because it is one more race that YOU DID FOR YOU!! Have a great race!!

  16. January 11, 2011 6:40 pm

    yea, been there, run that, have the T-shirt & disappointment that goes with a PU. (that’s a Personal Underachievement). The Logical Thinker in me says, if you can’t PR, then just go out and enjoy the day, pace a friend, have fun. The Runner in me says, suck it up buttercup.

    In all seriousness – having had that experience not once, but twice I would recommend going out and giving it all you have. Dig deep. Doing any less, “because you don’t feel the PR” will result in questioning whether or not you “could have”, which leads to “should have”. Eat well, taper well, mentally prepare well, picture yourself achieving the time, set yourself up to succeed… and then, borrow our GBA** Team motto for race day – Runner First, Logical Thinker Second.

  17. Jamaica permalink
    January 11, 2011 6:49 pm

    Ah! We perfectionist-just-HAVE-to-improve-if-we-make-up-our-minds-to runners “forget” just how much of a toll the Marathon (and halfs) take on our bodies!! Having done just 2 Fulls and 2 Halfs myself, I KNOW that even when my body is recovering and has recovered, it still takes A W H I L E for everything to feel great again. However, my mental drive and “want to” seem to take over, and I figure if I WANT to do better, and I put in the work, I just WILL. Maybe ur body is tired and still recovering…but more likely, *just MAYBE* even tho the training didn’t feel all that fantastic at times, perhaps the fact that you *did* all of the hard work will make you *ROCK OUT* another PR!!! 😀

  18. January 11, 2011 8:23 pm

    Oh my goodness, my husband and I are running the Cascade Half too! I didn’t realize it was such a benchmark race for you.
    I read you were doing a half on 1/16, but I figured it was a big one, like R and R Arizona.
    Good luck on Sunday! Hope to see you and say “hi”.
    Kim

  19. Beth permalink
    January 11, 2011 8:25 pm

    I followed the same plan (well, modified slightly) along with doing Crossfit workouts on non-running days. I overtrained and had a lot of difficulty running in the last 2 weeks. I did get a PR of 1:47 for a hilly 1/2 marathon in Manchester VT (GREAT course!). Then came down with the flu the next day and couldn’t even say the word run for over 1 month – after not being sick for quite a few years and always being that woman ‘who runs all the time’. 4 months later…I’m about to do it all over again.

  20. Tita permalink
    January 11, 2011 11:53 pm

    SBS – As they say, courage is when you’re scared to do something but you do it anyway. You’re right to feel the winter blues and to feel burnt out from the consecutive racing. And maybe your 40+ yr old body isn’t recovering like it used to. But you’re out there doing it, out there pushing yourself, and that takes guts. Keep letting that courage shine! On Sunday, we’ll all be rooting for you all the way.

    • Tita permalink
      January 12, 2011 11:13 pm

      And let’s root for comeback mama Kara Goucher to kick Mario Fraioli’s butt at the RnR Arizona Half on Sunday too!!

  21. Christina Howard permalink
    January 12, 2011 2:21 am

    I’ve run Cascade a few times too. Once well trained, another a last minute rego. Both turned out just fine. All I really remember from each is that it was COLD and the COLD kept me running FAST so I could stop being COLD.

  22. January 12, 2011 7:07 am

    I just completed my first ultra marathon last weekend. Based on my long run I expected a 6 hour finish but due to blizzard, icy trails and a fresh 5 inches of snow… it took 7:26! Frightening. I’m going to blog about ‘after the run’ this week. Imagine how shocked I was to hear the announcer say ‘finishing in third place…’ ME!

    Even when we don’t get a PR when we try so hard, every run is rewarding in it’s own way.

    Rest up and have a great run this weekend!

  23. Pilar permalink
    January 12, 2011 5:16 pm

    Okay. Positive forward thinking. These sounds silly but I would encourage you to visualize your success. If you were going to do a big presentation you would prepare your notes/PowerPoint – that’s all your physical training – and then you would practice. Maybe even in front of a mirror so that you could know your expressions and feelings during your presentation.

    That is what I think you need to do too. You’ve run this race a bunch of times. You know the mile markers, the landmarks, etc. Visualize each mile of the race, how you will feel at the different stages, etc. Focus on what it will be like as you are running at this faster pace. It’s like a trial run in your head.

    Positive forward thinking. Your body is ready. You know it. You have trained hard and you can do this. Give yourself that visual success to help you along.

    Worst case scenario, mile 10, you are off pace. It isn’t going to happen. That is okay. You are strong either way. You will continue to inspire us, your children, your husband, etc. either way.

    We will be here for you either way!

    Now go run your ass off!!!

  24. Laura permalink
    January 12, 2011 8:40 pm

    I love these comments and the recurring theme–it’s OK if you don’t PR, with us at least! Running is a blessing, having a race to call your own feels good, starting and finishing a race is a personal victory, knowing you tried your hardest is the best reward and you don’t have to get a good time to have a good time!
    You ladies are all so awesome! I need to remember these things myself! Looking forward to hearing about it, SBS.

  25. Megan permalink
    January 13, 2011 7:13 pm

    SBS, you will kick a**, take names, and make that race cry for its Momma. Then, a year from now, you’ll be blogging about how you need to beat this years awesome PR that you will set on Sunday. This is what I think will happen. And, if not, oh well. Like another poster stated, you will continue to inspire all of us more than you probably know. I look forward to reading about it and Good Luck!!!!!

  26. Stephanie Pelzek permalink
    January 15, 2011 2:09 pm

    For those that have followed the 10 week program, do you prefer the long or short program? I’m running my first marathon next week and will shift focus back to half’s this year since I’ll be doing a lot of traveling for business. I’d like to focus on getting speedier and it sounds like this plan comes highly recommended. Wondering which flavor to follow.

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