After nine weeks of training, I'm all set up to go! I'll begin at 7 a.m. and hope to finish before 9:00 rolls around. I'll admit I'm a little bit nervous; it's been a rollercoaster training this spring, and if you would've asked me a month ago if I thought I could PR, I wouldn't feel so confident that I could. I definitely feel slower than I was last summer, but I also believe I'm going into the race smarter. I'm hellbent on starting off conservatively and then picking up speed as I go. That's my plan - but let's see if I actually follow it.
Naturally, I've got a few concerns that have been swirling around in my head for the past few days, and they are these:
- ZOMG IT IS GOING TO BE POURING RAIN. Yes, sadly, the weather report does not look sunny for the start of the race....nor for the middle, end and post-race celebration. I've seen reports of chances of showers or thunderstorms. Starting when? Why, at 7 a.m. of course. This really is my main concern for tomorrow - it's not a huge deal to run in the rain, but if my shoes and socks get soaked and squelchy, that could mean slowage of pace and possibly blisters on my feet. Not to mention just all-around discomfort for nearly two hours. ON THE OTHER HAND: If I just shut my brain off, continue running and still finish at a respectable time, that is the ultimate badge of badassness, right there.
- WHAT IF I DON'T BEAT MY LAST TIME?? Sure, a PR is the ultimate goal for every runner - we're constantly looking to one-up ourselves. I want to PR tomorrow pretty badly, but I don't want to go into the race putting a lot of pressure on myself - I do that way too often and I think it really affects the way I run (and more importantly the way I feel when I run). If I don't get a PR, I don't get a PR. Maybe that means I'll need to run another half this year in order to cross that goal off my list, but at the end of the day, I'll still have run 13.1 miles before many people will be getting out of bed tomorrow morning. And that's something.
- I AM INJURED. This is true - I am injured. I suffer from pretty regular shin splints, especially on the inside of my left leg. My left leg is susceptible to injury because I was shottily built. My left leg is naturally turned inward, so my foot strike is naturally super wonky - this leads to shin, knee AND hip injuries. HOORAY! THE TRIFECTA! Anyway, right now, my left shin is in some pretty wicked pain - it's pretty strong in about the first two miles of the run, then mostly fades away, but sometimes flares up midway - it always hurts right after a long or fast run. On Wednesday, I had to cut a tempo run short because during my cool-down mile, my shin was killing me. This, my friends, sucks. No one wants to run through pain - and no one wants to possibly injure themselves further by racing on injury. There's nothing I can do about this condition, but I have been stretching, icing and popping inflammation-reducers like crazy this week, so hopefully that will be enough to ward off serious pain.
- DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST. This is a Cardinal rule of running that SO many racers break. The excitement of the race, the adrenaline, the bloodthirst for a PR - all of these things lead to taking off too fast right out of the gate. I spent a little time analyzing my splits from the Chicago Half, and realized I did everything wrong: I hit the 5-mile mark in 43 minutes flat (ZOMG STARTING GUN! RUNNING WITH PEOPLE! CROWDS CHEERING FOR ME! ....8:36/mile pace). I hit the 10-mile at 1:29:25 (Dude... where are all of the people? This got hard. Good lord my stomach feels like it's getting stabbed....8:56/mile pace). I finished 13.1 miles in 1:58:24 (THANK GOD THIS IS DONE. YES, I WILL TAKE A COOKIE, BANANA, GRANOLA BAR AND WATER.... GIMME MY MEDAL. I'M OFF TO GO DIE NOW...... 9:02/mile pace). I slowed substantially throughout the race. Tomorrow, I'd like to flip all those average paces around, while shaving some time off each. Either that, or run at a very consistent pace the whole race, and then kick it into gear in the last three miles. I'm going to work hard to slow myself down in the beginning.
- STOMACH, PLEASE WORK WITH ME. At the Chicago Half, I ran into some... errrr... coffee-induced issues. They kicked in at about mile 8.5 and never really went away. It sucked bigtime and seriously slowed me down. This spring, I've had coffee no less than two hours before every one of my long training runs, and everything has been OK. I plan to sip a little coffee on the drive down to Kenosha tomorrow morning, so I hope history won't repeat itself....
So... there you go: the innermost thoughts of an average runner the day before a race. Each of these concerns have been popping into my head at regular intervals throughout the day, and I just hope I'll be able to get a nerves-free sleep tonight.
Whatever the case, I put in nine weeks of training, got more confident as that training went on, and am ready to cross another race off the list. If nothing else, at least I'll get to go home with a big, metal hunk of cheese around my neck:
Best of luck to all the other WI Half and Full Marathon racers! Go get 'em! :)