Monday, October 10, 2011

Change of Plans

Irony seems to be a really big part of my life lately. It's teaching me to just go with the flow and not sweat the small stuff. God has quite the sense of humor.

Saturday was supposed to be my 5th half marathon, the See Jane Run Austin Half Marathon. Notice I say "supposed to" be my 5th.

I had a great time checking out the race expo on Saturday. See Jane Run had some good vendors and very cute stuff to purchase. I was getting excited!

For the 10 days prior to the race the weather forecast called for rain, alternating between a 30% chance and a 60% chance. For Texas, that usually means it's definitely going to rain, but this year has been notorious regarding rain. We pretty much haven't had any in a year, certainly not any amount to get excited about. A little rain on race day would probably be welcome. But in reality, we knew the forecast would likely chance, just like every rain forecast in the past several months. Surprisingly, however, the chances were holding strong.

As I went to bed the night before the race, I checked one last time what the hourly forecast was going to be - about 70 degrees and 50% chance of thunderstorms. Could be interesting.

When I awoke race morning, this is what the forecast showed me:

Holy rainstorm, Batman. That did NOT look like fun. And it was heading right for us...pretty much any second. No rain for months, then BAM! Let's give it to Austin all at once ON RACE DAY. If we didn't need this damn rain so much I would have been angry.

My friend Heather headed down to the race site with me and it rained the entire time we were driving. Actually, "rain" doesn't really do justice to the experience we had heading the 20 miles or so to the venue. It was more like God dumped every drop of water from every single ocean directly onto my car so I couldn't see anything, much less the highway in front of me. Driving 40 miles an hour was too fast. It was absolutely insane and I'm pretty sure I've never driven in anything quite like that before. Add to it the massive lightning every few seconds and you've got yourself a mother of a storm. At this point it was past 5:30am, with a race start of 7am.  I figured we'd make it down to the race site, see what the plan was, and hope the storm passed. I knew the race officials would make the right decision and cancel if it was just too dangerous.

As we navigated off the freeway to the start, I noticed the flooded streets...the streets we would be running on. Well, that's not so good.

I'm so glad Heather was with me because it was incredibly confusing to try to find where we were supposed to park....I come to find out that the street leading to the parking area was actually being blocked off my Austin PD on purpose because of the flooding I presume. We found a spot on the street to park and then discovered that they were in fact cancelling the race.

I'm totally not surprised. It simply was not safe for us to run. Between the lightning and the flooding of the venue, there was just no way to even postpone it. A bit of a disappointment, sure, but it is what it is. We REALLY needed the rain and I was just so thrilled that we were getting some. I honestly think it was way more important for us to get rain that for me to run a race.

Heather and I headed back home and the wheels were immediately spinning on how I was going to make up for missing the race. I could go to the gym. I could see if the rain passed enough at home to still get a good run in. I could push my run to Monday. Lots of options. There was no reason NOT to run at some point.

As a side note, I do have to bring up the cancellation and the fall out See Jane Run received from their decision. First and foremost, although I have never been a race director, I do understand the implications of tough decisions. My husband has directed a race before, and I understand the logistics involved are way more intense than those not involved could possibly fathom. It's common sense to realize that putting a race on is absolutely intense. That being said, having to cancel a race like this, with over 1500 runners, would be an agonizing decision. I never once believed that the See Jane Run organizers made a hasty, inaccurate, dumb decision. Never once. If they believed it needed to be cancelled, then I trusted them.

I went onto the See Jane Run Facebook page yesterday to follow up and see more details on the cancellation and the champagne/chocolate banquet they very quickly put together at the host hotel (since they couldn't provide that post race). I was immediately horrified at the nastiness they were enduring from runners pissed off about cancellation. These people were spewing such ridiculous things it made me cringe. First of all, races are NEVER refundable, as we are required to agree to accept when we sign up for a race (trust me, it's very clearly spelled out for all races). But people were assuming that they could get refunded and were completely pissed to find out that wasn't the case. They assumed See Jane Run had all this money leftover that they could just give it all back to us. Ridiculous thought since nearly all race money is spent long before the event. You can't refund money that doesn't exist, which is why a no-refund policy is the standard. SJR immediately offered a discount to all of us for any of their U.S. races next year, not just Austin - to me this was more than fair and a very nice gesture on their part. We still had our shirts (which were awesome, by the way) and those of us who chose to attend the brunch received champagne, a glass, and chocolate. (I did not attend, but that's okay). Additionally, so many people were questioning their judgement. SJR deferred to the expertise of the directors, the APD, EMS, and just basic common sense when they made the decision. They waited as long as possible, hoping they could just postpone, but the flooding made that impossible. The heavy downpour didn't happen until after 5am and even then it was far heavier than anticipated. SJR explained until they were blue in the face all of the rationale involved in their was crazy how many times they repeated themselves with a completely logical explanation, but people simply refused to get beyond their anger. Lastly, people demanded a reschedule, clearly not understanding that it's a huge process to even put a race on in the first place. To reschedule would require months of planning and more money. Again, I think the discount for next year is a very fair alternative.

It basically comes down to  runner safety above and beyond anything else. Why people can't understand that just blows my mind. How they can be so rude and disrespectful disgusts me. These race officials were busting their butts while 3 inches of rain poured on them, they had to be wary of lightning cracking over their heads, and had to try to answer questions from those who did show up for the race, all the while trying to keep social media and email updates going out. I can't imagine the incredible stress they were under. But clearly all this just isn't good enough for some people. It's revolting how nasty human nature can be. I just have to shake my head.

Needless to say, I've commented on a lot of posts on the SJR Facebook much apparently that one user asked if I worked for them. No, buddy, I'm just not a jackass and can see common sense when it stares me in the face.

Okay, now that I've gotten that all out....

I decided that I would run my own solo half marathon through my neighborhood Monday morning. I mentioned this to the kids and Greg and they thought this was a good idea. My kids even made me medals out of cardstock that they would give me when I was done. Brady had the idea to even make some signs that said "1 more mile" to wave at me at my 12 mile mark. This wasn't looking so bad after all!  I named this attempt the Stephie Solo Half Marathon - 10/10/11.  Game on!

As I went to bed last night I realized that 10/10/11 would have been my sister's 13th wedding anniversary. 13 miles for 13 years? Sounds like a plan.

"Race" morning arrived and it was a decent 66 degrees outside...with 98% humidity. Wow, really? I started off conservative and didn't pick up my pace too much, knowing the humidity would suck the life out of my lungs if I did. I didn't need to race this, but just wanted something decent. I thought about all the years of my sister's year for every mile I was completing. It was a peaceful run. Unfortunately, I started to feel that stupid tendinitis again at about an hour into the run. But it wasn't just tightness, it was actual pain. For about the next mile I contemplated my options. I could stop and just bag it and save my ankle, I could push through and risk injury, I could walk and finish the distance. I decided that I would head home to retrieve my stashed hydration, take a walk break, and see how I felt. I hit my house at about 7.3 miles and continued on by walking. I knew that not finishing all 13.1 miles just wasn't a viable option. I wanted those medals!

I walked for about 2.2 miles and since my ankle was no longer hurting I decided to run again. To be conservative, I stopped again at 11 miles (letting Greg know where I was so they could meet me at 12), walked about a half mile more, then picked it up to the meeting spot. Seeing my kids and husband was just awesome.

A little more walking, a strong finish, and I was done with 13.1 miles. It wasn't exactly pretty, but I had no choice but to play it smart. I estimate my running pace averaged about a 9:40 pace, definitely slower than normal for me. Adding in the 2.9 miles of walking and I ended up at 2:23. I figure a full running half would have netted me a 2:08 time, respectable considering the 98% humidity and solo effort.

The absolute best part about the whole thing, however, was that I earned two very special medals. I'm pretty sure these will be my favorite medals of all time.

Stephie Solo Half Marathon Finisher - 10/10/11 - 2:23:37

Friday, October 7, 2011

Race Weekend

I've had so many mixed emotions and thoughts regarding the See Jane Run Austin Half Marathon coming up on Sunday, that I figured I should just get it out on the know, the blog I totally suck at updating regularly.

I know my training has gone pretty well considering it was all pretty much done during the absolute worst summer ever (and that's not exaggerating).  I did a lot of running inside, which is still warm and uncomfortable, but I also did several long runs outside. The only blip in my training that has me a little worried (besides the stupid tendinitis) is the fact that I was sick and unable to do a double digit run for over 2 weeks, first with a stomach virus, and then with a respiratory illness. I had nearly 3 weeks between long runs (although I did have a couple 6 milers in between that I suppose count for something).  My mileage was definitely lacking. The good news is that my recent long runs have felt pretty great.

We previewed the course last weekend and it's HILLY.  I'm not really all that scared of hills, but I also haven't really trained on any this summer. I know how to tackle them without them totally hurting me and I just need to remember that on race day. The course is also totally ghetto. Absolute bummer on that one. In a city as awesome as Austin, it disappoints me that the race directors could not secure a more scenic route, especially for a women's race. I need to remember while running the race that after 10 miles the scenery improves significantly....winding through a more well-kept neighborhood with a tree canopy, and then into a new neighborhood and park for the finish.

The weather is another bone of contention for me. It won't be particularly hot, certainly not hotter than what I'm used to training in, but I have to admit I was really looking forward to some cooler temps for this. We've had a few recent weekends that have been perfect weather-wise - upper 50s, low 60s, and just really nice. It will start out in the low 70s for this race, but not likely get any hotter, so that's good. Plus there will likely be rain, which is good and bad. Good because it will mean cloud cover and cooling off when the rain pelts us, but bad because it will be humid. We've had some dry conditions lately, so humidity is tough. Thank God for my inhaler.

Conditions aside, I'm just nervous in general. I have not had a great race in a very long time. I have a total mental block on race day. It's just tough for me to believe it's going to be good. I just want to feel strong the entire race, finish time irrelevant. I want to have faith in my training and that I am perfectly capable of duplicating the success of my long runs. If I can finish at 10 minute pace but feel great then that is success. I'd prefer a sub 9:30 pace, but I don't want to totally hurt to get there. My absolute stretch goal? A sub-2 hour finish. But I realize that in warmer, humid, hilly conditions, it would take all I've got to get that goal.

My plan is to start off slow and force myself to keep a slow pace through 2 miles. After that I can let my body do what it wants to and it will naturally speed up. Once I get past about 6 miles the hills get a bit easier overall and I just need to get into a rhythm. Once I hit double digits I can totally push it to the finish. I need to remember this....if I can there's no reason to think I can't pull a 2:03 or a 2:04 comfortably.

The champagne and chocolate at the end are just icing on the cake.

Happy Running!!