Oh the Syracuse Half. Where do I even begin? Well… I suppose I should begin at the beginning. Brace yourselves. This post is a long one. I won’t hold it against you if you skim, but you shouldn’t because it’s awesome. Just sayin’.
Ok. So. Training.
This was my first big race since getting injured about a little less than a year ago after the Nike Women’s Half, so I decided to train a little differently. I followed a modified version of the Run Less, Run Faster plan, which meant 3 runs per week, as opposed to the 5 I used to do. I say modified because the long runs had me going up to 15 miles, but the max I did was 10. Since my goal was to simply finish this race injury free and not to PR, I didn’t feel I had to push my injury-conscious self to 15 miles for a 13.1 mile race. I also did my 2 weekday runs on the treadmill for a bit of lower impact (plus this winter was freakin’ cold and icy and full of suck) and only hit the pavement for my Sunday long runs. I stuck to my plan and only missed a few runs the week I was sick. All good.
Packet Pick Up
Will and I drove up to ‘Cuse on Friday and went straight to Fleet Feet to pick up our packets. It was a breeze. I walked in, showed my registration, got my and Annmarie’s bibs and shirts – in, out, done. This is the smallest race I’ve ever participated in, and I have to say, I enjoyed the low-key nature of it all. I’m used to the big expos and crazed crowds, but it was nice to not have to deal with them this time around.
The Day Before
The day before a race, I’m usually filled with nervous, excited energy, but I always feel ready. This was NOT the case for this race. For some reason, I entered freak out mode. I’m talking major, why-the-heck-did-I-sign-up-for-this freak out mode.
It could have been the fact that Anmarie and I plugged the course into her fancy treadmill and within 2 minutes, the thing had gone up to the highest incline possible. It could have been that the weather was reporting 14 degree temps at gun time. It could have been that we got an email that said NO (capital “N” and “O”) headphones allowed. Suddenly, I felt like my 3 runs a week weren’t enough. I started doubting myself, which isn’t like me. I didn’t think I’d be able to run the hills, make it through without music, race in the cold. I didn’t know if should bring water with me or rely on the water stations. I didn’t know how many layers I should wear. I was seriously questioning everything. I was a mess. I quickly adjusted my, let’s-finish-this-race-uninjured-goal to let’s-finish-this-race-alive.
Luckily, Annmarie assured me it’d all be fine. Her husband made us a delicious gluten-free Italian dinner to help us carb load and poured me a glass of Xanax wine while we recounted our adventures from the night before. It was lovely.
Will and I returned to our hotel, I got flat Nicole ready, and we headed to bed.
I actually slept pretty well (I guess I’d gotten all my pre-race nightmares out the night before), and the 6am wakeup call was glorious. Will got up and looked out the window. “It snowed last night,” he said.
“You lie,” I replied.
He pulled back the curtain to reveal an inch of snow on the ground. F*(&@! Arg.
I begrudgingly put on all my layers, made a little cup of oatmeal with raisins and headed to the race.
Luckily, the race started at the OnCenter and we were allowed to stay warm inside until gun time. I peed, met up with Annmarie at the Ragnar booth, peed again, and then headed out to face my doom. I saw a bunch of runners with headphones, so I decided to risk it and put mine on, as well. They can’t keep my entertainment from me! I’ll just hide the cords under my 500 layers! Bwahaha.
I split up with Annmarie before the race started. She’s hella fast and I didn’t want to start out too fast trying to keep up with her. Soon enough, I was crossing the start line and giving Will a very nervous thumbs up.
The first mile was rough. I told myself to go slow, but I felt like I was running backwards and everyone was passing me. After about a quarter mile, we turned and ahead of me was the biggest hill I’ve ever faced in running shoes. I couldn’t see the end of it! Ok… here we go…
I started chugging up. Finally, I saw the first mile marker. My Garmin buzzed and I looked down, predicting my pace to be pretty awful. My watch read 8:55. WHAT?! 8:55 is my PR goal pace – I could have sworn I was moving at 11:00. It was that moment that I thought, “Hey, maybe this race won’t be so bad after all!”
At mile two, I went to take a sip of water from my hydration pack buuttttt nothing came out. The water had frozen in the tube!! Looks like I’ll be relying on the hydration stations.
I trekked along and shed my throw away layer and extra pair of gloves (yea… I doubled up on gloves) at the 5k mark. Despite the cold and the multiple, multiple hills (at once point around mile 7, I think I turned a corner, saw a hill, and cursed at it – sorry hill, you didn’t deserve that), my pace continued to hover around 8:55.
I think it was mile 8 that I stopped being able to feel my lips. It was about that moment that I heard an excited yell. “YEAAAA!!!!” A guy ran next to me. “WE LOVE RUNNING!!” he screamed. About a quarter mile later, we came across some spectators (there were only a handful of brave souls and volunteers who came out to cheer us on in the cold – BIG MASSIVE MEGA THANK YOU, brave souls!) and he screamed, “YEAAAA!!! WE LOVE SPECTATORS!” This guy had so much energy. He stayed in my vicinity for the rest of the race and every time he would yell out, he lifted my spirits. Thank you, yelling guy!
Soon enough, I was running back toward downtown Syracuse and only had a mile to go! When I spotted the finish line, I saw the clock ticking toward 1:57. Oh my goodness, I could PR! Is it possible that this race that I feared so much, that with the cold and the hills and all the odds pointing toward misery, that I could actually set a new personal record?
I tried to pick up the pace a bit, but my legs were frozen. Seriously, I thought I might collapse with only a tenth of a mile to go. I said out loud, “Don’t fail me now, legs!” Yes. I really said that. (To the editors that will be cutting the trailer to this inspirational sports movie, you’re welcome. That is the perfect line for a movie trailer.)
Anyway, I pushed through, crossed the finish line and… I set a new PR!!! By 55 seconds! I couldn’t believe it! Better yet, I feel great! No sore muscles. No injury. Nada!
I got my medal, met up with Will (inside!), and then found Annmarie. She PRed, too! Hooray!
The post-race expo was great. I was able to take a picture next to my new PR, get a hot breakfast (aka a mound of bacon and a banana), and stretch before heading back to NYC.
Mentally, this race was HARD, and I’m not just talking about my pre-race major anxieties jitters. The first few miles of a race usually fly by, but that wasn’t the case with this race. I had to mentally push myself through every mile, up every hill, and through every foggy breath that rose up in front of my face as a reminder of the cold. But you know what? I did it. I surprised myself, and I feel like a much stronger runner now because of it.
So thank you, Syracuse. After 4 years of college, you are still finding ways to teach me new things, and for that, you’ll always have a special place in my heart.
Oh yea… GO ORANGE!
What’s the hardest race you’ve ever run?
How have you overcome self doubt?
Anyone know any directors that might want to make my inspirational sports movie?
This post is linked up with Wild Workout Wednesdays.