Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Great Expectations

No matter what distance, where or when you run a race usually falls into one of three categories: “I killed it”, “it kicked my asphalt” or “meh”.  So how do you go into a race making sure you come out feeling that runners high?  I’ve found that setting the appropriate expectations can go a long way in making you feel like a winner even if you finish near the back of the pack, and the faster you realized that you were wrong, the faster you can get your mind right.  Here's a look back at my Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas experience.

If you asked in this past October, there was no doubt in my mind.  I knew that come December I was going to set a new PR.  The only question was, is this the half where I break the two hour barrier.  I was set up to succeed on so many levels:
-   This half was just six weeks after my first full marathon so I was going to be in the best running shape of my life
-   The course was so flat that the highest elevation gain is a kin to stepping up on a curb
-   It was in vegas where the warm dry climate perfect for running

There was no way I could fail…until I did…spectacularly.  The sub two hour half I was expecting turned into a nearly three hour, stop filled shuffle through the streets of Las Vegas.  On that day and in the days leading up to the race several events conspired against me including two of the things I thought would be my strengths on that day.
-  I was just six weeks removed from my first marathon.  Training for and completing the Marine Corps Marathon took a huge toll on me.  My legs hurt and running just ten miles seemed so boring after completing 26.2 so I wasn’t able to/didn’t want to train as effectively as I should have for the Vegas half.
-  It’s hard running in a warm dry climate when you’re training in near freezing temperatures.  While it was sunny and in the low 60’s at the start of the race in Vegas, I had done most of my training runs in the early morning darkness of an early New England winter.  Not only was I not accustomed to the warmer weather the dry dehydrated me to the point where I had to literally stop at each water station.
-  I didn’t run the race I was going to run.  As I said most of my training runs were done in the early morning starting just after my alarm went off at 5AM, but the pull of the Vegas half that you run the strip at night which means a 4:30 in the afternoon start time.  Add in the 45 extra minutes before my coral started plus a three hour time difference and I was starting a race at a time I was normally winding down for the day.  My internal clock didn’t tell me I was hungry so I didn’t eat a good pre-race meal, and my body thought I would be slowing down for the day right when I should be gearing up to run 13.1.
-  I was in Disney world for adults.  I didn’t take into account that I was supposed to be having fun.  A night before the race Aerosmith show combined with everything else one does on their first trip to Vegas, meant that physically, I wasn’t in a good place.  On top of all that, my arrival was delayed nearly three hours so that my bedtime was closer to 7AM est, two hours after I get up during the week.

Looking back on it now, I should have seen how outrageous my expectations of this race were but sometimes you can be so blinded by the time on the clock (and the bright lights on the strip) that you lose sight of why you’re there in the first place.  For many of us it’s the journey to get there and not what time you need to be there (especially when flying US air).  Making sure you have realistic and race appropriate expectations go along way in determining what kind of race experience you have.
Despite my initial expectations I was able to see that I was way off and adjusted my thinking early into the race.  Along the way I stopped with the missus to get my picture taken in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and took time to watch a band which was accompanied a fire breathing praying mantis.  All these led to slower than molasses time but made the trip one in a million.

One of the many stops along the way in vegas

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