The Italian Stallion
I had a little apprehension going into this race, as my previous events were triathlons: new experiences in which I got a feel (and delicious taste) for the sport. They felt like the early days of 5K’s where I would be filled with excitement at the newness of this level of activity. I was there to learn all I could. It took my mind off of the anxiety that had become so familiar in recent road races.
A beautiful friend encouraged me to sign up and I had little internal debate on the matter. As with my last two triathlons of the season, I did little worrying, little advanced prep, but all the training to be successful. My seemingly calm approach to these races, I believe, helped set me up for great experiences. Not to disappoint, I implemented the same plan of not really caring, not worrying, and not doing a lot of prep to get organized for the race.
Leading up to the race, I casually asked my coach what my plan should be for the 10 mile run (I was hoping he'd say, 'Have fun!'). But nope.
The day before the race I discovered (through friends, the internet and the universe) that the weather would be unseasonably cold. How bad could it be?! The evening before, I met a friend for a few drinks, got my nails done, and ate a warm (oh, so warm) helping of pot roast. Later on, I made some hot tea and took a nice epsom soak in the tub. I followed it up with rolling and good stretching. I pulled up some of my coach's e-mails to remind me of the cues, positive words, and successful workouts we'd been through thus far. I knew that if I reviewed notes and outcomes of my previous workouts I would be able to recall them when things got tough during the race. I got almost 8 hours of sleep that night.
So how bad could the temperature be? Yea, it was in the 20's when I got picked up in the pre-dawn darkness. By the time we hit Philly, it was just over 25. My girlfriend and I paced up and down a blocked off street, chatting away. I talked away a few nerves which were more around the weather, than the actual race. With 30 minutes to spare, I took off all my warm (oh, so warm) clothes to warm up a bit. I basked in the sunshine which seemed to balance the crispness in the air, kinda. I threw my coat back on after a short run, did a few dynamic stretches before handing over my warm (oh, so warm) coat.
I lined up in an earlier corral who was about 5 minutes from take-off. I stopped worrying about the temp though...I've been in worse situations. Get ready, get set...GO!
I didn't check out my watch until the 1st mile. Then I didn't check it until miles 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9. I honestly LOVED not looking at my watch (a recent strategy). Looking at it was more of an acknowledgement - there was no dread, or dissatisfaction in a pace (whether too fast or too slow). I think it's helping me to run by feel and not worry about the numbers. This is certainly something I haven't been able to do well. I like knowing that I have set times to check it; the whole process is more organized and it's quick. Once and done look...move on.
I couldn't change those hills...just like the weather. There were people around me losing their minds in seeing the hills. The run course was on part of the Philly tri bike course, so I remembered them. I just needed them to be over, and I made it so.
A few things I've recalled:
- Most of the water stops only had water...IN PLASTIC CUPS!!! I grabbed a Gatorade cup somewhere mid-race, but it was WATER!!! I didn't have any fuel, and hoped to grab Gatorade on the course...thankfully, I found some later on. I wasn't crashing, but I knew I would need something for the last push.
- There were two hills (one felt monstrous), but I recalled my only (thank God) hill workout. I used that to power me up the hills - I took choppy steps and just gritted my teeth and got it done.
- I felt like the wheels were coming off the bus around mile 7, then 8, then 9.5, but each time, I remembered past workouts...I can do this.
- I crossed the finish line in 1:20:02 (smashing my 2015 PR of 1:23:51) with a smile on my face knowing that I paced myself well and left it all out there.