Gratifying Firsts in Melbourne

Change a few variables only three weeks apart and you can get a completely different race experience. That’s what I encountered yesterday racing the 10k event at the Florida Marathon and 1/2 in Melbourne, Florida three weeks after competing in the 10k at the Ironhead Half Marathon in Venice, Florida. Here I will share my experience from a memorable weekend in Melbourne that included two – Firsts…

I chose to compete in these two 10k distance races in preparation for the USA Duathlon National Championships in May. I need more race experience at this distance and it’s also the distance of the first of the two runs at the national championships and for two big races later in the year. Three weeks ago at the Ironhead Half Marathon the conditions set up for a potential great day and it played out that way. My head was hungry to race, the temperatures were perfect for running and the course was flat with no wind. In Melbourne all four aspects were flipped. I wasn’t hungry to race until race morning, the temperatures were much warmer, it was windy and the course had two significant bridge climbs.

I was also at this race supporting Lauren Nolan, competing in her first half marathon so it set up for a great day. Coming into the race my body was a little beat up along with a few other challenges that had my head space simply not dialed in to have an edge. That can happen from time to time and I knew once race morning arrived I would get the focus to compete.

As we pulled up to the race location Sunday morning we were continuing to track weather radar we had been doing since Saturday night as rain was expected at some point. From what we saw it looked like we might be able to get our races in before the rain arrived but you never know. We brought many options with us to manage preparing and racing in the rain. That was out of our control so we focused on our warm ups and race plans. Lauren started at 6:30 AM and she was mentally and physically ready to go. It was exciting seeing her get ready for her first half marathon. The horn went off and she began her adventure…

I immediately took off after her start to finish my warm up and returned to the start line for my 6:50 AM adventure. The 10k course went in the opposite direction than the half marathon route and was an out and back starting with a significant climb over the Melbourne Causeway right out of the gate. My race plan took into account the two climbs, warmer temperatures and body feel. My target was slower than the race three weeks earlier for all factors I noted.

The horn went off and the climb up the Melbourne Causeway began. After going up and over the bridge and then some I finished mile one feeling a bit rough. My cardio was strained but what was more concerning was the heavier strain I felt in my quads. I was seven seconds slower than my first mile three weeks earlier but instead of feeling great as I did in that race I felt really beat up. My pace slowed in mile two and although that was part of the plan it was a bit far from the plan. Early in mile two I knew I had to make some adjustments to the overall goal. I knew it would simply be a mental fight the rest of the way.

After I finished mile two I was really feeling rough and right after that I briefly considered changing it from a mental fight race to a training run. I had never done that in a race but it flashed in my head for a moment. I then told myself to simply focus on the current mile, act like it’s the second run in a duathlon when I am really beat up and often in survival mode. I kept focus and then set my target to get to the turnaround at mile 3.1 and reassess the situation. At that point I only had one racer in front of me, a young lady who was blazing through the course and was uncatchable. I had no idea what was happening behind me.

When I made the u-turn at 3.1 miles there wasn’t anyone behind me for a good bit. That immediately gave me a boost that the conditions and the bridge were impacting them a bit more than me. At that point I changed my mindset that I was in the fight 100%, not worry about pace, but it race it. I was extremely happy I had given myself a chance to get to that point and not given in. That is my mantra in races – keep fighting and give myself a chance late in a race to do something special…just hang in there…”keep chuggin’.”

It seemed like every guy I passed heading back after the u-turn looked like they had a really good pace so I knew I had to keep pressing. I finished mile four keeping the pace I was at which was encouraging the way I felt. I knew mile five included the bridge and that actually helped me mentally. I thought to myself if I am still leading at the point of the bridge climb I would have an advantage as I love attacking bridges and knew my overall fitness level would be there to draw from. That may not be the case but it’s what I was thinking and I was bought into it. When I began the climb I was still leading and never looked back. I was efficient going up and let my body go heading down the other side. Once to the base of the bridge the finish line was just in sight.

I made the final turn heading in and as I approached the finish line they had the finish line tape up and I knew it was mine. I got to break the tape with joy the race was over and I fought. I quickly went to the side and kneeled down to recover. I was met by good friend, Lisa Liebig, who was there supporting her husband and my good friend, Will who placed second overall in the 1/2 marathon! We exchanged a few thoughts and then I headed back out to support Lauren as I knew she would be finishing soon.

When I saw Lauren she looked strong. That was a huge relief knowing the conditions, the same bridges she was climbing, and being her first half marathon how difficult it would be. She fought through the final miles including the bridge at mile 12 and then through the finish for an incredible 1:55 time. She was full of joy as well completing her first half marathon and accomplishing her goal.

We shared our experiences throughout the rest of the day and she will recap her journey in completing her first half marathon in next week’s blog so stay tuned for that story. From not being able to run 3-4 miles just a couple months ago to having incredible performances in 5k races, a sprint distance triathlon, and now a half marathon. She will also be sharing how she prepared for the race from a nutrition perspective.

For me I would say I am more proud of how this race transpired than the one three weeks earlier. Even though I set a personal record in Venice and felt great in all aspects going in, on this day I fought through not having my ‘A’ game and gave myself a chance to compete. I got everything out of what what my body had to offer on this day.

A few take-aways for me and maybe some things for you to consider (knowing we are all different):

  • You will not always have your ‘A’ game and feel great during a race…that is normal (unless maybe you are Superman or Superwoman)
  • Don’t give in…give yourself a chance to make something happen…you don’t know what others are going through as well
  • Focus on the present while keeping the big picture in mind…the current mile, half mile, whatever interval works for you to remain focused and what you can control in the moment
  • Life stressors impact training and racing just like physical training stress has on the body…be cognizant of your head space…
  • Be kind to yourself…we are not always “on”; celebrate victories, mini victories and learn, learn, learn…
  • Support and give to your teammates and friends; I got so much joy supporting Lauren finish her first half marathon event

Even though my body was a mess I pulled it together mentally to have a great race and win overall male. How can I be frustrated with that..I did what I could.

Lauren and I celebrated briefly post race on site with Will and Lisa and then darted to our cars before the skies let loose for a brief rain shower. By the time we got back to the hotel on the beach the skies were clearing and we celebrated her first half marathon and my first place finish on the sand with champagne I received as an award. Love champagne showers…

All of the hard work we put in for these races is so rewarding. You learn so much about yourself while training and competing. The sense of accomplishment is priceless. Now the mindset changes a bit as my run season is over and my duathlon season will begin with a race in Miami March 13.

I can’t wait to see what the future brings… and hope to see you out there…

Add Health to Your Life

Celebrating on Melbourne Beach…we are dry at this point…
This is how to celebrate!
We loved our Firsts this weekend…
I know who is more graceful…you don’t have to comment…

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