I have gotten away from writing these, but today was a rather strange race so I wanted to share the story on here.
Leading into this race I have been viewing it as my goal race for the fall, however with coaching being what it is, my training has been more suited for a 3 mile race on grass than a 13 mile race on the roads. Saturday was a long day with the state XC meet. I didn’t alter my coaching at all, I spent the race sprinting around Detweiller Park from point to point to see my guys and cheer them on. As we stopped for Culvers on the way home I started too really reconsider how hard I will be able to go for the half the next day. All that too say, I adjusted my aggressive race plan to something a little more conservative at the start and then see how I will as I go.
The conditions were perfect, beautiful morning, great (new) course, and solid competition. I went out under control and quickly a pack of 4 formed. We stuck together for about 2.5 miles then it was just down to 2 of us. We stuck together through 6. Mile splits (from Garmin auto-lap): 5:48, 5:34, 5:36, 5:35, 5:37, 5:35. Right before mile 7, I put in a slight surge and started to open a gap into first place. I felt a little separation so I decided I had to continue to press. 5:33. I hit a bad patch during mile 8 (5:47), but was able to recover and get moving again. I really felt great at this point. Smooth, controlled running. 5:32, 5:25. I hit 10 miles in 56:23 (a new 10 mile PR). I started to do some math in my head. “I feel really good right now, if I can run 16:35 for the last 5K, I can be under 1:13. At this point I was really dropping the hammer. At one point during that mile my Garmin had me at 5:15. I was flying. One of the lead bikes told me I had about a 250 meter lead. I felt great…until I didn’t. Just before the 11 mile mark something happened…
A little background, for those unfamiliar with me from 2009 to 2011 I had some really bad anxiety issues. It was often connected to running. I would get a racing heart (feeling like having a heart attack), my arms would go numb, and I would feel light headed like I was going to pass out. It was a tough challenge that I faced, but ultimately with professional help was able to figure out ways to deal with it so it would not interfere with my life in the way that it had been.
An anxiety attack happened. My legs started to feel a little heavy and like that: lighted headed, numb arms, racing heart. The thoughts in my head “oh, no, not now.” I almost stopped and walked, I slowed once to try to right the ship, after about a minute of slow jogging, and I thought I would try to get moving again. I tried, no luck, still struggling. At this point I am audible talking to myself (I am sure I looked perfectly sane, leading a race, shuffle jogging and sternly talking to myself). My mind is racing, “You’re ok, no you’re not, lay down, give up, you have to stop, you are in trouble, talk to someone, slow down.” I turned and looked over my shoulder, second place was right behind me. “Oh, crap, I can’t go, I am going to lose this race, my wife and son are watching me fall apart, I can’t bare having to see people and be embarrassed that it was not a physical reason I lost, it was all mental. I have to try to pick it up again, hopefully I will feel better.” And I did feel better, not right away, but I started moving. I hit mile 12, finally (6:05). And as quickly as anxiety struck, it was gone. I felt great again. I was slowing picking it up, and was flying again. I came through a gauntlet of noise with about 3/4s of a mile to go, “I got this!” I continue to pick it up, mile 13 (5:19), and then sprint finish. The classic high five from Naperville’s amazing Mayor Pradel. I see the clock and have renewed drive, I can go sub 1:14. Cross the line in first, 1:13:59. A 15 second PR and a second consecutive Naperville Half Marathon victory.
A strange race, one that I am still not sure how I feel about. I am glad to have the PR, I am glad to have fought off the anxiety, but I wish I could have fought it off sooner and run a faster time.