Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Own Worst Enemy: A Race Report

I am not going into mile by mile detail about the Helvetia Half yesterday.  The race was very well organized.  I was able to meet Stacie of Impossible is Nothing and saw Amanda of Runninghood as well as a couple of other friends.  The course was even more hilly than I expected, but absolutely gorgeous.  My goal was to run strong and hopefully finish another half under 2 hours. 

Stacie and I after the race. It was her second of 4 halfs in June and a new PR!

With my recent difficulty in racing, I tried some new things this week.  I hydrated very well, ate cleanly and didn't even think about a PR.  I had no dairy later in the week and very little sugar.  My GI system felt great.  I was sure this was going to fix my running runs issue. 

I can blame pollen or asthma or hills or anything else.  Yet it comes down to one thing--anxiety.  In addition to my struggles with depression, I have GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).  More information than you may want to know, I realize.  I seem to be able to train through anything without too much trouble--well, except the occasional running runs...  However, put me in a race and I need more porta-potties than a race director can possibly expect.  Put me in a race and my lungs tighten up and I cannot get a deep breath.  Leaving me with a tendency to severe side stitches and asthma attacks. 

Yesterday brought home that it is not my training.  My recent racing issues are clearly mental.  All the positive mantras cannot seem to get me past the fear of being surrounded by people I do not know.  When it is just me and the road, I can run forever.  Me, the road, lots of people and a finish line and I cannot relax. Things were going reasonably well until someone talked to me.  It was a long hill during mile 7 and I was doing my regular race breathing--heavy and shallow.  A woman simply said, "You can do it.  Try to breath deeper."  I smiled and thanked her.  Just that interaction made me emotional.  I tried her suggestion as my side was in bad shape from breathing too shallow.  Just a couple of moments and I had a pretty bad asthma attack.  Enough that I had to sit at the side of the road to try to catch my breath.  I was so grateful for the two people that stopped and checked on me.  Both were so kind.  I finally caught my breath and began to walk.  In and out, slow and easy.  Mouth wide and relaxed.  The attack was easing, but I truly thought I was going to have my first DNF.  My breathing eased so I decided to run walk to the end.  If I started to struggle, I would walk. 

The biggest frustration was that my legs were not even the slightest bit tired.  Those hills were just dragons to slay.  My sword plunged into the dragon's back with each step.  The hills did not beat me.  I was my worst enemy.  I was conquered by my own fear.  That is the reason I feel the most defeated.  The course was not my enemy.  I was. 

Official Time: 2:12:36
Overall: 1262/2731
Gender: 579/1692
Age Group: 104/262


(Just) Trying is for Little Girls said...

That course is a tough one! So good that other runners helped you through the rough spots.

Anonymous said...

Any serious athlete has said that sport is 90% mental.

Tim Noakes, in Lore of Running, has a whole chapter devoted to "Training The Mind", particularly the sub-section "Psychological Preparation For Sport." He includes many references of where to go elsewhere for further information, and details some methods.

Perhaps, the most applicable point he makes is that it can take just as long, if not longer, to train the mind as the body.

The theories and methods presented in Lore of Running, coupled with the teachings of Christ, would make a solid foundation for athletes and non-athletes, Christians and non-Christians.

Anyway, I find that my weakest link is when adversity strikes - when the going gets tough - I wither. Like my "cross-training", if I want to improve I need to do the things I don't enjoy, like doing mental exercises to put me in a place to rock this world!

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Sorry it didn't go as you had hoped, but I'm glad you were able breathe after your attack. Glad to hear that people stopped to see how you were.

Stacie said...

It was great to get to meet you and have our mini run together on the course. The whole mental thing has wiped me out several times. I can relate not only with that but with the #2 issues. It's hard when we expect or hope for a better outcome at a race. Last weekend was brutal and embarrassing. I'm so glad I ended my last race in this age bracket on a positive note. I look forward to meeting up with you again.

Small Town Runner said...

J, do you ever race with a friend who runs a similar pace? I wonder how you fare in that situation. This reminds me of high school tennis. In tennis, I played a year of singles and a year of doubles. For some reason, every time I started to get behind in a singles match, I became defeated- I just could not rally to come back. But when I played with a trusted partner, it never seemed to end up so bad.
I am impressed that you kept going despite the asthma and the anxiety.

SO glad you got to meet Stacie and see Amanda!

And...looking at your stats, you are still in great standing for your gender, overall, and age group!

NattyBumpo said...

Or, if not race with someone at the same pace, someone you know that will stay with you through the whole race. Has she not chased me off and told me to leave her, I would have stayed with Stacie. I would love to run a race with you and we could BS the whole time. You would probably end up beating me in the end because you are still faster than me. I have to work on that.

Jill said...

Awe girl, I am so very sorry that this is such a struggle for you. My daughter suffers from GAD and I totally get how this isn't something that you just tell yourself to stop doing. It takes a lot of work.

I started seeing a sports psychologist when my heel was so bad and I became/am very depressed...I can't see her now due to some new difficult financial situations but I cannot tell you what amazing things she did to help me. I highly recommend seeing one if you can swing it.

Nevertheless, there's nothing wrong with your time and you should be seriously proud of checking off another 1/2. So many people can't, but you work so hard and I am nothing but very proud of you!!!

Teamarcia said...

I'm so sorry this was difficult for you. Kudos to you for getting out there, trying to overcome the anxiety and coming away with a totally respectable time despite the obstacles. It is SO mental. I love Jill's suggestion. Hang in there.

Johann said...

2:12 is still a good time in my book, well done! You did a great job pushing through to the finish. That shows that you have lots of mental strength.