25k Race Recap
Wow. So I did it! Saturday, I ran the Naked Nick 25k at Blue Marsh Lake, and it was a pretty much ideal first race experience: It was in the 40s; the rain held off for us; I was surrounded by a great group of runners. I’ll go into full details of the race and my thoughts after, but I wanted to first start with talking about my pre-race thoughts.
Pre-race thoughts and feelings
I first consider my capacity. I felt pretty comfortable with the thought of running this race as described on the website consisting of a 25k (or 15.5 miles) with rolling hills and total elevation gain of about 1500’. While my training wasn’t ideal, I felt comfortable with my ability to do that. So that helped to ease my nerves. More on that later.
Then I was thinking about 18 year old pre-race Chloe to present day Chloe. Chloe at 18-21 was crippled by pre-race anxiety. I would feel this desire to escape. I would dread a race. I would fear the pain of running hard and pushing myself. I would fear the potential for dissatisfaction (spoiler alert: I was always dissatisfied). I would avoid thoughts about it for a few days leading up to it, and then on race day, the thoughts of the race would consume me. However, Chloe at 31 can look at those fears more gently, with more clarity, and more distance. I had some of the same feelings to a milder degree. Yes, I had the thought of “umm, why did I sign up for this?” I was aware of the fact that I would have to be in some level of discomfort in order to push myself how I knew I wanted to push, and I knew that I might be dissatisfied in the end.
But those thoughts didn’t have the same intensity. They came in my mind; I saw them and acknowledged them; and then I let them go. They’re just thoughts. They’re the words that I choose to say. Now that’s not to say that I blindly subscribe to this whole mind over matter sort of thing. That isn’t broadly applicable. What is applicable is that there is always the potential for dissatisfaction or failure, but what we work toward is diminishing the odds of that. I diminished those odds by training. So what is the point in fixating on the small odds of failing and sabotaging myself mentally? I approached those pre-race anxieties with gentleness. They’re there. But I don’t need to engage with them. They won’t make me more prepared. That allowed for space between those thoughts and what I really needed to focus on. That gave me clarity. That carried me through during the race as well. Well. For the most part.
Even on the day of the race, I felt a calmness. That was, in part, attributed to the yoga I was practicing that week. My PrePose Method partner, Carrie, helped me with some breath work on Friday, focusing on getting full expansion of the rib cage, front to back and side to side. I paired that with the muscular stability that you can find with breathing. This ended up helping me tremendously during the race to not only keep me calm but focused and strong.
I’ll break up the race into thirds, because they were very different experiences.
First 5 miles of the race
It was a bit surreal when I got to Blue Marsh, because I was picturing this moment since I decided to start training in early September. That morning I could feel the adrenalin. I was quiet and very focused. I couldn’t help but think back to college running Chloe again, and I was so appreciative of that fact that I wasn’t in that same headspace. I felt ready.
As the race director said that we had 45 seconds until the start, it kind of hit me: “oh wow. I’m doing this.” Then my nerves really set in. The start was down hill; there were tons of people; Christmas music was playing; my adrenalin was flowing strong throughout my entire body. I quickly became aware of 3 facts:
So let me address these.
These three thoughts consumed my first 4-5 miles. I looked at my watch every .75 miles. There was a lot of anticipatory stress and distraction: people passing me, uphills, downhills, mileage. Then I realized that I need to lean into this and accept it. People will pass me. There will be uphills. There will be downhills (that with eventually become uphills). There are still more miles to go.
After that point, everything became a bit lighter. I ran my pace. I reminded myself that I have only been training for 3 months. I enjoyed the scenery. I surprised myself with running up some of these uphills. I didn’t fixate on the fact that somehow I stopped my watch and then had to restart a new workout. I embraced my pounding heart rate and the relaxation. I breathed into my chest, front to back and side to side.
I can’t really offer any more details, except for the fact that there was brutal hill that I ran up around mile 7 or 8, and I was so pleased to have been able to run it. For the most part, those miles were very meditative.
I could feel the urgency of wanting to finish when I passed the last aid station and Ryan told me that I had 3.8 miles to go. “Ok, that’s less than when I run to the office and back.” That’s my typical weekday run where I run from to home to our office and back. “I can do this.” I kept thinking about the last two hills. There was one going up a road and then one right before the finish. I was aware of the fact that I was just holding onto my pace. I was not finishing any faster. I was not getting excited. My legs ached. When I got to 15.5 miles on my watch, I was...sad? I just wanted to be done by the point. I kind of (read: most definitely) fell apart that last mile. Those two hills were brutal. I told myself that I wouldn’t walk during this 25k, and well, technically I didn’t, because I walked parts of those last two hills in that last mile. I was so close, yet so far away. Then I heard my mom’s voice as I crested the one steep portion of the last hill. Then I saw my husband, John, and everything felt ok. I was so relieved. I crossed the finish line, and I knew that I did what I had intended. I trained, I pushed myself, I enjoyed it.
I was so satisfied with myself. Well, full disclosure: the first thing I said to John was that I had to walk 25-50’ on the last two hills. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my performance immediately. But once I got that out, I settled into contentment and satisfaction.
I was able to run 16.5ish miles in 2:52:49. That’s about 10:30 pace. That’s on about 2200’ of elevation through muddy conditions. That’s on 14 weeks of training. That’s on aches and pains. That’s on an overly ambitious first 5 miles. That’s on my anxieties and nerves. So I’m satisfied.
I feel satisfied with that race, but of course, there is room for improvement. I realized a few aspects of my training that I want to change:
The last and most important thing that I want to say is thank you. Thank you to people like Lisa, Diana, Sue, Wanda, Lea, Ryan, Joy, Cheryl, and many others that I am forgetting for inspiring me and supporting me. I think about my running friends and patients on my runs, and they’re an infinite source of inspiration and motivation. I am forever thankful for them.
One more thank you goes to John. He treated me when I needed it. He listened to me as I spoke about all of my anxieties. He was the person I looked for at the finish line. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner.
Oh. And one last thing. I signed up for the North Face Endurance Series 13.1 trail race in New York on May 5th. More blog posts to come...
The Mobility-Doc Blog
Drs. Chloe Costigan and John Giacalone are both physical medicine specialists, former competitive athletes, and strength and conditioning coaches.