Long post ahead. You've been warned.
I couldn't be more disappointed with my performance in this race. Not only did I miss all of my goals, but I ran the slowest half marathon I've run since my first half marathon (not counting pregnancy). There was just so much wrong going into this race, though, that retrospectively, I'm not surprised that I blew up. Never underestimate the power of mental stress, infant sleep regression, running a race out of obligation instead of motivation (i.e., being "over" the half marathon distance before you even run your race), weather, and asthma to completely wreck a race.
I've had a ton of personal and work stress recently and they've really taken their toll on me. I'm exhausted all the time and my training the past few weeks showed it. Even though I had a really good training cycle (the best one yet), I wasn't hitting top performance levels in recent weeks, even if they were better than I've done before. I was just too distracted and all of that came with me to the start line.
Traveling with an infant who is having sleep regression issues also doesn't bode well for a well-rested night pre-race. Looking back, we probably should have headed to Savannah two days prior to the race instead of the day before. It was just too chaotic of a day for the little man and his routine was so out of whack that he had a really rough night.
About the race
I've never woke up on race morning feeling more unmotivated for a race than I did on the day of this race. I just had no desire to run it. Plus I wasn't feeling great and had no appetite, so I could only eat a little bit of my bagel with egg. But forcing myself to eat isn't an uncommon problem for me on race mornings, so I just chalked it up to pre-race jitters, despite my lack of excitement for running said race.
Packet pickup was two days before the race, and I couldn't get into Savannah that day, so I had to get to the race an hour before I normally would have to make sure I could get my packet (this was advised by the race directors since so many people didn't go to the Expo and get their packets). So, one less hour of much-needed sleep and added stress of being out of my normal race routine of making sure I have all my stuff (packet, bib, etc.) laid out and ready the night before. A small stress, but when there are other mountains of stress to be dealt with, dumping another one, no matter how big or small, on top, just hurts.
The race itself was incredibly well organized, especially for an inaugural event. The only two snafus were too few porta-potties, which caused a delayed start, and the Expo being held two days in advance instead of the day before.
The course was gorgeous, with marshy, Lowcountry coastal views through a beautiful neighborhood with walking paths and a golf course. I wouldn't call it a fast course. Although it's totally flat, there are a lot of curves and some of the trails are packed sand and dirt. And the running paths through the neighborhoods are quite narrow, so sometimes it was hard to get around groups of people who were spread out across the whole path.
How I did
In a word: awful.
I walked almost an entire mile at mile 9 while I attempted to get my asthma under control in the humidity, and it wasn't until I hit mile 10 that I knew I was actually going to finish the race.
I started the race thinking I'd start slow at around an 8:30 pace and pick up speed after the first mile or so, so I could hit that sub-1:50 mark. But after the first mile, I knew that probably wasn't going to happen. It was just too humid and my lungs weren't responding well to it. My legs felt fresh and ready to run, but my lungs just wouldn't take in enough air.
By mile 3, I realized the 8:30 pace I was running was going to be about the fastest I could hold in the conditions - hot with 100% humidity. I'm not normally a super sweaty runner, but I was just dripping with sweat and felt like my skin was boiling by this time. Knowing that this would bring me in around 1:52, I decided to just lock into that pace and hold on.
The next few miles were frustrating as the course was shared between the marathoners and half marathoners and the paths were narrow. I knew I didn't have a bunch of energy to spare weaving in and out of crowds, so I tried to pass when I could and sometimes just ended up stuck. By mile 6, things thinned out a bit and we were back on roads. I was still locked into that 8:30 pace and holding steady, but my lungs were getting angrier and angrier.
By mile 8, I was wheezing despite using my inhaler and had slowed down to about a 9:00 pace, and I was really thinking I was going to end up with a DNF (did not finish). At that point, I texted my husband to tell him he may need to come get me. I tried to get in some air, but by mile 9, I knew I wasn't going to get my breathing under control without stopping to walk (something I haven't done in a race since my ill-fated marathon two and half years ago). So, I stopped to walk, and ended up walking almost all of mile 9, and not at a very fast pace. I also texted my husband again to see if they had a nebulizer at the medic area just in case I needed it by the end of the race. I should have taken more pictures of the course at this point, but I was too upset to really care about that then.
After that, I tried to pull myself together and when I saw the mile 10 marker, I started to run again. The next three miles I did a run/walk most of the way. I just couldn't get in enough air to run the whole time and had to give myself some breaks. And I saw my time goals just slipping away as my pace crept up. I also ran into some "mother runner" issues because I didn't want to wait in the endess line for the restroom for a second time prior to the race (issues not unlike those mentioned in this post). Good times.
I ended up slogging in at 2:01:37. A far cry from my goals, far from my PR, and not anywhere close to where I should have come in based on my training. I did briefly visit the medic tent, but ended up not needing the nebulizer because once I stopped running (and walking), things got under control.
Adding to my disappointment is that if I had come in at my stretch goal of sub-1:45, I would have been the 1st overall female (hey, small race!). Had I hit either of my other two goals, I would have been 1st or 2nd in my age group. Had I just PR'd, I would have been 3rd in my age group. Obviously, I wasn't even thinking I'd place with times like that, but it would have been a nice bonus. As it was, I placed 7th in my age group.
The good news is, I didn't even feel like I had run a half marathon. My legs weren't tired at all, so recovery will just be like it was for a regular long run.
So there it is.
Months of training ending in a crushing heap of disappointment. It happens to every runner, and as a runner, you know this and you know that it will probably happen to you at some point. But that doesn't make it any less disappointing when it does. There really wasn't anything I did wrong in this race either (unlike the marathon I ran, in which I was undertrained and messed up my fueling). There are no lessons to be learned or insights to be gleaned. I just blew up. It just happened.
I was tired and mentally drained, and the weather wasn't on my side. I woke up this morning feeling sick, so that gross feeling yesterday morning was probably illness, not race jitters. There was nothing I could have done better to make this race turn out differently. Sometimes, the race just doesn't go your way and you've got to pull it together and look ahead to the next race.
Speaking of next races, mine is Nashville. It wasn't supposed to be a redemption race. And really, I'm not sure if it will be at this point, either. I'm bouncing back and forth between using it as a redemption race and not running it at all.
I know the weather could be similar to what I experienced yesterday, plus the altitude change will likely mess with me as well (that happened to me when I went from Lancaster, Pa. to Charlotte, which is much less of a change than Charleston to Nashville - asthma is fun, ya'll!), so my expectations are very low. Maybe I'll surprise myself. Or maybe I'll just wait until fall until I attempt my next big PR. I'll see how I feel about the half marathon distance over the next few weeks.