When I look back on this summer, or this year actually.
I can’t believe how much has happened.
This year has been a rollercoaster of emotions.
Mostly good, some bad, but whatever way you look at it, life events have a HUGE impact on you and your ability to function.
The best way I can describe how I feel my life has been, is to put a pen in a young childs hand.
What are they going to do?
Likely draw round and round in a small area, changing direction often, sometimes getting in some kind of a pattern, before quickly moving in a different direction.
That is how I feel my life has been this year.
And I am not saying that is bad.
I try to control things a little more than I should, and this was a good learning lesson for me, that although I have been very lucky with what has come my way in life, that opportunities often open up for me, they do so in a way that cannot be predicted, cannot be managed.
And that, I struggled with.
This weekend, I ran Falmouth Road Race, one of the bucket list races I have always wanted to do, and I could see why everyone loves this one so much. There was not much not to love actually, it was a fantastic event, probably the most beautiful course I have ever raced, combined with a small town that just beams with pride of what it is able to pull off.
I said I wanted to go out there this weekend, and see where I fell. See where I ranked against a stacked field (including some Olympians who flew back from Rio purely for this event).
And see where I fell I did, only that was a rather rude wake up call for me, rather than the beaming smile across the line I had hoped it would be.
But first, I just want to share a few things about Falmouth Road Race in general that are pretty unique.
As an elite, you stay with a host family.
I had always heard of this concept, but never got to experience it myself, and it was a really cool way of doing it.
On a small, touristy town like Falmouth that relies on tourism to help it survive the rest of the year, it would be ridiculous to take up one of the hotels for one of the biggest nights of the year, so they find host families, who pick up the elites from HQ, transport us where we need to go the whole weekend, show us the course, and cook for us.
Basically, invite us into their family for the weekend.
Which makes the experience a lot more relaxing, and just helps to sum up the entire experience at Falmouth.
Both Lily (Partridge, who was on the team with me for the European Championships) and I were put with the Mayan family, who were an adorable, sweet, loving family.
If you had never been to the US, and wanted to experience life in an American family, this would be it, and that immediately made me feel very relaxed.
Another part of the hometown experience for me, was being picked up at the airport by one of the RunnersConnect athletes, Tom Benoit.
I very rarely get to interact with the RunnersConnect athletes, and this was so kind of Tom to drive to Boston to get me, and bring me back. We had a great chat on the way back to Falmouth, and he showed me the course, so I could enjoy it before I got tunnel vision in a few days time.
The evening before, Falmouth Road Race has a mile track race, and they had a very stacked field, especially on the women’s side. That was fun to watch, and meant I got to hang out with the Saucony athletes and staff who came to watch the meet. I also went out to dinner with Saucony afterwards, which I really enjoyed.
So now we are up to the morning of the race.
We had been warned it would be windy out on the coast, we had been warned it would be very hilly the first three miles, and we had been warned that the second half of the race would have NO shade, making it warm up very quickly. Most of the runners tended to go out too fast, and blow up the second half.
But all of this seemed to work in my favor.
It all seemed to be pointing towards a good race for me. My workouts had been going very well, and I felt like I was in the best shape I had been in my life, if I could find a fast 10k, I was confident I would break my 10k PR, and even run under 33:00.
It almost seemed to good to be true.
All these things that kept coming up, making the race more difficult, seemed like it was just becoming more and more a race for me.
Except, it was too good to be true.
And my ego came crashing down to earth this Sunday.
Now, I still went into the race with the mindset I told you I would have, that all I wanted to do was run my best. I did not care about the time, I did not care what the conditions were like, all I wanted to do, was race to my ability, have the race I could feel proud of, and cross with a smile confirming to the world that yes, I am in very good shape, and I am about to do something BIG.
But life had something else in mind.
As the race started, the other elites sprinted away. Within a mile, the rest of the field had a 100m gap on me, including the back group.
I was literally on my own, by 100m in either direction.
Just be patient, they will be back.
But there was also another problem.
As I went through the mile in 5:42, 15 seconds behind the rest, I did not feel easy and confident like you would think, I reminded myself that everyone else MUST be more tired, they had made that rookie error of going out too fast.
If I was breathing hard, they must be breathing REALLY hard, and I just had to wait until they started to fall apart.
Besides, I had done plenty of workouts by myself. This was nothing different.
But by mile 3, I was not really any closer (or further from) the rest of the group.
Yes, I had finished the toughest part of the race, but it was now time to “go”, and I already felt like I was working hard.
I don’t think I was. I was just already well into feeling sorry for myself.
Thoughts of why do I put myself through this echoed through my mind. Doubts continued to creep in, and of course, those thoughts of dropping out came to the forefront more times than I was comfortable with.
How is this happening?
How could I have been smart with my race, taken it conservatively, and STILL ended up feeling tired, way out of touch to the rest of the group?
I felt embarrassed.
There was me, thinking I was going to have a breakout race. I had a good chance of cracking the top 10 today, and I couldn’t even keep up with the back group of elites.
The negative mental thoughts started to spin out of control. I started to think about what an embarrassment I was, that I did not deserve to be here, and they would never want to have me as an invited athlete again.
This was my last race before my time off, the last race of this speed segment, the only chance I had to show that I was fit and I blew it.
I did not jog it in by any means. I was still fighting, still pushing, and working hard, but I could tell it was my mind that was deciding it was hard, not my body.
About 5.5 miles in, I finally could see two elites up ahead, who were close enough for me to focus on, and I did. I did not feel good by any means, but I knew my mind had given up earlier, not so much my body. This was far enough along that I could force myself faster, I was supposed to be tired at this point, and I definitely had more in there.
I caught them up at around the 10k mark, and just focused ahead, trying to salvage what I could of this race.
With about 400m to go, there is a huge uphill. It is short, but sharp, and I pushed hard up it, and let myself fall down the other side.
I crossed the line in 40:42 in 15th place, minutes slower than I would have guessed I would run, and so many questions flooded my mind:
How could I be in such good shape and race so bad?
How could I be smart at the beginning, and still not have it pay off? Again.
How could this year have had so many amazing opportunities, yet so few actual good races?
I am meant to be a racer. I know I race well, so why have I struggled in most my races this year?
There were a million excuses I could have made in my head right there, but at the end of the day, it just didn’t come together.
Sure, we didn’t really taper, I had an incredibly emotional month with my grandma passing away, and I have not stopped traveling around all year, but I was not accepting that this could play a part.
Steve (on the phone) tried to plea with me, that I was race rusty. We were meant to have four big road races in this summer so far, and instead, we had one.
He told me that I had tried to “manage” this race, rather than focusing on racing, and for that reason, had put myself so far out of touch with everyone else, that I was no longer racing, and fell into a negative mindset as I could see how far behind I was.
But what about my emotions? Why had I cracked so easily this time, when usually I am so strong?
Maybe the emotions of this year have played a part. Maybe with all these life events occurring, it has not allowed me to get in any constant state of calm, and we all know the effect stress has on our bodies, regardless of whether it is good or bad stress.
I am clutching at straws trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. We will never be able to pinpoint what happened, nor is there any point, what is done is done.
All I know, is that we got in what we needed with this training segment. With all that happened this year, I fit in all the training I needed, and I know I am in very good shape right now, I still believe I could be knocking on he door of my 10k PR.
But it is time to take a week off.
The purpose of this speed segment was to get my legs turning over again as I move into this marathon segment for California International Marathon. We know that I work best off a speed segment, and it came back a lot quicker than last time around.
Sure, we hoped I would have some great road races to show for the work I have done, and we hoped to get my name out there. I was shooting for a full on Saucony contract by the end of the year, and even though right now that looks unlikely, like they say, shoot for the moon.
I did shoot for the moon.
I did do the best I could with the circumstances that presented themselves in my life, and I know I gave my very best to my training that I could.
Sure, running was not put first the entire time, but in my opinion, family should come before your hobbies, and I dont regret that.
I have a 20 miler tomorrow (so we do not go a month without a long run) and a final speed session on Saturday, then I am taking a week off.
Yes, you read that right.
No running, cross training, EllipitGO. Just rest
Emotions and all.
Then I will begin back up for CIM with 13 weeks to go. We ran out of time for races this summer, and this is the latest we can leave my week off running, but I need it.
I need to go into this segment fresh, both emotionally and physically, and this is the best way for me to do it.
I am going to have a big chat with Evie, and see if I can figure my head out. Get my mind back to where it was before, and find that emotional strength and toughness I always had.
It has to be in there somewhere.
I have big dreams for CIM too, and this time I may have missed entirely, spiraling back to earth in my broken rocket, but at least I tried, and at least I know that the rocket can be made, it is possible to launch into the sky.
And maybe, just maybe, my next rocket, with all the lessons learned from last time, will make it out into the universe, and reach that moon.
All I can do is try.