Race Lesson Learned: Run your own race.
Race: Revel Mt. Lemmon (half marathon)
Date: November 12, 2017
Location: Tucson, AZ
Steph Time: 1:25:22 (1st overall female and a 3-minute PR!)
Matt Time: 2nd overall!
A mere eight weeks before race day, my husband Matt and I registered for the inaugural Revel Mt. Lemmon half marathon. After Matt’s less-than-ideal performance at the Revel Big Cottonwood half marathon in September, he was determined to complete one last race in 2017 and snag a PR. Already content with my 2017 race performances (which included half and full marathon PRs), I wanted to do well and hopefully PR again, but I had no other race goals.
We took a late flight from Newark to Phoenix on Friday, November 10. The next morning we visited Matt’s family before driving to Tucson for the race expo. Once we had our bibs, we decided to drive the course to finalize our race strategies. Afterwards, we both felt surprisingly calm and relaxed, which is not normal for us! Since we knew we had to wake up ridiculously early the next morning, we called it an early night, with a strict 8pm bedtime.
On race morning, after our 4am wake-up call and a quick breakfast, Matt’s parents (our super-fans and good luck charms!) dropped us off at the race shuttle. There we boarded a coach bus that drove us to the half marathon start, which was 13 miles straight up Mt.Lemmon! As we boarded the bus, I was thrilled to randomly see one of my former colleagues, who I didn’t even know was racing that day! Catching up with my friend during the 30-minute bus ride helped to ease my pre-race jitters.
By the time we reached the start line, we had 45 minutes before the race began. I used one of the many and abundant porta-potties (one of the BEST perks of Revel races!), and I did my pre-race dynamic stretching routine.
The race gun signaled our start just before sunrise. As the first few miles ticked away, I eased my way past every female competitor. I allowed myself to taste success as visions of my first-ever overall win filled my head. But at mile 5, just as I was meticulously planning how I would break the finish line tape, I was overtaken!
I initially tried to keep up with the competition, but the other female was faster than my ideal pace (6:25-6:30 min/mile). I knew from my last downhill half marathon (Revel Big Cottonwood), that if I went out too quickly, the last few miles would be difficult. Therefore, I decided to stick to my pace and my plan. I figured that if I still felt strong, I could push myself during the last two miles to regain my lead.
There were scarcely any spectators on the course besides the hydration and medical tent volunteers. However, what the course lacked in crowd support, it made up for in scenery. Even though I had visited Tucson several times before, I had only seen Mt. Lemmon from a distance. So this was my first time up close and personal, and the mountain did not disappoint. I was completely captivated as the course spiraled, twisted, and curved down Mt. Lemmon’s saguaro cactus-spotted cliff faces. Also, due to the design of the course, I could see Matt during certain stretches of the race. More importantly, I could see that he was in the lead!
I was propelled by the visual knowledge that Matt was doing well, and at mile 11 (my lucky number!), I realized I was gaining on the 1st place female. I made it my goal to slowly overtake her. She started three traffic cones ahead of me, and I progressed one cone at a time, until there was less than a cone between us. As I slowly regained my lead, I started to doubt myself. I wondered if winning was possible. I’d never won a race before, so how could I win? I questioned if I had what it took to break that finish line tape. But, just then, I remembered the Saints and Sinners half marathon in February 2017, where I placed 2nd overall. If I could place second, why couldn’t I place first? Why couldn’t it be me?
I continued to give myself positive encouragement, and as we came up to the 12 mile marker, I passed her! I was taken by surprise with her kind and gracious remarks, “Go get it girl!”
I knew that the final mile would be difficult (especially after previewing the course the day before), but I didn’t realize just HOW challenging it would be. At that point, the downhill course leveled off and continued through a residential neighborhood. My quads were on fire, not adjusting at all to the altered elevation. I was trying to maintain my 6:30 min/mile pace, but I couldn’t do so. My pace dropped to 7:00 min/mile, and I had a sinking feeling I would not maintain my lead.
I started tensing up, worried I’d lose it all in that last mile. Incredibly anxious, I my pace slowed down even more. And that’s when I completed the most challenging component of the entire race; I acted with grace and kindness towards myself. I told myself that it would be okay if I didn’t win. As long as I was giving my all, I was content.
Miraculously, when I was compassionate towards myself, my body relaxed, and I cruised to the finish line. As I came into the final stretch of the race I saw Matt and his parents, who cheered me on saying, “You got it – you’re going to win this!” I crossed the finish line, 1 minute before the 2nd place finisher (I guess I didn’t need to worry, after all!), with a 3 min PR of 1:25:22. I broke the “winner tape” and almost cried in excitement and elation. Matt and I embraced, and I discovered that he’d placed 2nd overall with an almost 2 minute PR. We couldn’t have asked for better collective races.
In the weeks following this race, I have reflected a great deal on my performance. It was, without a doubt, my best to-date; and I don’t think it was because I was in the best shape or had the best taper or had the most solid pre-race routine. Instead I was successful because I listened to my body, stuck to my plan, and acted with compassion towards myself when I needed it the most.