When we left off, it was two days before my goal 10k race and I was excited for race day (June 10th). We took the 90-minute train ride to Dresden on Saturday, checked into our hotel, and I went to get my race number while my husband and son looked around the city. So far, so good — but I knew the forecast for Sunday was 85F and high humidity. That’s not anyone’s ideal. I focused on keeping a positive mindset, tried to only allow thoughts that would help me and throw the unhelpful thoughts out. My race plan was to start much easier than I thought I should and hope to hang on.
On race day I woke up around 7:30, saw it was grey and overcast outside the hotel window, and checked the weather app on my phone. 83% humidity. Oof. After breakfast I went for a short warmup jog; it was like running in an underheated sauna. 80F and still 83% humidity. I was dripping after an easy 15 minutes. Ok, I thought, just take it easy and don’t stress.
I did follow that plan, starting at what felt like the easy side of threshold pace. My breathing was easy and the pace felt very controlled. I could see the 45-minute pacer way down the course (he was running with a guy dressed like a giant beer bottle, thus easy to spot) and made sure he stayed well ahead of me. Whenever I felt like speeding up, I’d look for the giant beer bottle and remind myself that I shouldn’t get any closer.
I didn’t look at my watch, just hit the lap button at 5k and 9k so I’d have those splits later. I was hot and uncomfortable but basically ok until about 6 kilometers in, when nausea started to build and I started to hate my t-shirt, which was a black tech shirt that the race required you to wear (yes, really!) instead of a start number. It was totally sweat-soaked and felt like it weighed about 99 pounds. Still, I felt that my effort level was the same as at the beginning. I was starting to breathe a little harder, but that’s normal at almost 4 miles into a 10k.
I asked myself if thinking about the nausea was helpful and decided it really wasn’t. I tried to make the t-shirt into a crop top by sticking the bottom half into the bottom of my sports bra. Now my stomach was somewhat cooler and the stupid shirt wasn’t sticking to it, but new and interesting chafing patterns were immediately evident. Ok, is thinking about that helping me? No. I started counting down backwards from 100 over and over again — something I don’t normally need or want to do with more than 2 miles left in the race, but it kept my mind occupied and the “this sucks” thoughts at bay.
Nothing good could come of looking at my watch, so I didn’t, but figured I wasn’t even going to finish in the heat-adjusted time my coach had suggested. Heat is one thing, in fact I’d been training at the hottest part of the day to get acclimated, but it hadn’t been at all humid in Berlin in May and early June. Humidity just screws up everything. My goal was to keep an even effort and keep my mental game on track.
So I finished, with a useless attempt at a finishing kick on the cobblestoned streets of the last kilometer, in just under 50 minutes. That’s about two minutes slower than the heat-adjusted goal time and a lot slower than I think I’m capable of right now. I expected that. What frustrated me was looking at my splits and seeing that I’d slowed quite a bit in the second half of the race, despite feeling like my effort level was consistent and not too fast. I started to beat myself up about that, but my coach pointed out that I’d run with the same people for most of the race and didn’t get passed a bunch, which means everyone slowed down. That made me feel a little better. She also said that her coach, who literally wrote the book on running, always says humidity slows you down much more than heat.
After ranting to my friends, I calmed down and got some perspective. What was good about this race? For one thing, I finished. My mental game was good and the slowdown wasn’t due to “taking the deal” (when your brain starts telling you to just jog it in because it doesn’t even matter). Most importantly, my training was awesome. From March to May I only missed one workout. That’s not something to take for granted, and the results, though not apparent in the race, are obvious when I compare March and May in my training log. Eventually there will be an opportunity to race hard and take advantage of my fitness.
Post-race, I took a week really easy to cross-train and regroup. This past week I’ve slowly gotten back into it, with a 10-mile long run and an easy fartlek workout.