How to (not) handle a race surprise

The only photo of me smiling from this race.

The only photo of me smiling from this race.

A blizzard, an upset stomach, copious rolling terrain… these are all things that a runner could face on a daily basis. How do you handle it during a race though, when it comes as a complete surprise and you have 18 miles in front of you? This Sunday I found out…

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Pre-warmup for a 30km race NW of Paris. Doing my best to fake a smile in the snow.

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A bit happier after warming up

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start of the 30k in the snow

While I was somewhat prepared for the upset stomach and poor weather, I have only been training on flat terrain. Sunday’s course had a total of two flat sections of maybe 400 meters, and those were in high-speed wind. I knew it would be a tough day, but still ended up having a total baby tantrum mental breakdown at mile 14.

Yep, we got it on video:

I also knew the race would be fast, there were over 200 participants and only 35 of those were women. For those of you that are used to large, friendly, gender-balanced races in the US this may come as a surprise, but the truth is that running (especially long distances & competition) is still dominated by men, especially here in Europe. Ashley at Never Homemaker just wrote a great article about this that you can find here.

So while I was somewhat prepared to be one of the last people crossing the line, I was not prepared for the constant hills and crazy wind. I went out a little too fast and by the second 10km loop, I was ready to quit. Alexei told me, “no way,” and cheered me on. The next time I saw him at mile 14 I was begging to quit and he gave me a push on the back as I ran away crying.

looking pretty unhappy on the last lap

trying to avoid the wind & looking pretty unhappy on the last 10km lap

In the end, I was glad I didn’t quit (and that Alexei was there to tell me I couldn’t). Despite a slow last 5 miles and feeling pretty frustrated most of the race, I was proud of myself in the end for pulling through. In the end I ran under 3 hours at 9:26/mi pace. Not a fast day. Also I was 4th in my category (of 8). So in the end, the way I see it I just missed the (imaginary) podium. I believe it was good pre-marathon training and am going to try much harder smile and stay positive, no matter what the conditions, in upcoming training & races.

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Happily at the finish

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2 thoughts on “How to (not) handle a race surprise

  1. Sorry to hear of your struggles that day but stunning scenery. Lessons to learn from and be stronger next time.

    Wish the marathon bug had bitten me while in lived in Holland. So many amazing places I could have run….

    • Yeah, it would have definitely been more appreciated if there was less wind. Running in Holland is awesome, so flat there (I popped over a few times while living in Brussels for races). The lesson was definitely learned and now when things get tough, I start smiling (or dancing, or singing) 🙂

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