3 Days Until My 3rd Half Marathon

I started my journey to the 2014 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon this Saturday one year ago, after I finished the 2013 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon. I finished successfully with no problems and really enjoyed the race. I had gone into the race treating it like a nice run in the woods on a fall day after collapsing under the pressure I put on myself from the 2013 Montour Trail Half Marathon a month earlier and having a miserable experience. But while I enjoyed the race, I couldn't help wondering how the majority of other runners finished so much faster. How can anyone run 13.1 miles fast?!
2013 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon
That fueled my desire to become a better runner overall, to get fitter and faster. To prepare for the 2014 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon, I completed training plans to run a fast 5K and 10K earlier this year before starting the actual half marathon training July 28.

I've had a really awesome training cycle. I did all my scheduled runs (though I modified my schedule the week I was on vacation), including a memorable 8-mile long run entirely in the soaking rain, and, including the race,  will have logged 257 training miles since the end of July. I worked on speed weekly, ran once each week at my goal race pace, and had pretty much all good runs, with paces feeling easy and long runs no problem. I'm not the most confident runner, but for the first time, I felt so strong, so ready, so confident.

And then came Sunday's 12-mile run. It was my last long run before the race, and it was awful. It was very difficult, I had some tummy pains (my old nemesis I thought was behind me), I ran very slowly, and I had to take a lot of walk breaks to make it through. My confidence was shaken, but I tried to put it behind me and was somewhat successful thanks to everyone on Daily Mile who told me to shake it off and trust in my training.

Then came yesterday's 4-mile run. It was a medium-pace run (between slow pace and goal pace) and has never been hard before, but this time it was. That run was the nail that pretty much shattered my confidence. The doubts came flooding in: What if I can't hold my goal pace the whole race? What if I don't do better than last year? What if I do worse? At work I cried twice, once in a team meeting with all my coworkers. Yeah, it was that bad.

I reached out to Amanda, who talked me off the ledge. She said to let it go. She said that worrying about times and paces will do absolutely no good. It sounds so simple, but it almost immediately pulled me out of my slump. She also wondered whether I was visualizing a perfect race experience where everything went right. I hadn't been! In all my race visualizations, I had been thinking of miles 7-12 being really hard but finding the strength to power on. Ummm...yeah. I was planning on having a bad race before I even got to the start line. Thanks to Amanda for making me realize that!

Last night I spent 45 minutes visualizing a perfect race experience, where everything goes right. My mental attitude today is so much better. I'm trying not to think about the race a lot, but when I do, I'm trying to only think positive things about it.

I have some goals for this race, but there's one thing I know for sure: I WILL do my best. And I WILL be happy with whatever the results are because I've put a year of my life--not to mention my heart and soul--into preparing for it, so I need to be proud of everything I've accomplished just to get to the start line.

My goals are:
1. Don't start out too fast. I don't want to run the first three miles faster than a 10:50-11:00 pace but will try to keep closer to the 11:00 pace.
2. Enjoy the race. It's a gorgeous course, which is why I loved it last year. I plan on carrying my phone and may try to take some pictures along the course.
3. Finish. Running 13.1 miles is still an accomplishment no matter how fast or slow I run!
4. Run in this pace range (with A being most likely and D being least likely)
Thanks to everyone who has followed me in my training and given me support, inspiration, and motivation, whether in comments on this blog, on Daily Mile, or on your own blogs. The running community is so supportive and encouraging, and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.

I'll be back over the weekend with the race recap, and I wish the best of luck to everyone else running races this weekend!

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