Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Chris race

Hi to all!
I have had so many emails sent to me this week asking how Chris did in his race. The letter below is a letter that Chris wrote to me. With his permission I now share it with all of you.
What a beautiful tribute from Chris about his year of hard work, the race and how he is dealing with the outcome. I tell you, when the going gets hard for me in July and I know it will, I will draw on this letter and the spirit behind Chris.
Chris, thank you for sharing!
Love you

Hey Lisa,

Well, I wish I had better news about the race. Of the five days that I was gone, four of them had beautiful racing weather up in Duluth. Then there was race day. Hot, humid, and sunny. I heard it got up around 86 degrees, and it felt at least that warm! When I woke up on race day I took note of the weather change but I was so confident and felt so good about my training that I wasn't that worried about it. I decided I'd take it a bit easier at the start to make sure I could run the second half really well. After the bus ride to the start I ended up having a wonderful time conversation with one of the elite women that got me in such a positive mindset! One of her strategies for staying relaxed during the race is to smile every time she feels as though she's slowing down or tightening up and it just does wonders!

I jogged for less than five minutes before the start because it was so warm and sticky, I figured I was going to need all of the water and energy I had to pull me through the race. The gun went off and away we went. I spent the first mile talking with a friend and enjoying the day. He dropped back at that point and I joined in with a group of guys that were all looking to run about where I was. That lasted until about mile 5 when our group split up a bit. At that point I started slowing down a bit as the sun broke through the fog and by 10k I was in pretty big trouble. There were a few rough miles there as I was trying to stay in the race and I made a short comeback in the ninth mile. That was short lived though as my legs completely shut down from the heat and humidity and the rest of the race was a battle to finish. One of the guys I ran with for the first five miles that had then taken off fell back and we ran together again between 10 and 15. At that point he stopped and waited to help a girl he knew behind us with her race. At the halfway point this guy I had been chatting with before the start came up and was pointing to the crowd of people gathering at the drop out point. He kept encouraging the guys around us to stay tough and finish as the rest of the field was dropping like flies. I haven't checked out how he placed yet but I'm sure it went quite well for him and he certainly helped me get to the finish.

The miles got progressively slower and more and more people were passing me all the time, but nobody seemed to be having a very good day. I was pushing as hard as I felt I could and still get across the line. It was such a strange feeling that my legs were never really in any pain, I was breathing normally, and mentally I was as normal as I ever get. I just couldn't run! It got harder and harder to pick my feet up and no matter how hard I tried it was like trying to drag a herd of buffalo that were opposed to the notion of moving. It wasn't happening. I tried smiling, and smiled as much as I could as the race went on. It helped, but it wasn't quite enough. My friend from the start came flying by me at mile 23 and I yelled so loud for her! I looked for her afterward but didn't find out out how she did until the next morning. On the back page of the Duluth paper was a picture of her crawling on her hands and knees across the finish line! At some point in the last couple miles her legs gave out on her completely and she collapsed. But she still qualified for the Olympic Trials by a few seconds! I was so happy for her!

Overall it was a really hard day for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Coming to the end of a full year of training and two marathons with very little to show for it was pretty devastating. I came up to the race last year to watch some friends compete and started my serious post-collegiate training that weekend in the hills of Duluth. I turned around at the finish and looked up the long hill that I had charged up a year ago thinking about great marathons to come. It sure felt different this weekend. But that's really the beauty of racing, as much as it hurts. We run these things to see what happens on a particular day, come what may. It was disappointing and right now it feels like a wasted opportunity. But there are more races to come and I did finish, which is a rare statement among the rest of the elite field. Much like Twin Cities last fall which had maginally better weather, the majority of the elite runners dropped out and it became a race of attrition.

There were some wonderful things that came out of the race for some friends though! One friend was the top american male and made the B standard for the Trials. My former college teammate who I stayed with the night before the race won the 1/2 marathon beating some very strong competitors including the guy who has won that race for 6 years. Another friend of my one of my current roommates was the 3rd woman in the 1/2! Another teammate and training partner of mine who couldn't decide before the race whether he should run it as his training had been going poorly ended up running his fastest marathon ever! One local woman who has been trying to run a Trials qualifier for three years finally made it. And one other guy that I've been racing on opposite teams with in high school, college, and now on the MN team circuit had a great race and huge PR as well. And I'm sure that there were plenty of other good races out there, but they did seem to be the exception rather than the rule on Saturday.

I'm going to give things a week or two before I figure out what the plan is for my next fast marathon. I am still planning on coming out to run your race in the Tetons! I'm pretty sure that I'll just do the marathon but I'm very excited about getting back out there! In a few days I'm also going to start going back through my training logs and see what I can learn from this race, but I am still as convinced as I was before the race that everything I did for the last six months was as close to perfect as I could ever expect it to be. So while I want to try to find something to take away from the race for next time, at this point all I'm coming up with is that even the best preparation for that kind of a race can fall short. As always though, the volunteers, the spectators, and the other athletes were just wonderful all weekend! Another day, another race. Thanks so much for all of your positive encouragement, it made such a difference! When it became clear that each reason I had for starting the race was out the window was when the race became especially difficult. But every time I wanted to ease up or walk or drop out I asked myself what you would do in that situation. So I finished. And it hurt. But I smiled. And next time it will be better! Heck, if you can run across Death Valley a time or two, I better stop whining about a rinky dink little marathon right? :) So, that's that. Hope you had a better weekend than I did! Hope the training is going well, say hello to Jay and the kids for me!


Happy Feet!
Lisa Smith-Batchen

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