Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rock 'n Sole Quarter Marathon Race Recap

As much as I'd love to run strong and fast during every race, some races are just kinda ... meh.

With my recent calf issues, I decided to treat the Rock 'n Sole Quarter Marathon as a training run. I was okay with that. I knew I wasn't really in the best shape to crank out a speedy pace, plus whatever time I ended up with would be an automatic PR since this was my first time racing a quarter marathon.

The course map

 Coach Matt gave me a plan that seemed very doable - treat the first two miles as a warmup and then start picking up the pace. He said this would cut the race down to 4 miles and mentally make it seem more manageable. I thought this was smart and I liked the idea of working on a slower race start since lately I've been running the first half mile of races way too fast.

When I signed up for Rock 'n Sole back in December, I thought it would be a goal race for me so listed an ambitious finish time. I also used a past race result for a seeded start. As a result, I got to start in Corral A - the very front of the race. Since I wasn't planning on racing all out - especially not during the first two miles, I thought about moving back a few corrals. But ultimately decided to stay put. I would use this as practice to run my own race and not get distracted by how fast other people around me were running. 

During the first mile, I executed Coach Matt's plan perfectly. I didn't look at my watch a single time and my pace was right on. I got passed by a bunch of people but reminded myself to run my own race. 

Miles 2-4 is where my race started going downhill. Instead of getting faster after mile 2, my legs got locked into a slower pace and wouldn't get going. And instead of trying my usual tricks to run faster - insert surges, reel in runners in front of me, etc. - I told myself I was doing a training run and I should continue holding back. It was kind of like I mentally gave up during these miles, and even now I'm not quite sure why. I psyched myself out and chose the easy option. Very unimpressive. 

Mile 5 was the Hoan Bridge and my pace slowed quite a bit. To get up the bridge I avoided looking to see how much hill was left and instead repeated to myself that there would be no walking. Do not walk the hill!! During the downhill, my legs actually felt ready to take off but I purposely held back since I don't 100 percent trust my calf yet. Also, this downhill was the very place I really strained my calf a few years ago so I wanted to avoid a repeat of that race. 

At mile 6, I finally felt ready to run. Took me long enough, right? I latched on to a girl in front of me and followed her as the course wove through Summerfest grounds. With a quarter mile to go, I kicked past her - and two other ladies in front of us.

Mom also ran the Quarter Marathon!

I wasn't happy with my time but it did get me back into racing longer than the 5k distance again - my first longer race since last fall. Also, I know what I need to work on to race well at my next goal race, the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k in July. By the time that race rolls around I should be ready to lay it on the line again and run strong and fast. 

A beautiful finisher's medal!

My questions for you:
  • Do you ever use races as training runs? 
  • What types of goals do you set for races if not running for time?
  • Have you ever 'given up' during a race? If so, how did you get back on track after?

Remember - If you're interested in running a Rock 'n' Roll marathon or half marathon race this year, you can use the code RUNWITHSUN to save $15 off a domestic race or £3 off an international race. Hope to see you at a race this year!

- ST


  1. I know how running on a bad calf can get into your mind. I am still very conscious of my left calf when I run. On my first leg of Regnar Chicago last weekend my right calf cramped really bad but I pushed through to the end of my 10 miles.

    I thought I would just use Ragnar Chicago as just multiple training runs but once the snap bracelet hit my arm I took off.

    If it is a new race for me I try to just focus on completion. However, when the gun goes off it can be hard not to go strong. Like you I have to continually remind myself to run my own race.

    I have walked portions of races many times. Is that considered giving up? I don't think so. If I give the race everything I have then I don't consider it giving up. I have always completed my races. Even if I had a DNF I don't think it would be giving up if I gave the race all I had. Sometimes it is more important to listen to our bodies and recognize that we have to alter our plans so that we don't prolong out injuries. Easy for me to say but I don't follow my own advice. I tend to push my body beyond what I should. I need to be a better listener.

    Just so you know, your bad day is still better than my good day! :p

    Keep working on getting yourself better. Calves are very important for running.

    1. Thanks Bob - I hope Ragnar went well for you. I'm sure that was a complete adventure. I've never done the race but it sounds like a lot of fun as well as a total challenge. Congrats on the race :)

  2. I know you said you're not happy with your time, but I still think you did awesome:) But I also love the high expectations you have for yourself, I think that is why you continue to do so well!
    Congratulations on your race!
    Oh ya I have used races as training runs in the past. Especially when in marathon training, I will use a half. Sometimes even a 10k and then after the race, go continue on and finish with the mileage I had planned for the day, its a great way to work on speed and see how your body reacts in race situations:)

    1. Thanks Kristy! It was a tough one but hopefully the next one will be better.

      And I agree - always more fun to work on speed during a race than running on your own. Way more exciting and for some reason the paces usually seem easier!

  3. I know you're disappointed in the turn out of your race, but that just goes to show you how powerful our minds are. You were able to take away some learning points from this race to apply to future ones, so it still served it's purpose :)

    I think a lot of us have had similar experiences to yours, especially after an injury, we're trying to protect our bodies, but at the same time, it gives us a little bit of an excuse to maybe not perform to the best of our abilities. It doesn't become an issue unless you see a pattern race after race of yourself doing it. This was just an off day, and you'll be ready to go for the next one, I know it! :)

    1. Thanks Hailey - I know you're right - we all have off days! It just means we'll really appreciate the next good day :)

  4. The tough days only make us stronger, right? Congrats on powering it through and talking yourself out of walking up the hill. That is a great idea to latch on to another runner for the last mile or so - I should try that next time (I usually pick a person the last 50 meters ...basically finish line sprint) :) Great picture of you and your mom!

    1. It definitely helps to focus on the runner in front of you at any point during a race, but especially the end. Takes away some of the pacing burden :)

  5. Running like it was a training run and you were still 5th for your AG! You are awesome! :-) Seriously though, I personally think it's OK to play it safe after an injury. It's not like you don't ever push yourself hard! Your goal race is just around the corner anyway.

    I was on vacation last year up North and decided to run a small local 10K race as a training run for a half marathon the following weekend. It was the Musky Fun Run, complete with a t-shirt depicting a Musky wearing running shoes! :-) I ran my half marathon pace and just enjoyed running in a new location. I ended up first in my age group. Gotta love small, local races! :-)

    1. Sounds like a very successful training run/race to me! Gotta love it when a training run turns into an AG win :)