October 26, 2016

Running through Vineyards: Saint Emilion Snapshots + Half Marathon Recap

semi marathon de saint emilion
There were no safety pins for our race bibs, but there was wine at the finish line. #priorities
saint emilion lussac
chateau haut piquat
saint emilion lussac
plaid scarf fuzzy sweater fall outfit
colorful ivy saint emilion

My race bib was barely holding on. 

It was no complicated formula--my shirt was drenched with sweat, and my bib was attached to my shirt with tape. It was a pretty predictable predicament. 

I wasn't faring so well either. 

That should've been predictable as well--the university doctor I had seen to be cleared for the race (you need medical clearance for all road races in France!) had warned me about the rolling hills. I cringed a bit at the time, but thought little more of it. After all, the elevation maps on the race website didn't look so bad. 

Oh, they were bad. Within the first few miles, my ready-to-PR pace had dramatically slowed to opposite-of-PR pace (PW--personal worst?). My goals and sub-goals slipped further and futher out of my reach. Let's aim for a PR--1:43, let's go! Okay, how about close to a PR--1:45. A little bit slower, say 1:50? How about under 2 hours? No? Can we finish?

The landscapes were beautiful--the misty vineyards and quaint wine chateaus couldn't have made for a more picturesque setting. But they were no distraction from the punishing climbs and the unanticipated biting cold temperatures. My body protested violently, gasping for breath with each throbbing step. Every kilometer was an uphill battle--literally--and I was losing.

Eventually, I stumbled across the finish line in 2 hours, 4 minutes, and some seconds that I don't remember. I quickly cleared the time from my watch, and I didn't bother to look up the official time because I didn't want to know. 

I ran the half marathon in my full marathon pace. I finished in a time 20 minutes slower than my personal best, and 13 minutes slower than my previous slowest. 

Running is a fickle thing. When I PR, I feel unstoppable. When I run a bad race, I feel ashamed. I feel almost as if I've lost a piece of my identity, as if I'm no longer a legitimate runner. 

The situation was drastically different from my PR race, sure--the weather was ideal last year at Hartford, there was incredible energy from the spectators, the course was relatively flat, I was loaded with adrenaline after coming off of a long battle with injury. At Saint Emilion, the race much smaller, there were few people cheering, the hills killed, I was in a foreign country, and I had already been blessed two milestone training seasons this year (yeah first full marathon and olympic-distance tri). 

But that's okay. I gave it my best that day, and that's all I can ever ask of myself. 

It was both satisfying and discouraging to feel as if I were doing all I could--satisfying because at least I knew I was trying my best, but discouraging because my best was not as fast as before. 

And that's okay too. We're constantly changing as individuals, and it does absolutely no good to wallow in comparison to past versions of ourselves, just like it does absolutely no good to compare yourself to other people. It is, however, so valuable to learn from people who know what they're doing, and to learn from situations that don't go as well as you'd hoped (next time there will be no races with hills. Or I'll train for the hills...or maybe I'll just take the flat race).

Duality is my favorite thing--every unfortunate circumstance has the potential to become something positive.

There is no triumph without disappointment, and I'm going to keep chasing that forever-fleeting victory.

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