One of our favourite races here on the Coffs Coast is the Coffs Running Festival. Now in its 6th year and attended by 1600 runners of all ages and abilities. Falling on Fathers Day it is always great to see all the dad’s out running with their kids and families being a part of this great active community we have here in Coffs Harbour.
This year i had decided to have a go at doing the 10km race which follows the Coffs Creek track through beautiful bush land in the middle of the City. I run this track every week and know it really well so i was hoping for a good time and a podium finish.
Training leading up to the race i had been aiming to average 3:50min/km and get a finishing time around 38min. This seemed like it would stretch me but wasn’t unachievable. Its not a fast course but there are no major hills and a few good down hill sections to get the leg speed up. I had been feeling good at training in the weeks leading in and felt nervous but excited about competing. Another local girl was running in the event and i was hoping to be able to try and hold on to her for the duration of the run.
Race morning greeted us with amazing weather, i had a good nights sleep and was feeling good. Arriving at the race it was great to see so many people there. The Retro Runners were spread across all the events and those of us doing the 10km were excited to then be able to watch to Half Marathon event being completed by some of the best runners in our region.
Warming up i felt great and headed to the start line with my fellow Retro Runners. This was my first running race not wearing a watch and running on feel. I felt ok about this and planned to just try and stay with the lead girl.
As we were let loose i shot off with the lead pack hot on the heels of the leading female runner. I knew we were going quick but it didn’t feel unmanageable. Passing under the Hogbin Dr road i fell slightly off the pack and pushed hard up a small rise to try and catch them. This proved rather futile and pain immediately set into my legs making them feel like burning chunks of cement. I pushed on past the 3km mark, still 2nd female and up behind the Promenade.
I heard footsteps approaching from behind and was about 2o meters off the back of the lead pack when another lady came flying past. She soon caught the lead pack as we flew down the hill and over Coffs Creek. Entering the Creek Track i lost sight of the runners in front of me all together and knew i was suffering badly. My pace had slowed considerably and my brain was going places i really didn’t want it to. The urge to pull out of the race was nearly unstoppable. I started coming up with acceptable excuses for pulling out. Once i realised the only viable options were either breaking a bone or maybe being hit by a car (the crazy shit that goes though your head!) i figured i had better battle on.
I felt totally embarrassed and humiliated and my legs were considerably painful. All i wanted to do was curl up in a dark hole and cry. I honestly have not much recollection of the next few km’s but i wasn’t in a good place. Phil came flying past me yelling at me to stay strong and try to stay with him, i couldn’t, i was done for. I remember coming onto Hogbin Dr which is a declining slope and remembering that some friends had mentioned they may watch the race here. I decided i had better try and redeem what dignity i could and run hard down the road. Though there was a head wind which negated the advantage of the slope this seemed to revive my fragile mind and as i headed onto the second loop of the track i was determined to finish.
I was past by a guy and could see someone up ahead who was fading. I decided to focus on him and just try to get past him. Catching him i saw the 2km sign, i have never been happier in my life, i just wanted it all to be over. I can do 2km i thought, i can get there, i can finish. I gathered my fragile mind and pushed my aching body on, i couldn’t believe i could feel so shattered running 10km!
Heading back into the showground i was just praying that there were no female runners chasing me down as i had nothing left to catch them if they did. I pushed myself up the finish shoot, over the line and my legs collapsed, the pain stopped, my mind stopped screaming at me.
To say i was disappointed would be an understatement. I was shattered. I had expected so much more from myself. Luckily for me being a local event there were lots of people to chat to afterwards otherwise i think i would have gone into a major depressive state.
Its now been a few days and i have had time to reflect on the race. There is always something to learn, always something you can take away. Hopefully lessons to implement next time, a few things stood out for me.
I hadn’t been on a training program leading into this race and i feel that this eroded some of my self confidence that i had done enough to achieve what i wanted to achieve. Self doubt is a terrible thing. I always aim to be on the start line backing myself 100% but this time i don’t think i did.
I went out way to hard and didn’t run my own race. My race was based on staying with the lead female instead of running MY race to how I felt. Reflecting on this i realise that every race i have done well at and enjoyed running i have only ever worried about myself. Even if i went there wanting to win i never worried if someone else was in front or went out hard i just did my own thing.
Distracting your mind is a powerful tool. Being stuck in your own head when things are going bad is not good. Having something else to focus on helps so much to pull yourself out of the funk in your head. I don’t know if having a watch on would have helped or hampered my efforts but it may have given me something else to focus on other than the whining going on in my head. Even having other runners to focus on catching or something would have helped!
I had read a piece during the week on a tactic that an Australian coach uses with his marathon runners. He gives them analogies before the race so they have something to focus on. This particular one was for when pain set in and was about thinking that you were holding onto monkey bars. You are hanging from a building, holding onto monkey bars, your arms (legs) are burning, you cant let go, if you do you will die, you need to wait for someone to put a mattress under you so you can let go (the finish line), then you will feel the pain stop, the relief of letting go, but for now you must hold on. I couldn’t tell you how many times this played in my head during those 41 minutes!
I think of myself as being fairly mentally tough and i think not being able to display that in this race was fairly shattering. I have to say though that now i have had time think about it i am really proud of myself for finish the race, so many times i didn’t think i was going to get there because i didn’t want to get there.
I was lucky enough to end up being third female and finished with a time of 41:08. I will take what i have learned and push on.