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The Chicago Chronicles: Anything Can Happen on Race Day

Rarely does it take more than watching my Florida State Seminoles and Miami Dolphins win in the same weekend to get out of a funk from a poor performance. Sometimes spending an entire weekend watching football with my little brother is enough to fix any mood, but I still find myself incredibly disappointed.

When I ran the Fingerlakes Ultramarathon last summer, my biggest takeaway was the importance of perseverance. I don’t give up easily, if ever. That ultramarathon was the hardest race I had ever done physically or mentally, and I will never forget the feeling I had crossing that finish line (you can read the race report on my blog, Eat, Sleep, Travel, Run, Repeat).

Just knowing how often I wanted to quit or limp off the course to the med tent after falling (one of many times) and cutting open my knee — then still finishing — was enough to give me that “if you can do this, you can do anything” feeling.

Fortunately/unfortunately that was the feeling I had to channel at the NYCRuns Narrows Half Marathon this weekend. What started out as a race to determine my fitness for the Chicago Marathon turned into a mental battle just to cross the finish line. The conditions were less than ideal and after mile 3, I knew my goal had to change … drastically. I went from aiming for a PR and the time I needed to prove I could physically BQ in Chicago, to just trying to finish the race.

Sometimes pushing through the pain is the answer, and sometimes it isn’t. This situation was probably the latter. Thankfully I am not injured, but I did take a fun trip to Urgent Care post-race.

Turns out all this running in extreme heat took a huge toll on me (surprise!). My previous post was about heat training and how challenging it was to complete my 3-hour run in south Florida. Last weekend I attempted another 3-hour run and by coincidence, it was in south Florida, again. The second time I started much earlier in the morning (4:30 a.m.) but on two hours of sleep (three-hour flight delay the night before) and, if you can imagine, even hotter weather, it did not go well. It was better than the first attempt but I felt worse afterwards.

I came back to New York hoping for better weather and to get back on track like the last time but to no avail. It was one of the hottest and most humid weeks of the summer, and that continued through Saturday. Even though one of my runs close to the race went well and felt OK, the Friday before slowly drained my confidence. I felt fatigued and sore, and even though I had spent three days that week in the compression sleeves, I just didn’t feel physically ready to race.

Everyone has that one race that they can say changed their racing perception. Mine was the Miami Marathon in 2012. I trained HARD for that marathon through blizzards and other types of weather new to a south Floridian living in a new climate. I was ready to crush a sub-4 for my second-ever marathon in my hometown, assuming that’s all that mattered on race day. The race drew near and about two days prior, I was put on the “Do Not Fly” list by my doctor since I had recently come down with the flu. So, naturally, I went anyways.

So now I’m walking to the start line, sick and achy, with the weather channel harping 77 degrees and 84% humidity for our 5:30 a.m. start time. It’s safe to say that race did not go well for me. I somehow finished, but it wasn’t pretty. It is still to this day the worst race I’ve had (but strangely not my slowest time!).

The point is, you can be ready or not ready — but anything can happen on race day. I have not heard or said any other phrase more in my life as it is so hauntingly true. Up until the week before the Narrows Half Marathon I felt prepared and confident — but nothing can prepare you for start time temps of 75 degrees and 97% (yep…97%) humidity.

I’m hoping to put that race behind me and get even more focused on my goal for Chicago. Who knows? Maybe the weather will be the same in Chicago. Maybe it won’t. All I can do is show up to the start line at my best with faith in my training and let go of things I can’t control. As long as I cross that finish line with no regrets, I’ll consider it a successful race. And besides, check out our new singlets for the race! BQ or not, at least we’ll look good doing it!

Erica Silbiger is a 10-time marathoner, having run her first marathon with Team in Training in San Diego on June 5, 2011. She will run the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 12, with her sights set on achieving a BQ. Erica is the Assistant Director of Admissions for the Columbia School of Social Work, and part of her job involves traveling around the country speaking to prospective applicants in the fall. She trains with North Brooklyn Runners. She also blogs at Eat, Sleep, Travel, Run, Repeat.

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