2016 Vermont Half Unplugged – A Race Full of Lessons

It’s been over a week since running my second Vermont Half Marathon Unplugged and it’s taken me about that long to process what went wrong with this race. In processing it, I realized this race taught me more than what could go wrong with a race.

The night before I stayed with my cousin Danielle, her husband, and their sweet baby. I had only met Dani once a long time ago, but thanks to facebook and our blogs we have gotten to know each other. Saying this was the best night in months is an understatement. We shared a wonderful meal, I smiled and laughed like I haven’t in a while and I felt a new connection to my family.


The morning of I woke up with a gut feeling that I shouldn’t run. My left hip/quad had been bothering me the past week or so. I even told my mom on the phone on my way to the race – “I shouldn’t run today.” But I’m stubborn, and I ran. Bib pickup and transportation to the start was easy. The procedure had changed from last year and I was pretty antsy about it, so I’m thankful it all worked out.

After talking with Dani that morning I was pumped to try for a PR after a good run on the course last year. I set my watch’s virtual pacer to 10:15/mi, planning to run below it for the first 3-4 miles then speed up to pace. As the gun for the second wave (11:00; Wave 1 was at 9:00) went off and right away I knew it wasn’t my day. My legs were heavy, I was anxious and couldn’t calm down, and my breathing never evened out.

Still figuring out the “buff” technique. It was only about 32 out, but I really didn’t need it.

Miles 1-4 I was content. Things weren’t feeling great, but my leg didn’t hurt (of course it wouldn’t after 6 ibuprofen in 13 hours…woof). At mile 4.25 I quickly stopped to turn on my music. I tried to run without it but it simply wasn’t happening. It was around mile 6 when I started to struggle. My leg tightened up, and I had trouble staying on “goal pace” for more than a minute or two at a time. My legs just didn’t want to go.

At least the view was pretty.

Miles 6-8.5 were a horrible, horrible struggle. I wanted to drop out. I wanted to crawl into the bushes and disappear. I thought about dropping out of my next half (which I am SO excited for) and quitting running. I kept walking because mentally I simply wasn’t there. I felt defeated because I couldn’t stay with the pace I had set for myself, and I didn’t want to stop my garmin to turn the beeps off #TypeAProbs

At Mile 9, things turned around slightly. I was moving slowly and knew even a sub-2:20 wasn’t happening. I had accepted it was a “slow day” and told myself just to get to the next mile. The next landmark. To the next anything. I spread out my walking to every 1.5 miles, rather than every .5 mile or so. I climbed both the hills in the last 1.5 miles without walking. What changed was my mindset. I kept reminding myself that marathon training is going to be hard like this race, and that this was great practice for it. I told myself that If I couldn’t get through this race I don’t stand a chance at 26.2, and that changed things. I finished the last .25 mi with a 9:44/mi average, which while not as good as last year, I was happy with.


Crossing the line I was heartbroken. I grabbed water, found some bushes, sat and cried. I felt so ashamed of my performance and was 100% crushed. After composing myself enough to find and chug my free beer, I was on the bus back to my car calling my Mom and crying again. I told her, Dani, and my closest friends “nothing hurt” more than normal discomfort, but boy was I wrong. My heart hurt, and if I hadn’t taken so much ibuprofen I would have realized how much pain I was in physically. I realized it once it wore off, 2 hours into my drive home when I got out of my car to hit a bathroom.

Now that I’ve had over a week to process this race, so many things are more clear to me.

I should have listened to my gut. My head and body were clearly telling me something that morning and the week before the race. My legs felt “heavy” the whole time because I didn’t have a full range of motion in my left hip. I felt better when I slowed way down because I could get away with lifting my leg less. I ran a race I shouldn’t have, and now, 9 days later, I just finally had a day where I was 95% pain free when walking only approximately 1,500 steps #lazyjob. I hurt myself, and I hurt myself good.

I’m not good with running for time. I failed miserably the last three times now that I’ve run for a time. My only successful tempos happen on a treadmill. My last two “good” races were run for fun, with no time “pressures”. Anxiety to be perfect is a personal struggle, and maybe this is a clue that time goals aren’t for me at this point in time.

Running isn’t fun when you’re stressing about it. I should have turned off my watch completely and forgotten about it when I started worrying about my time. It ruined my mindset and in turn ruined the race for me.

Just because you’ve run a race once, doesn’t mean it’s easier the second time. This race for me last year was at the time a PR and I felt so strong going into it. I assumed that since I knew the course it wouldn’t seem as hard. But I was so wrong. Each race is a new race, no matter the course. The first loop of the course was also different this year, which threw me for a loop.

It wasn’t THAT bad of a race. Yes, I finished with my slowest/second slowest time (what would be “chip” time vs. gun time here). Realistically, I only walked 4 times – and I’ve definitely walked more during a race before. My nutrition was fine, I dressed for the weather, and I survived crazy logistics. It could have been worse.

How do you get through disappointing races? Is leaving your Garmin at home as easy as it seems?

I’m linking up with  PattyErika, and Marcia today for Tuesdays on the Run! Check out the other posts to see how other runners are describing their running lately.

19 thoughts on “2016 Vermont Half Unplugged – A Race Full of Lessons

  1. I feel for you–I’ve been there with rough races. At least you had some gorgeous views and you learned from the experience–that’s what counts. I hear ya about not running for time. I think for my half marathon next month (even though I want to sub 2:00 SO BAD) I’m going to focus more on my effort rather than time. I still use my Garmin during runs and try to only look at it when it beeps at the end of every mile just to get a sense of where I’m at, but I like running based off of effort rather than a specific time.


  2. I’m sorry to hear that your half marathon didn’t go as well as anticipated. I had a half marathon last fall that I was really hyped about but ended up starting out too fast and really struggling the last 5 miles…it was an emotional experience.

    You learned some great lessons through this experience and made a great point – every race is different, even if you’ve run it multiple times. I hope that you’re feeling better emotionally and physically and that you’ll be back at it for the next race!


  3. While those rough races stink, they definitely are full of lessons like you said! I’ve become a fan of racing by perceived effort rather than the pace that the Garmin says, especially because so many factors like wind, skyscrapers, etc can affect the instant pace read. Like Jen above (who I coach! she’s awesome!), I check in when the miles beep and that’s usually it during training and racing. It makes it so much fun that way, and I’m a firm believer that often the key to running a goal time is to let go of that goal, train hard, race smart, and enjoy the journey.


  4. You know what, You finished the race! It was rough, it was hard, you wanted to qui, but you stuck with it!! that is what counts most!

    Now you’ve learned something, and maybe that is what was meant to happen for your race! It will make you better!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am in pain just reading this. I’m so sorry your race was so horrible. Definitely cut yourself a break, rest up and when you do run, go Garmin-free for awhile. Just run joyfully. Thanks for linking up!


  6. I’m so sorry to hear about your race! I feel you on the Garmin thing – I would’ve left it running too. Maybe doing just easy running for awhile will help you out? It would help you build your base, especially for marathon training, without putting as much strain on your body. No matter what, I hope you feel better soon!


    • Yes – definitely mostly easy running and if I do speed work it’ll be off of perceived effort! I’m looking forward to the hills in Maryland. I used to love running the ones on my college campus! Thanks so much!


  7. Oh man I’ve so been here before! I had a half marathon last summer that I obsessively trained for because I wanted to get a PR once and for all. I was super prepared for it, but on race day I just mentally couldn’t push anymore after mile 9.5, and I ended up getting some kind of freak injury in my leg and had to hobble to the end. I was devastated for a week but then realized that time shouldn’t be everything to me and that time goals stress me out. I ran a half marathon a few months later “just for fun” and finished so much faster and had a blast, so I totally hear you on the anxiety thing! I have no idea how we’ll both get through that, but the good news is that for your first full you won’t have to worry about PRing! 🙂 Try not to be so hard on yourself, it sounds like you did your best!


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