Spoiler alert: I PR’d!
What a weird sentence. It’s weird for a couple reasons. One, I didn’t expect to be writing this race recap. Two, when I proofread my posts, I read my contractions in full to avoid incorrect use of “you’re” and “they’re”, so when I read PR’d, it’s weird. It’s not a verb! I personal record-ed? I personally recorded? Okay, in summary, I did things (8k of things) faster than I ever did before Saturday, March 12th, 2016.
We’ll start with Friday night. I was tired and all I really wanted to do was sleep in on Saturday. I love sleep, okay? really, what else is new? I hadn’t run since a hard effort on Tuesday due to Wednesday’s CrossFit and Thursday’s rest. I was okay with a mini-taper because I truly did want to give everything to this race and get a good indication of where I am relative to my spring goals.
I made a last minute decision to run in flats, which I haven’t run in since high school and actually, those were spikes. I bought a pair of New Balance about a year ago for CrossFit because I wanted something as natural as possible, but still within the realm of “running shoe” so I could work my way into them for 8k and under road races. Yet here I was, never having run in them because they feel SO thin. I laced them up, hooked Dunkin to the leash, and headed outside. As luck would have it lately, Dunks was being a jerk again and did NOT want to run. (He hates running when J has left the house because he gets serious FOMO. “What if Daddy comes home and we aren’t there? MUST WAIT. What? Yes, I have a lot of energy. NO OF COURSE I DON’T WANT TO EXPEND IT. Must wait.”) Thanks, D, you’re a D.
So after a half mile of dragging him up and down the sidewalk, I gave up. I went inside. My ankles could feel the difference between all the cushion I’m used to and that little flap of rubber sole but I decided I’d go for it Saturday anyways. It’s only 5 miles and they aren’t technically new shoes.
I packed my stuff on Friday so I didn’t have much to think about Saturday. (Thank you social media for making me proactively get ready so I can take a picture for the world. Obviously the world cares about my race day outfit.) It was going to be somewhere upper 30s or low 40s and I was going to wear shorts and a tank top even if it killed me. Hell, I was wearing FLATS so I had to look the [fast] part, you know?
Race Day Morning:
The race is a short (10 minute) drive from my house. I got there early (around 8:15 for a 10am start) because I hate looking for parking. I sat in my warm car drinking my pre-race drink of choice — Gen UCAN — until about 8:45 when I headed out for a short run. Two miles was the plan, but I made it just over a mile; I wasn’t feeling it. I went back to the car, saw my friend who was parked next to me, and quickly changed out of my sweats so we could head into the gym.
As we were walking, I was talking about how I’ve never worn arm warmers before. I was really struggling to pull them up and all I could think was, “Damn, I cannot get any more arm muscles on these toothpicks. I can’t pull these —– “ WHAM. I punched myself right in the face. I took my own breath away and felt the tears well up in my eyes. How could anyone not warn me how DANGEROUS these things were? In case you’re kind enough to wonder how I’m doing, I’m bruised. Yes, I have a small bruise on my cheekbone courtesy of my own fist. It’s impressive, really.
So in the gym, I hung out with my friend and her RWB teammates for a short while, surrounded by people way overdressed and clearly not running the event. I thought about shoving coffee and a donut down my gullet too, but decided I’d wait in the bathroom line to kill about 40 minutes before I needed to be outside. I was happy to have indoor bathrooms to use but regretted it once I was inside the stall. The toilets were leaking and not just a little — I couldn’t put my foot near the “water” because it would have made my foot wet. This is the only downside I didn’t consider (and why would I?) to a shoe with no sole.
After the bathroom fiasco, I went outside to attempt nudging my way close to the start. I ran into a friend (the same one I always do!) from college with her husband and we tried to push forward. We were only moderately successful. I got us as close to the front as possible, still behind many people that would be run-walking, and I could only see the starting line if I jumped up from my tiptoes. After the anthems, the gun went off and it took me about 50 seconds to cross the start.
I went into the race with a plan to run sub 8:00 miles and beat January’s time of 40:25. Age grouping isn’t a possibility in this race, so I easily fought the urge to sprint out, but I still found myself needing to dodge people. Despite lack of hard goals, I still I wanted to get as close to sub 39:00 as I could and comfortably get myself into space to find my pace.
It took me about a half mile to find a good rhythm where I could find my own stride. This is at the first turn of the course. I maintained focus on two girls, probably in high school, running together and after the first turn, found my own space. We seemed to be running similar paces so I made it my goal to stick with them. After the first turn, I could see the first hill come up. I shortened my stride and passed a few people on the climb, trying to stay loose, and picked up momentum on the downhill while trying to keep my breathing in check. A guy was on the corner yelling mile splits. As I passed him, I heard 8:30s but my watch clicked off in 7:40.
I turned the corner again, still focused on those girls. I could see far ahead and this stretch was long. My friend Danielle came up behind me and we chatted for a second. Her watch (my old one) was reading 6:xx and we both knew that wasn’t right. I told her mine had been showing 7:20-7:30 for the past few minutes and I was just going to try to hang on. It felt hard, but not too miserable (yet). She passed me and I fought the urge to stick with her; it was far too early. I know we’re both competitve and it’d be a bad idea for both of us if I tried to run with her. We passed a beer stop and I thought how fun that would be. “One of these years!” I told myself; just not today — today I needed to see where I was at. This entire mile was a straight shot with another uphill at the end. In the uphill, I shortened my stride and picked it up again, collecting myself on the downhill. I passed Danielle in here, but kept my focus so much that I didn’t even see her pass me again sometime later in the race. This mile clicked in 7:33.
I felt the familiar lurch in my throat after that uphill. I was pushing too hard for my stomach. I pulled back a little. At this point, I hadn’t noticed my legs much in these shoes. I only hoped I hadn’t been running on my toes, which I knew my calves would pay for later in the day if I had. I got lost in the run a little bit here. Bagpipes were playing and they made me a little emotional, despite the fact that it was a cheery Irish jig. Running and music do weird things to me, I guess. I started to notice a woman in front of me running with her hair down; I thought it was a coworker until I got closer and realized it was a cross country coach from when I was in high school. Suddenly, I got a little burst of energy which was very welcome because a longer hill up the overpass was coming and its appearance was daunting. “Hi Jane!” I said breathlessly. She recognized me almost immediately, gave a cheer, and said she’d see me at the finish. Since I’m a complete clutz, I tripped up the guy running next to her. He didn’t fall, but I apolgized profusely — he was friendly about it though. That’s what I get for trying to run faster than the crowd. I used that energy and finished mile 3 in 7:25, but then that’s when I started to feel the pace.
I also started to realize my watch was off by more than .05 and got frustrated. I knew I was zig-zagging in the first half mile, but I didn’t think it was THAT bad. In fact, I ran most of that first stretch on the sidewalk so I didn’t understand. I hadn’t started to do any math but I knew I had a chance at going under 39 minutes if I kept my pace up. I didn’t have anything else to focus on here; the road was flat and my breath went from controlled to a little more spastic. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’d run rolling hills over flat land any day. When things are flat, there’s no ebb and flow to my pace — it just hurts constantly, rather than getting a slight repreive on a downhill. So, the pain started and I decided to do some (little) math. If I totally bonk, 20 minutes from now is low 40s. That’ll suck but I can do it. If I do two 9 minute miles, that’s 20 minutes minus 2… okay that’s on par with last race. If I do awesome and I can hit off two more 7:30s I’ll be at 15 minutes and… [click]. My watch clicked off mile 4 in 7:36 and I wasn’t anywhere near the marker.
Talk about deflating! I heard everyone’s watches start to beep. We couldn’t all be wrong, right? I knew I was off before this, but at least I could SEE the markers. My tangents couldn’t be that bad! I saw mile 4 on the sides of the road and looked at my watch. 4.20 miles. I was absolutely devastated. I had started to realize I was pulling a good pace and I didn’t want to finish an 8k with a 5.25 course on my watch. It took everything in me to not slow down in a “what’s the point?” fashion. As I was thinking about how ticked off I was, we turned, and I could see another turn coming quickly. People were starting to really haul ass. I was stuck between knowing my watch was almost quarter mile off and just going with the flow of everyone else. I opted to pick it up too, my legs really couldn’t help it. Things started to happen instinctively at this point. One more turn and everyone was really sprinting! If the marker was correct, we still had a half mile to go. I felt sick thinking I had two more laps around the track before I could finish… but as that thought left my head I saw the start flags and my mind started to play tricks on me. The start and finish, according to the map, were the exact same place. One flag said “start” but I still couldn’t see the other flag. DOES IT SAY FINISH? IS THAT THE FINISH? SHOULD I GO? I went. My stomach lurched. My legs were fried and I couldn’t give the kick I normally have saved somewhere (I’m a consistent 5:30-5:40 sprint to the finish kind of girl). My feet hit the timing mat, I clicked off my watch, and I saw the clock read 38:40s.
Damn, I was close. Damn those tangents.
I started to catch my breath and my watch buzzed. It does that when I have a heart rate monitor on to tell me what my resting heart rate is after a minute. My heart slowed 54 beats per minute in the first minute after finishing. That’s nice — wait a second, what’s my watch read?! I had totally forgotten in that moment that I had started about 50 seconds after the gun! I went to my activity and there it was — 37:49. I did a little fist pump and smiled cheesy. That’s a PR! Then I second guessed myself. Is it a PR? Wait, was my last PR 37:13 or 38:13? It’s totally 38… right? Wait, did I start 50 seconds before the gun? Or after the gun? IS IT A PR?
It’s a PR.
I tried to do a cool down but only lasted about half a mile. I just wanted to meet up with friends and drink a beer. A PR! Who knew these legs had that in them? I felt absolutely elated all day; I still do. I’ve been really nervous about my goals and simply getting back to the speed I was at in 2012. It seemed so far away. I have lot to say on that topic, but I think this is enough rambling for today. I forgot what a PR felt like (hi Chicago, you were amazing, but you don’t “count”) and I think I’m ready to do stuff in May.