I raced last week. A 50k. I ran a PR. It hurt. I recovered. I ran 70 mile miles in the next 6 days. I still showed up to race NJ’s USA-TF State Championship 20k 7 days later.
I agreed to run my first race as part my new Team, the Do Run Running Club founded my Mark Washburne, the president of the United States Running Streak Association. I met Mark at a Cupid Chase 5k a few years ago and he encouraged me to try streaking. It didn’t work out for me back then. However, 2012 has some promise. Mark’s team looked like it needed more females, so I figured at the least I could be present and even if I had a bad day maybe I could still help the team compete.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from my legs, but I had some guidance. In consideration of my marathon split from the 50k, the “predictiors” tell me I should ideally be able to hold a 7:35 pace. Last year, I raced a PR 50k and then raced a half the following week at 7:35 pace. It seemed reasonable to shoot for that pace again, but I didn’t log a 101 mile week before last year’s half like I did this year. I was a little concerned that I was going to have trouble holding the 8:09 pace for 20k that I was able to average last weekend. I can honestly say I started off a little scared.
Weather was confusing. Maybe it is just me, but the National Weather Service has been blatantly lying to me lately when it comes to their “Feels Like” predictions. It predicted that at 9 am it would feel like 25 degrees. I am not sure about most of you, but that means tights to me. However, someone once said to me “Shorts are for Racing, Tights are for Pacing!” and that just stuck. I don’t know if it was an original rhyme or if this is some rule that I never heard before or after, but I think about it when I dress for cold weather races. Figuring that I was not really expecting to be “racing” today, I threw on my tights. As a last minute decision, I also threw my compression calf sleeves and a pair of shorts in my bag.
After getting my race packet, I spontaneously devised my new “face test” for how to dress: If my face feels numb, then tights. If my face feels fine, then shorts. It doesn’t rhyme, I know. My face felt fine, so I rushed back to my car and threw on my shorts and calf sleeves and my fresh out of the box properly sized bright yellow, black, and white T7 Racing flats. I stripped off my jacket and threw a t-shirt over my favorite long sleeve Brooks Tech shirt (I have no rhyme to guide me about upper body dressing). Last call for clothes in my car left me leaving with my favorite gloves that convert to mittens!
Off to the chilly start, I stood in the crowd wondering how to manage the pacing. Someone yelled go. The densely packed crowd began to shift forward and move. I tucked behind a tall guy who's Garmin was beeping....beeping...beeping... I thought about asking him what the beeps means, but decided I really didn’t want to know. I moved comfortably and didn’t feel like I was working hard. I wondered if I was running really really slowly and that was why it felt easy. The amount of people ahead of my surely suggested that I was not going out too fast.
As we moved up the slight incline into the wind, M1 approaches. It’s a 7:03 and into a breeze! It was fast, but I felt good, so I just kept moving. M2 comes and it’s a 7:08. No way! Now I figure I am banking some time for that 7:35 average. I felt strong and tall (which is ironic since I am just under 5’2”). I hit M3 at 7:04. Nothing hurts so I don’t feel the need to back down. 5k clock reads 21:57. I LOL! because had this been a 5k, I would not have bet money on me breaking 22 minutes a week after a 50k PR and 100 mile training week. I take advantage of my positive energy and the wind at my back. M4 is a 7:03. This is starting to feel surreal. I get a rush when I dial in a pace and it just keeps on happening. It is hard to run perfect splits without a Garmin. It was just me and my Timex clicking off 7:04’s … so sweet.
We start lap 2, with the wind still in our face. I know it will not stop until that first turn around well over 1 mile into the distance and up the gradual incline. I start to worry that I over-estimated my ability and decide to try to relax a bit. I pass M5 in 7:09. The next mile starts to feel hard and now the work begins. M6 7:12. Ha! 7:12 was the pace of my best half marathon. I still have a shot to average that by the end of the run or even better it. The 10k reads 43:39. I am getting tired and not sure if I can hold low 7s for much longer. But as we turn around and hit the decline again with the wind from behind, I pep up. M7 7:07.
I begin to catch a woman who was pulling away from me earlier. I decide to pass her with some authority to see if she comes along. She does not. Good because it was too soon to start racing it in for me. M8 7:06. I know I have the “wind in my face” section to do again and I did not want to mess up the race by making a move too soon. I try to maintain my rhythm and clock M9 7:04.
As I pass M9 my Timex reads 1:04 minutes, I realize that I can break 1:30:00 for 20k if I keep it together. The 15k clock reads 1:05:50, not too far off my 15k PR of 1:04. However, we are heading back up the incline into the wind and I decided this is not my favorite part of the course.
I am gaining on another woman, who glances back and sees me. She calls out something. I have no idea what is it. I don’t respond because I am trying to sit back and conserve energy for a shot at a “big finish.” M10 7:13. She calls out something else and waives for me to catch up to her. I don’t know her and I suspiciously wonder why she is encouraging me to hurry up on the crappy, windy, slightly uphill part of the course. I was right at my red-line at the moment and did not want to blow up trying to catch someone with over 2 miles to go. I think to myself “Ignore her and run YOUR race.” She waives me up again. Finally, I call out, “Don’t worry about me. I am just fine. Thanks!”
We hit the first and now last 180 degree turn and I decide to gradually make a move on the chick who was trying to get me to run harder earlier. I pass her on the decline and expect her to hitch a ride along side since she was so interested in running with me just a few minutes before. With less than 2 miles left and no more wind, I was now ready to race, but she doesn’t come with me. I wonder if she is saving herself and setting up to kick past me at the end. I can't worry about her and look ahead to the guy in orange moving well. I try to mirror what he is doing. I hit M11 in 7:10 and feel ready to leave behind what I have left in my legs. Orange guy picks up his pace. I do too. I start looking hard for that M12 mark. There is a sign. Could it be? So soon? No, of course not! It is some sign telling someone to "Run Fast!" or something like that. Then I see it and hit M12 at 6:50. I am thrilled. I knew I had opened it up my stride. If that girl passes me now then she deserves to because I am not making it easy.
Four tenths to go and I can’t contain my own enthusiasm! I let out a little hoot and holler. I become that annoying girl who tries to encourage the people I am passing to come with me. I feel compelled to report the remaining distance to all in my vicinity by yelling out “Only tenths to go!! Whoo hoo!” But where is that darn finish line! My watch says 1:26:xx. Holy Cow! I know I am breaking 1:30 but I am not sure how much is left.
Finally, I spot the the guy with the sign with the instruction to “Turn Left to Finish!” I turn, and see the clock. 1:27:55… 1:27:56…1:27:57… Oh Crap, I am not going to make it! I try with everything I had. Apparently, as per the race photography, I even put on my war face :) but I just couldn’t make it before it flipped past 1:28. When I got through the shoot and stop my watch it reads 1:28:03…. Ooooo, so close!
Official results have me at 1:28:07 and 7:06 pace! As it was a State Championship Race, my 1:28 got me 18th place female and 3rd in my age group. Women’s Open Do Run Runners did not place as a Team, but I was really happy to learn that I actually was the top female runner for us for the day. That will likely never happen again, so I will enjoy it while it lasts. :)
Thanks for reading.