I ran my first "tune up" race (a 5k) of the season today. In the days leading up to the race, whenever anyone asked me how I thought I'd do, my answer was usually something like "It's gonna be ugly. There are so many huge hills that I'll be lucky to get under 30 minutes." I really wasn't expecting to have a good race, much less come anywhere close to my PR from almost 3 years ago. Yes, the first mile and a half was mostly downhill, but that meant that the last mile and a half was all. up. hill. And one of those hills is the long, steep, monster hill I've grumbled about training on. Only once in my life have I made it up that hill without walking - today was the second.
The race started and finished at the athletic complex of a local private college, so I was able to sleep until 7:30-ish this morning which was a nice change from having to be up at Stupid O'Clock. It was chilly and overcast - perfect running weather. We drove over to the college, parked, and I went to pick up my packet. Mr. R&R made the last minute decision this morning to register for the race as well. Last minute registration and packet pickup were both incredibly well-organized and every volunteer we encountered was super friendly. We still had over half an hour before the race started!
About 15 minutes before the gun went off, Mr. R&R generously offered to pace me to a sub-30 finish. I was all for this idea and quickly agreed as we ran a quick warm up lap on the track while discussing our race strategy: Go out fast. Try to minimize the suckage on the big hills. After our lap, we finished stretching, listened to the national anthem (complete with two Canada Geese doing a fly over), and observed a moment of silence in honor of those who were killed and injured almost a year ago during the Boston Marathon bombing.
We knew that there was no chip timing for this race as we made our way into the starting area, so time would start as soon as the gun went off - not when we crossed the official starting line. There was a quick countdown followed by an air horn blast. I hit 'start' on my Garmin and did my best to push through the slower starters and stay on Mr. R&R's shoulder. We turned out of the athletic complex and onto the familiar terrain of the parkway. The first mile was all downhill - including the monster hill. I rarely looked at my Garmin and instead focused on staying next to Mr. R&R and regulating my breathing. We hit Mile 1 in 8:26!*
The road flattened out until just after the turnaround point before beginning the climb up the hill I'd been dreading. Strangely, it didn't feel as horrible as it usually does. I was calm, in control of my breathing, and actually enjoying watching the back of the pack and the people doing the 2 mile walk coming down the hill on the other side of the road. At the top of the hill (and the Mile 2 marker), a volunteer was calling out splits, and I was absolutely stunned to hear 18:xx as I had intentionally only been looking at the distance on my watch, not the time/pace. Mile 2 was an 8:55.**
After an all too brief dip in the road, it was all uphill back into the stadium. This is where the suffering really began. I was desperate for a short walk break as fatigue hit me hard and my breathing spiraled out of control - oh yes, the bull$#!^ voice was getting very loud. I begged, and Mr. R&R simply said 'No'. For some reason, that was enough to make me squash the now kicking and screaming bull$#!^ voice back down and keep running.
We turned onto the track for the final lap and I think I finally started to believe that this was really happening. As we entered the final stretch, a cross country style run from the end zone to the 50 yard line of the football field, Mr. R&R slowed down and said, "Go! Take It!" (he voluntarily let me come in ahead of him!). I started my closing kick and I felt someone coming up on my shoulder. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a ponytail and its owner looked to be in her mid-to-late twenties, but I wasn't taking any chances after what happened at the South Shore Duathlon last year (got passed in the last 1/4 mile by a girl in my age group), I dug way down deep and kicked a little harder. She dropped off my shoulder and out of my sight as I sprinted across the finish line in a glorious 27:33 - eclipsing my old PR by 1 minute and 18 seconds! I don't think it would have been possible without Mr. R&R there pushing the pace and refusing to let me give in to the bull$#!^ voice. Best. Husband/Coach. Ever.
As soon as Mr. R&R cleared the finishing chute we moved off to the side and I dropped onto the turf; dizzy, out of breath, and absolutely shell-shocked! After a few minutes, I dragged myself vertical and we made our way toward the post-race goodies. I chugged a bottle of water and scarfed down a banana while Mr. R&R enjoyed chocolate milk and chicken noodle soup (I had a bite and it was really good!). We were going to hang around to watch the kids race and wait for official results to be posted, but big fat raindrops started falling and we took that as our cue to bug out and go home.
|Golden Garlic & Buckeye BBQ Wings|
We enjoyed a victory lunch of chicken wings at Quaker Steak & Lube and by the time we got home, official results had been posted online. It turns out that it was a very good thing that I out sprinted that girl at the end, because she was 31 years old...which puts her in my age group!
Official Time: 27:33 (8:52/mile avg.)
Overall Place: 119/273
Gender Place: 33/141
Division (F30-34) Place: 7/25
* = Mr. R&R says this is where he started to suspect that I was going to PR.
** = Mr. R&R says this is where he knew for sure I was going to do it.