The ride was on my hybrid and it was like pulling teeth to get out on it. I didn’t even change into a “real” cycling outfit, just my tee shirt and jean shorts and I was on my way. The plan was 5 miles out and back, which turned into 4.3 out and back with a loop around the neighborhood, because of how the trail broke off in the next county. Still, I was pleased with my burn, which I wouldn’t have needed except I ingested one of these babies:
Really, I have no excuse for why I ate it other than I just wanted to. I remember them being awesome from when I was around 8, why wouldn’t they be awesome now? My logic is if I can lose 11 pounds since May (woot) then I can eat a frickin cherry pie! Luckily I don’t have this logic all too often and I am trying to lose more weight, but I don’t want to become a crazy person, ya know?
Of course as is my style I ran massively late! However, I got there in plenty of time to register sans shirt giveaway. Now, either the people doing registration can’t read, can’t count, or were giving a discount, because day of was to be 17 bucks, but I was given a 5 for my 20. I’m totally OK with this, as I don’t need a bright orange shirt with black block letting. OK maybe a bright orange shirt WOULD be fun, but I’m OK without.
I was given lucky number 666. I am not kidding.
Before I knew it, we were lined up for the start of the event. Apparently nearly 700 people showed up for the race. WOW. This year they decided to use chip timing (smart) only it was like the Ohio Challenge Series, where it’s chip time end, not chip time whole thing. GRRR. Had I known that I would have moved up front, or at least closer to the “cut-off” which was 8-minute miles. I wouldn’t have kept up, but I could have avoided the “casual” runners. Yes, of which I was once a part of that group.
Everyone starts on the track, which is very crowded and annoying as sin.
Annoyed as I was, I tried to remember it was all about fun. I ran along with the crowded flashing their glow sticks and the road flares heating my ankles around every bend. Sweat formed quickly and began flying off my arms and face. Bobbing blazes of yellow lined the streets and I tried to just live in the moment.
Soon Garmin was beeping for mile 1 (but it was too dark to see) a little while later they had a counter for mile 1. Great the course was off. Their sign read 10:00 as I ran passed. A part of me wanted to give up, I wasn’t going to get a PR, why keep pushing? Then I remembered this was an uphill start, and who is to say I couldn’t run two 9 minute miles? The course was cleared out at this point. Side note, official Garmin measurement of mile 1? 9:13
With my new-found pseudo confidence I tried to kick it up a notch. I remembered what I had learned from the Good Form Clinic and the ABC’s of Merrell. I kept my posture straight, I kept my feet under me, with a turn over and shorter stride, I landed as midfoot as possible and just kept breathing. It was working. I grabbed water, ran with it, and smiled at everyone I could, although secretly wanting to trip everyone who cut me off. Or groups I swear cut in front of me, then stood together to block me.
I told John, next time I’m chewing gum and whoever cuts me off, I’m spitting it in their hair.
Suddenly I was beeping for mile 2 and yelling at my watch “It’s too dark to see you!” People laughed at me. (Garmin print out = 9:10) the sign naturally showed up some time after the chime and I saw it said 19-something. There was a mile to go and it was going to be down hill. Could I pull a 9 minute mile? Then sprint it in? I’d never done it before, but it wasn’t impossible.
I told myself to go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? I felt strong, I felt good. I was flying through the darkness, passing people who were getting over heated and tired, passing people who looked like their muscles were store bought and perfect and I was feeling powerful! I also felt I would collapse and puke if I didn’t keep running. Down the hills, down more hills, past cars, past people on porches, past the luminaries. Go go go. I could see the stadium lights. I could hear the music playing.
A sharp turn into the stadium and I’m greeted by a spiral of runners, and the mile 3 chirp. (Garmin time 8:41) The course took a final lap around the track. At least the track was soft. I could see on the clock a time of 26-ish minutes. All I had to do was lap the track in less than 2 minutes. That’s something I could do, I knew I could, if I really worked for it.
I pumped my arms and brought my feet one step after another. I listened to the crowd and I narrowed my focus. My breathing was still steady and I wasn’t too shaken in my legs. I refused to look at the time at the half way mark. I refused to look at my watch. At long last I saw the flags and the final clock, more people tried to get in my way…but I saw the time…less than 29 minutes…I did it! And with everything I had left I sprinted. I took my arms and I pumped them faster and spread them and blocked anyone who was going to try and step in front of me, I pushed and pushed and threw myself over the timing mat. I hit “STOP” and I looked down. 28:53 per Garmin…3.2 miles.
I swear to God the next course that runs long I’m gonna hunt the race director down and personally have words with him. A tenth of a mile might not seem like a big deal, but it is when I’m trying to get a PR. It is when I kept telling myself “Get through tonight, and you don’t have to run hard again for a few months”. It is, when I find myself looking at the final results earlier tonight and seeing 28:51, 9 out of 26 in my age. When this makes me wonder, what if the start wasn’t crowded? What if the course was “proper”? Could I run less than 28? Could I see a 27 in the lead spot? Maybe. What-if’s is a dangerous disease though. Gale calls it “road mentality” but I know trail runners who want to get faster too, who pick routes based on tenths of a mile factors, who wonder “what-if”.
For me, apparently Friday wasn’t a fluke…I’m becoming a 9-minute runner. Up to 3 miles now. Let’s see how long until that is in place for 4, or 5, or 10 or more?
What I do know, I woke up without an alarm today. Ate pancakes stuffed with Boston crème filling, hash-browns, eggs and sausage. Later I had a supreme pizza and caramel pecan ice cream. Yum. Well earned too.
Tomorrow is my long run…last one before Chicago Rock n Roll half next Sunday.