Today was the 25th running of the Al Toll Masters Race. The race is a 15k for the masters, and a 5k for us youngsters. As you are well aware, I've been working with RC for the last 6 weeks. Last week I entered Phase II of the training, which incorporates two days of speedwork. Actually, it's one day of track work and another equally hard quality workout in some form of a tempo run. Since I had been planning on running this race, we decided that it would be okay to make it my second quality workout for the week. The plan was to run 1 - 2 miles warmup at an 11:00 min pace, and then run the 5k starting at an 8:50 (my tempo run pace) and then shave off 10 seconds or so on each mile. Sounds easy enough, right? RC ran my warmup with me and his parting words before the race started went something like this "this is not a PR course. This is one of the hardest courses in Macon to run. Our goal here is for negative splits only."
I should have mentioned that the first mile of the race is uphill. Completely, 100% uphill. And not some sortof "not hill"...this was a full-fledged incline that was not for the faint at heart. But in my mind, I just kept telling myself "negative splits...negative splits."
I ran a little over a mile and a half to warm up at around a 10:00 min pace. I followed the warmup with 4 - 30 second strides, and then headed to the start line for some stretches. By the way, I'm telling you all of the details, because I really wish someone had of told me all of this 3 years ago. My motto (even 3 months ago) was "I'll get my warm up out on the course." Wow, could this have ever been such a huge mistake!!
By the time the race started, I felt fabulous. The temps were hovering around 30 degrees, but I had already shed my gloves and my top layer before the race started. For the first half mile I could not stop thinking about how much warming up was making a difference in my effort. And that negative splits wouldn't be a problem! My watch quickly shook me out of that stupor to alert me that my first 1/2 mile split was at a 4:07 pace. Crap...that means I'm running a little over an 8 min mile...if I blow it out on this hill, I'm toast. I tried to slow down for the next 1/2 mile and was pleased to see that that split came in at 4:36...did I slow down enough though? And how am I going to negative split on an 8:44 mile? And keep going? I've never run this fast for 3 miles! Will I be able to keep it up or bonk on the way back down?
Third and fourth splits were 4:16 and 4:18. Yes! I did it! I shaved 10 seconds off of that 2nd mile. I'm actually beginning to think I'm going to pull of this negative split thing!
And then it dawned on me...I ran past another trackster...a new kid...he was having some problems and had started to walk...as I ran past him I yelled to him "c'mon Jacob. You run in with me." As he began to run next to me, and we chatted about how he blew it out in the beginning...about how all those other kids never slow down...it really dawned on me...I'm running a sub-9 minute mile and carrying on a conversation with someone. Do I think I'm going to pull off a final negative split (and 8:24 mile?). Hell yeah I am!
We were a mile away from the finish and I told Jacob to sprint it in...it was all downhill from here. I settled into what seemed like an easy run, started chatting with another girl...I was fine. I had done it. I had accomplished my goal of negative splits all the way.
But, in all my chatty-ness, guess what I didn't pay any attention to???
My overall time!
At 2.85 miles I realized that I might actually PR. I was trying to run and do the math in my head...I calculated that at the pace I was running I would finish in 26:17. Three seconds slower than my PR. I must have been in dysfunctional math land because as I was coming to the bottom of the hill...getting ready to make the final turn in the parking lot...I thought I could hear RC's voice around the corner. I was determined to make this a photo finish...show him that I was running strong....that I had accomplished my goal of negative splits. I told myself "self, if that clock shows anything lower than 26:15, then I was going to sprint it out...try and finish in under 26:14 and not only achieve negative splits, but also eek out an itty bitty PR.
Well, dysfunctional math didn't account for the 3 miles I had just finished...and RC wasn't around the corner. It was my running buddy Tim snapping photos for our track club. I saw him and was ready to give him the standard "peace sign" photo op when I saw the clock out of the corner of my eye....
And it showed 25:30-something.
25:30-something! Crap! Where did that come from?!?!
At that point I said screw the photo op...I was going to break 26 minutes! I remember hearing Tim say something like "all right speed demon" and I just laughed inside...thinking that this would be the only race photo I've ever had taken that I wasn't sportin' that proverbial peace sign.
I sprinted my little heart out to that finish line...getting closer and closer...thinking not only am I going to beat 26 minutes, but I'm going to be 25:50 too!
Troy was there screaming...I think he was shocked that I could turn on the speed like that. RC was there taking pictures. I think he was screaming too. And in my head all I could think was "pain of discipline...pain of discipline" - a mantra RC always chants...did you have pain of discipline, or pain of regret? I couldn't believe how that pain of discipline just turned on so automatically.
As I crossed the finish line I could hear RC screaming "a PR on the hardest course in Macon! People don't PR on this course!" and then he looked over, gave me the thumbs up and said "good work Grasshopper."
Garmin finish 25:49
Clock finish 25:45 (to be confirmed later)
And a PR by almost 30 seconds...
A few hours ago, I received an email from RC. In it, he said this:
"I hope you have a new found confidence and appreciation for what it takes to run at a higher level. You see the "Fast" runners are not just born fast, or genetically gifted. They put in countless hours doing the exact drills you've been doing the last several weeks. They do it in the heat, the cold, the rain, etc. When they show up on race day, all they want to do is to demonstrate what they can accomplish through hard work and the pain of discipline."
This is the first time that I've realized that not all the fast runners are born fast. They get out there and run 6 days a week (which I did for the first time ever this week). They do regular speed drills (which I'm doing and actually starting to enjoy). They run no matter what (which I did last Saturday after vomiting the entire night before). For the first time in my life I have stopped envisioning myself running those goals times, and I actually believe that I can do it.
RC also referred to me as his "athlete"...just being put into that group of people is an awesome feeling in of itself. He also looked back over my previous race results and noted that I PRed on one of the two hardest courses here, and that my previous PR of 26:14...well, that was on the fastest course around here. He also mentioned that he included pictures of a competent, confident runner. I thought "oh that's nice...let me get a sense of what some of the other stronger runners look like crossing the finish line."
I was surprised to find out that that competent, confident runner was me.
Oh, and to top it off I got 3rd place in my age group!
**picture RC took of my Garmin at the end of the race**