If you've been following this blog, you know that I've been working with a coach over the last 15 weeks. It's been painful, and fun, and alot of work. It's taught me discipline I never knew I had and made me reflect on alot of things I never knew (or cared to recognize) about myself. It's been tough, and yet easy at the same time. It's been highs and lows and lots of places in between. Above all it's been setting me up for today.
Initially (15 weeks ago) my goal was to run a sub-25 minute 5k by the end of 2009. I quickly realized that I would meet that goal sooner than the end of the year so I focused my attention on an immediate goal....to PR in my goal race, The Run 4 Missions 5k. My then PR was 26:14 so a sub-26 minute 5k would have been awesome.
I smashed that goal 5 weeks into training, running the 2nd toughest course in our area in 25:49.
So, I continued on for the last 10 weeks not really knowing what my "new" goal would be for this race...just a PR....25:30 sounds good...even 25:29.
I smashed that goal 6 weeks after my first PR in a time trial. No, not a "real" race PR, but a PR none the less...25:20.
It was at that moment that I realized that 1) I wasn't going to die doing this and 2) I could possibly break 25 minutes in my goal race. So, I set my new goal at running a 24:59.
In between all of this I've done some pretty remarkable things. I've got my running base to 30+ miles a week and I've run 3 x 1 mile intervals at a sub-7:30 pace, even running one of them in 7:14. I've gained new confidence about running and even run some "easy" miles with all those fast girls. I've been able to do all of this because of my determination and RC's strong will to see me succeed.
Gosh, this has been fun!
At any rate, I ran one last time with RC this week and we discussed goals and strategies for today's race. We both knew I'd PR and he told me it was my decision to try and shave a couple of seconds off of my 25:20 5k time, or go for the gusto and break 25 minutes. I told him I wasn't a sissy and I was GOING to break 25 minutes. 24:59 to be exact.
This morning I got up early and started planning my strategy for pace times. RC told me previously that a 24:59 equated to an overall pace of 8:02. I ran the numbers and if I did a 8:10, 8:00, and 7:50 I'd be right at 24:59. Too close for comfort for me. At an 8:05, 7:55, 7:45 I was still pushing the 25 minute envelope. What the heck, try for an 8:00, 7:50, 7:40...that would give me a 24:30 but would also give me enough wiggle room in case the course was long, or heaven forbid, I bonked anywhere in the middle.
I arrive at the race an hour early to get in a 3 mile warmup, which included a 1 mile fun run with the kiddos. I saw RC and he told me that today was the day I take the pebble from his hand. I think, "okay. I really hope I don't do something stupid."
I ran 1.5 miles and then got ready with Pete and Brylie for the 1 mile. They both ran it last year and did well, and Pete ran his first 5k last weekend so I was hoping that it all wouldn't be too much for him. We got started and they took off...I was running a 7:45 pace and they were WAY ahead of me. I decided to back off and let them run their little hearts out...I was still in warm up phase and didn't want to do something stupid. Peter had a great race, coming in 5th (again) but this was the first race he ever ran the entire thing! I was so proud to see him keep going despite that horrible look on his face (that "why am I doing this???" look). He beat his time from last year by over a minute! And little Brylie...a little competitor at heart...she was struggling...had gone out too fast...stopping to walk, when another little girl comes bouncing up beside us, wearing sandals for heaven's sake! Brylie takes one look at her, and decides she's not going to let that little girl beat her. She would stop and walk until that little girl got beside her and then she would take off...she was crying by the time she got to the finish line, but she did beat that girl and also placed 3rd for the girls!
After their run, I proceeded on to finish up my 3 miles and added 6 strides at the end.
And then it was race time.
I wasn't really nervous. I already had noticed that my age group competition were all there so there was no hope of getting some hardware. I guess in a sense that was good. I just focused on me and my race and nothing else. My dad was at the start line and said "when will you be back?"
I have no idea why I said it.
I replied "in 24 minutes and 30 seconds."
What the heck? That was never in my race plan or strategy? Why in the world did I tell him that???
Luckily, my dad has a horrible memory so just as soon as I said it, I thought "thank goodness he's going to forget that I said that."
I line myself up in mid-pack and found myself standing next to Melissa R. and Stefanie S. They both comment about how I need to be closer to the front. I thank them but tell them that I've got a strategy and it involves pacing myself and not going out too fast. Then Stefanie says "there's some girl named Melissa R. that's beating me in the race series." I laugh and turn and say "Melissa R. meet Stefanie S."
How ironic, and how funny. It was a good way to start the race.
At any rate, race starts and I begin weaving in and out of people. I'm keeping a close watch on my times. Staying within an 8 minute pace. I leap a little over (like 7:45) and I start to back off. Then I look down and I'm at 8:20! Holy cow, I can't PR running that time! I pick it back up and notice that my legs feel like noodles. Oh dear...what's going on? Why am I feeling noodley? I start making a mental checklist in my head....did I do everything I was supposed to? Did I forget something? Did running that 1 mile screw me up? Oh crap. I pick it up on the flat part, but then have to contend with that hill. I start thinking about what RC and I talked about in this exact place. I can't remember, so I start making stuff up in my head. I realize I never prayed for the other runners (RC suggestion that I think is awesome). Finish up my prayer as I'm heading to the 1st mile marker. The split caller got screwed up and didn't have the time but my watch said it all: 8:05 for the first mile. I'm already 5 seconds behind.
I spend the next mile having a range of emotions. I begin to see the really fast people. I've never passed them this far in the race...we're almost half-way there and I'm already seeing them? I pass RC...he's in 2nd place. He yells "Go Amy" and I yell something back to him...it may have been profanity...I can't remember. I begin to scale hill #2 and am angry that I should be running a 7:50 and I'm at a 7:57...start adding...7 seconds plus 5 seconds is 12 seconds...holy cow! I've got to shave 12 seconds off of my last mile to make this happen? I decide I'll try and make it up on the down hill. I pass an arch rival...I did it just like RC told me to...with conviction. My watch is still not giving me a warm fuzzy about being able to make up 12 seconds and then I realize that even if I did, I've got 3 more hills and shortly I should be dropping it to a 7:40 pace. I hit mile marker 2 and the split caller says "17....something". Oh crap. I add 8 minutes to that and I'm busting 25 minutes. I start coming up with excuses for my craptastic performance. I contemplate walking. The only thing that stopped me was not wanting to get passed by the people I just passed. I keep on going....realizing that it's okay not to make my goal. You win some, lose some, right?
During mile 2 everything was a blur. I prayed alot. I tried to start picking people off that I could pass. I made up my mind that even if I wasn't going to break 25 minutes, I'd still go down with a fight...and negative splits to boot. I began to tell myself that if this was easy, everyone would be doing it. I even laughed at myself thinking that one day this tough pace would be my easy pace. All the while I was hoping that my dad didn't tell RC that I told him I'd be back in 24 minutes and 30 seconds....and then I get hit with reality. Those pace times I had for myself were for a 24:30, not a 24:59! How could I have gotten so tangled up? I'm about 1/2 mile away from the finish line and I decide to switch my watch over from lap pace to total average pace...I remembered RC saying that a 24:59 was an 8:02 pace. I'm scared to switch over to see how close I'm cutting it.
7:57 overall pace.
Holy moly!!! (I guess in a race put on by a church, it's okay to say Holy this and Holy that).
I've got 5 seconds to play with! A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
I begin to cruise up that last hill...picking out 6 poor souls that I was about to make it my business to pass. Pass #1, #2 and she gives me this crazy "why are you passing me on an uphill at the end of a race?, #3, and then #4 who decided he didn't want to get beat by a girl so just as soon as I passed him, he gave it right back to me. I crest the hill and see the clock says 23 something. There's some jackass standing in front of the numbers. I see it switch over to 24 minutes, my watch beeps that I'm at 3 miles...I calculate that it shouldn't take me any longer than 55 seconds to finish up the last .12 miles. As I get closer, I get a better view....
How did I do this??? I get a lump in my throat. I cross the finish line.
A new PR, new confidence, and a completely new level of satisfaction at what I'm capable of doing.