Monday, September 22, 2014

Race Recap: Run for the Hills 5k

On Saturday, I returned to a familiar 5k course feeling a bit unsure and apprehensive, but I left feeling empowered and victorious.  In the week preceding the race, I had my heart set on achieving a new PR.  Come race morning, however, my confidence flagged, and my interest in that goal waned. My body was strong, and I knew I could run hard, but my brain was wimping out big time.

Pre-race smiles with Dan.
Emily and I are ready to go!
In perfect, 60* weather, Emily and I ran a 2-mile loop from our houses to the starting line, which felt very good.  As the starting gun fired, Emily said, "Don't stay with me if you want to run fast.  Run your race!  I'll see you at the finish."  We ran together for the first mile and then separated when she grabbed some water and I went without.  We clocked the first mile in 7:58, at which point I was sure that negative splits would not be attainable.  Logging one sub-8:00-minute mile is huge for me; to add a couple more sounded impossible.

I headed up the first hill, passing several runners along the way.  I cruised through a flat stretch and then a nice downhill, logging the second mile in 7:52.  I felt good as I approached my least favorite part of the course: the hill at mile 2.  Even on this hill, however, I kept my focus, thought about running tall and strong, and I passed many people as I climbed.

By the time I crested the hill and neared the 3-mile marker, I was mentally and physically spent.  I was exhausted, and running fast no longer felt fun.  I rallied mentally by telling myself that I do hard things all the time; this was just another hard thing that I had to do.  It was time to embrace the suck.  Taxed but still pushing, I finished that third hilly mile in 7:29.

Coming down the final stretch, I surprised myself by finding some extra gas in the tank and kicking it into yet a higher gear for a strong finish.  I finally closed the gap on a man I'd been trailing for half a mile and crossed the finish line alongside him.  Official finishing time: 24:24!  I blew my old PR out of the water by 3:04!!

The best cheering squad on the planet!
My generous parents wrangled my kids and my nephews so we could run. 
After refueling, rehydrating, and cheering for the rest of our gang, I ran the 1-mile kids fun run with my 6-year-old.  We had a disastrous experience last year, so I felt a bit unsure as we set off.  He wore a cape my sister had made for him, which inspired cheers from many spectators.  He fed off their excitement and had a great time.  We did a mixture of running and walking, as we had planned, and he was happy throughout.  What a difference a year makes!

Super D. and I are ready to race!
After crossing the finish line with Super D., I checked the standings and saw that I placed 4th in my age group.  I finished 75th overall (out of a field of about 350), and I was the 19th woman.  To say I was ecstatic is to say that an ultra is a little race.  We stayed for the beginning of the award ceremony to cheer for my friend David, who finished 3rd overall.  As we were heading away, David came racing toward us, medal in hand.  "You won 2nd in your age group!" he cried as he handed me the medal.  I was confused but excited.  It turns out that the top two women in my group were 2nd and 3rd overall, which moved me up to 2nd in our age group.  A technicality but still a win - and a medal!  I wore that medal with pride all day :)

Special shout-out to Sparkle Athletic for my blingy skirt.
I think the sparkles gave me speed!
I left the race thinking that this PR would probably stand for quite some time.  Now, 48 hours later, I'm thinking about what speed work I could do next summer to try to top it again next fall...  This is what I love about running: it always pushes us, calling us to be the best that we can be.