So, Sunday was a beautiful day. Sunny and brisk, perfect running weather. The baby had slept reasonably well for two nights in a row, so I woke up feeling halfway rested. I decided to act as if I could hit my goal, a sub-30 5k. I ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee, nursed the baby, read a story to the boy, woke The Dude, and walked out of the house in my race clothing and nothing else besides my keys and watch.
I warmed up by slowly jogging in the neighborhood, about 3/4 mile, picking up the pace for a last block. I walked the last couple of blocks to the race. I visited the porta-potties, not because I really needed to but because that's just part of race routine and I didn't want to make any changes to my race routine, not today. I lined up at the 10-mile mark (and found a friend from church there); I thought I might try to find someone at my speed and stick with them for a while.
But no go, once we crossed the start line I was out and moving fast. I didn't even want to go fast right then, I just hate being caught behind people, and this was, as it's billed, a neighborhood 5k. So: lots of kids, lots of walkers, lots of people who have never done a race, kids on scooters, running strollers, dogs, etc. All of which is great, we ran this with a running stroller ourselves last year (though we made sure to start at the very back). But even if I hadn't wanted to run it fast I would have still fought to get out from behind.
Once I felt in the clear I tried to rein in my head at least and evaluate my speed. Was I going to be able to maintain it? And of course I hadn't hit my timer when I crossed the start so I couldn't be sure of my time. I tried to just stay as present as I could: to my breath, to my form, to all the people on the sides cheering their folks on, to the trees above and the sunlight filtering through the leaves.
The first mile came and I checked my watch, mentally adding another 5-10 seconds since I'd been late to start it. 9:50ish. Cool, I thought, if I can keep this pace and maybe surge a little at the end I should hit my goal. I tried to keep steady, not trying to pass anyone but also not letting myself get caught behind anyone else. I was already feeling a little tired and knew that it would be a fight to stay on pace the whole way. I reminded myself of the recent studies that give insight into why our ability to persevere is due to our mind and not our bodies (yes, I'm a geek, I read those studies and then use them to motivate me while running). I was starting to weary and was thankful it was only 5k and not 10. I told myself that if I was on track to get below 30 at the two-mile mark than I would do my best to do so (and if not then I would stop trying and just enjoy the rest of the race).
Then suddenly we were at the halfway point and I was cruising through the middle of the street, staying well away from the water stations and the people stopping at them. And then just a little farther and we were at the two-mile mark and I saw that I'd done the 2nd mile in 9:20. Wow. Okay. Guess I gotta see this through then.
And so I fought myself the rest of the way in. My legs felt heavy. I wanted to stop. I had plenty of air but my legs just. felt. so. heavy. I thought I had to be slowing down but had no idea by how much. I like to be able to push things faster during the last mile of any race I do but I just didn't think that would be possible this time. And yet somehow we were passing by the last blocks faster than I thought. I couldn't sustain a push --- in fact I was barely certain that I could even keep going --- so I settled for mini-surges: running hard for three counts of four, and then letting up again. I just kept doing that as much as I could and then there was the three-mile mark with only 0.1 miles to go and the clock read 30:08 but I knew I'd crossed the start line at about 2:00 so if I could only keep going I was bound to finish in time. I was slowing, I was slowing, but all I had to do then was keep going and so I did, and crossed the line, and then I could stop. And I did.
And walked around to keep my legs warm and loose, and looked for the boys, and ran into another friend from church and waited with him for a while (as he waited for the friend I'd started with). Then that friend arrived and they left, and it started to get crowded so I wasn't even sure I'd be able to see the boys and I got too nervous (and cold) to stay put. I walked through the sponsor tents, got a banana and a granola bar for later, a Clif shot blok and bite of cinnamon roll for right then, and walked back up to the finish line where they found me, Buddy still in his pyjamas and Champ tucked in under multiple blankets, and we all walked home together. And then I made pancakes --- chocolate chip because I ran a race --- and eggs.
My final time: 29:09.
So my splits worked out to about this: 9:40 / 9:20 / 9:15 / 0:54, which means that I managed to keep going faster even though it felt I was going through mud. Good to know.
And I came in 61st out of 194 in my age group, so at the bottom of the first third. This also makes me very happy --- for someone who always thinks of myself as slow, it means a lot to know that while I may be slow compared to where I want to be, I am not, compared to the larger group, slow. (And as I get older and do start slowing down these kinds of comparative times will become more and more important to me.)
And best of all?