What an incredible week in running it has been for me. The rain held off most days. I switched my long run to Thursday so I wouldn’t have to run 11 miles while my friend was visiting me. I did my speed work on Tuesday without the group because I was on kid duty solo that night for my husband to do some networking.
Tuesday’s weather was warm and windy. I suppose the wind resistance helped with the speed work intervals I was shooting for. It did shorten the intervals, though. I found myself walking in between instead of jogging because I really needed to catch my breath. Otherwise, it was fun and I’m glad I got out and did my least favorite type of running workout. That would be the fartlek, which I’ve been told is Sweedish for “speed play” by my coaches. I use objects to do the work. Typically, the objects are trees or poles along the trail or walkway that I’m using for my workout. While it is fun, the work is tough and it gets harder as it goes on to burst into as fast of a sprint for as long of a period of time. I’m usually jogging pretty slowly for my cool down after this type of running practice because I’ve exerted a lot of energy. There just has to be a least favorite and this one happens to be what I choose.
Thursday was cool and there was drizzle from time to time. It was better than the constant rain in the forecast, though. I set out on the trail to run 11 miles despite only having used that section of trail for 10 miles at the most before this run. When I pulled past the point that was the farthest I’d been on the trail before, I was a little skeptical. The buildings were industrial. The signs just inside of the chain link on either side displayed “HARD HAT AREA” and there were bulldozers and things of the like hard at work inside. There were a lot of hills in the area. When I got to one particular spot, the trail seemed to end and point to landmarks I recognized the names of, but couldn’t place the exact location they would be if I were driving. I turned back at 5.25 miles and promised to make up the rest of the mileage when I got back near where I’d parked. I made it back and ran around a lake checking my watch hoping it would just be over with soon. When I got back to my parking space, I put the seats down in my van and closed the hatch so I could warm up while I did my post run stretch and snack. Oddly enough, I felt like I could run more after I got my hands back warm and dried off my top layer of clothes from the drizzle. Still, I had done what I set out to do. I went home and went on about my day with a pride that I had done those miles by myself and did them all despite a lot of talking to myself, singing to myself, and whining to myself about why I was doing that in the first place. I had headphones in, so people may have thought I was just on the phone….or crazy. I don’t know. Though, I know other runners who do the same, so I guess it isn’t totally weird.
As it turned out, the 5.25 mile mark was pretty close to places I regularly pass in my car. I looked on a map and I was so close and likely would have known where I was had I followed the sign to a local park. I still made the mileage, which I’m glad. I was just anxious about being somewhere I didn’t know. I think I’ll plan my route better next time I set out for a solo long run, so I can be more at ease about it. I had my GPS on to where my husband could log in and check on me, but it was more about the feeling of being lost than the feeling of being unsafe.
Friday night, my best friend drove from around 200 miles away to visit for the weekend to race with me on Sunday. It has been more than a year since her last visit, so I was excited to get to see her and introduce her to all of my new running friends. I brought her with me to training on Saturday morning, where my 10k training group got to run on the course where we’ll be running the race on “Easter Saturday”. The course was mainly rural. There were horses, cows, chickens, and fields. There was a hill to conquer. There wasn’t a lot to look at sometimes and we’d started wondering where we were on the trail and how much further we’d need to run. I think the attitude changed where we turned around because we knew we were on our way back. I am excited to run the race with the group in a little over a week. They’ve all been working so hard. Running 6.2 miles is rough. Some people stop at learning a 5k (3.1 miles), but this group is doubling down. Awesome!
Sunday, it was dreary and rainy. The race was at 1pm,so my friend and I had donuts for breakfast and a protein bar about an hour before the race to hold our appetites until lunch. We drove around awhile looking for a place to park near the race venue. I considered going home and asking my husband to drop us off to make it easier. We hopped out of the car and speed walked to where I was supposed to meet a group to take a pre-race photo of our matching green shirts. See, this was the St. Patrick’s Day run. I bought my friend and I fabulous leprechaun tights and green Fleet Feet shirts so we’d match enough to find each other in a crowd and because it’s more fun to look ridiculous with someone else than alone. We got a lot of compliments on our crazy pants.
We stepped up to the start and picked our spot toward the middle. The rain picked up from a drizzle. A cannon or something went off to start the race, which was alarming. I started my watch and set off. We were getting passed on all sides despite choosing what I considered a fairly modest place in the crowd at the start. We passed the first mile and the person announced to me “9 minutes even.” I looked down at my watch and he was right. I was shocked. My friend had headphones on, so I kept telling myself that I only had to do that a couple more times and I’d hit my goal of a sub 30 minute 5k. When I hit mile 2, we were still holding close to 9 minutes per mile. I was convinced I couldn’t hold my speed any longer and that I’d still beat 30 minutes if I slowed down by a full minute. I realized that I didn’t need to slow down, though. I was fine. I was huffing and puffing, but this was a race and that is the time to let myself huff and puff and push hard. So, I told another friend that I run with that I was looking for encouragement and he said the people he was running with had the same goal as me. I stuck with them. I hung on and tried not to let them pass us. We turned the last corner and the finish looked pretty far off, but I had a sense of relief anyway. I pushed hard and the people I was trying to stay ahead of pushed past me. I hit my gas and realized that I was already at full trot and just lifted my head and hoped I’d see the race timer soon. Then, I saw it. It said….28 minutes and something. Wait. I might actually do this? I rolled back my shoulders and I pushed past the finish just as it turned to 29 minutes and I crossed the finish line 1 minute and 18 seconds faster than I have at any race before that day. I finished right next to my best friend and I beat my best race time. I didn’t beat the guys my friend was running with; They got me by about 8 seconds. Still, I don’t know if I could’ve gotten my time had I not chosen them as who I was going to run with and “beat”.
I was cold and pretty rain soaked. The race involved a lot of dodging puddles and potholes. There was a constant battle inside of my head about whether I could hold my pace or I needed to stop. My stomach burned. My legs screamed for me to slow down. My shoulders tightened. I had to shake those things off and keep going. I did it this time. I didn’t stop or slow down to let my mind take over the battle. I muted it long enough to finish the race.
The post race beer was delicious. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone that I’d gotten a new personal record. I didn’t place in the race. I beat myself. I conquered that nagging in my head that tried to talk me out of being my best and I did it. I also met my race season goal in my first race, so I guess I’ll try to beat 2 hours and 17 minutes at my half marathon at the start of April. Honestly, I’ll be happy just crossing the finish of another half marathon.
Do you have a race season goal? Have you signed up for any races yet? There are many great ones to choose from!