Soooooo. Going into yesterday’s race I wanted to enjoy myself but I also wanted to test my limits, see what I could do. This whole ‘running for fun’ has worked really well so far this spring, I wanted to see if it could hold up against a longer distance. I considered tapering but then just didn’t really feel like it and thought it would be interesting to see what I could do on an average week of training and not having fresh legs.
My training week was:
Sunday: 15 miles
Monday: 5 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles
Thursday: 10 miles
Friday: 8 miles
Saturday: 4 miles
I also got a massage on Friday night, which was completely necessary because my lower back and piriformis has been wonky lately, this usually coincides with long work weeks and extensive periods of sitting at my desk. I thought this might be a bad idea for my legs, as it usually takes me a couple of days post-massage for my legs to feel good, but it was all a part of this little experiment I had going on and contributed to my non-fresh legs for the race.
Race morning the weather was my kind of perfect: 40-50 degrees and overcast. Schwing!
I arrived at the race destination with plenty of time to get in a 30 minute warm-up, stretch, use the restrooms a million times, eat some GU, chug some Nuun and hang out with Chelsea and Dave before toeing the line.
I lined up near the front, and realized there were no other females up there with me, and I just shrugged my shoulders and thought ‘whatever, I can hang with the Y chromosomes’.
The race started on the Kenyon College track and I admit I probably started out a bit too quickly, but it is very challenging to reel in your excitement when you get to start a race on a track. And a plush track at that. Shortly after leaving the track the race takes you on part of the paved Kokosing Gap Trail before veering off to the right and up a monster of a hill. I wanted to charge the beast and then utilize the downhills that were in the first four miles to my advantage. I have always been a pretty decent hill runner, but I admit my ascents have been rather piss poor lately, but I still have my mojo on the descents. After cresting the hill the next quarter of a mile or less is run on Middle Path which consists of small pebbles and that kind of surface irritates the heck out of my plantar fasciitis. I just tried to get through that portion of the race with as little irritation as possible. I was really pumped to zoom by some spectators including a girl fumbling with a boom box so that ‘Chariots of Fire’ could be blasted from the speakers. I’m not sure who I love more, runners or our awesome fans.
After getting through this portion of the race it was time to try to lock into my race pace. After hitting the first mile marker you eventually loop back around and can see all the race participants behind you, I love races like this, it’s fun to cheer for all the other people out there chasing down their own race goals. I always make it a point to at least give a thumbs-up to my fellow runners, but this day I made it a point to repeatedly shout out some motivation to everyone, things like ‘Lookin’ strong!’, ‘Nice job everyone!’, ‘You got this!’ rolled off my tongue and I like to think put a little extra pep in everyone’s step.
From mile 2 through 4 I played cat and mouse with some of the guys, they would pass me on the uphills, I would cruise by them on the downhills and some would eventually pass me for good once the course flattened out after mile 4. The remainder of the race was held on the Kokosing Gap Trail and was quite peaceful. If you love huge crowds, loud music and a party atmosphere, this is definitely not the race for you. If you don’t mind a smaller field of runners, being among nature, and running more by yourself, then this is the course of your dreams. I make it no secret that I love to run without headphones and by myself for the overwhelming majority of my runs. But I will say that this kind of situation is really a test of how deep you can dig. It’s easier to push yourself when you have lots of people around you and tons of fans cheering your name and ringing cowbells in your face, but from mile 4 to 8 I was basically alone. I got passed by a few men, and was cheered on by a handful of volunteers and fans, but that’s it. The one thing that really snapped me out of my meditative state was the gun shots I heard. Three sets of them! Now growing up in the country in this very county, this was not a foreign sound to me, but I’ve come accustomed to the comforts of suburbia and gun shots are not something that I hear very often these days! Shit, I never even heard gunshots when I lived in the CLE!
After my mind stopped racing and thinking about what received that round of ammunition, I knew I had at least another mile and then I would be hitting the turnaround to make my way back to the stadium for the finish on the track. I was really excited for this portion of the race to see how everyone was doing and to be able to offer some more cheers to people. I saw Dave not far behind me looking so strong! And Chelsea too! Both scored PR’s! Good job buddies!
At this point I knew for sure I was the lead female in the race – if I hadn’t already figured it out on my own, people were super pumped to shout at me ‘FIRST FEMALE!!!!’ or ‘WOO HOO! You are the FIRST woman” or my personal favorite ‘YOU GO GIRL!’. Being the lead is an interesting place to be. I have won a handful of 5K’s and placed in my age group for varying distances in the past but I’ve never been in the front for any race with double-digit mileage. It is a hard feeling to describe. Maybe because it is foreign to me? I mean my objective in racing has never been to win first place. It’s been to have fun and push myself outside my comfort zone, revel in the experience and just to be grateful that I have another day to be out doing what I love to do more than anything else. Maybe I felt funny, a bit uncomfortable because I loathe being center of attention? I mean as distance runners, don’t we all have at least a part of us that is introverted and doesn’t want to be front and center? I don’t know. Truthfully it was quite the mind f#@! and I’m not sure I really enjoyed the position I was in.
After the groups of runners and walkers thinned out, I was back to being on my own again. I have to admit, the last few miles were a struggle. I had worked really hard in the beginning of the race, and my lack of days off from running was starting to catch up with me. I wanted to slow down. I wanted to slip back into a more comfortable pace, but I knew I would regret that later, so I bit the bullet and kept willing my legs to go. The funny thing is not once did I feel cardiovascularly tired. I wasn’t breathing heavily, I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard from the waist up. My legs just felt like lead and wanted to rest. I continued to plug along and then realized I was getting closer to the finish line. I just tried to hang onto my pace, I had hoped to even dip below 7:00 pace for the final 2 miles, but it didn’t happen, by this point it was all about survival. I knew once I saw the finish line in the distance that I just had to give it one last push around the track and I would be done. I was SO very happy I didn’t run the full marathon that day. I rarely think these thoughts, I looooove the marathon. but I know for sure I couldn’t sustain that pace for another 13.1 miles, I would have crashed and burned and it would have been a complete shit show.
Once I entered the track for the final 250 meters or so to go, I thought I would have a little more of a kick, but I had nothing left in my legs and just made it across the finish line. I didn’t pee myself, I didn’t barf, I didn’t even have to put my hands above my head. My legs were trashed but I had so much more left in me everywhere else. I looked at my watch and realized something incredible. I set another PR, by 62 seconds! A PR that has stood since October 2010. All last year with all the races I did I didn’t even come close to my 1:33:10 PR. I never even dipped below 1:36:XX. I thought a PR today was possible, but honestly getting a time in the 1:33-1:35 range would have made me pretty happy. To see 1:32:08 on my watch was freaking phenomenal. And to do it with minimal speed training and dead legs? Really makes me wonder what I’m capable of. I know sub 1:32 is a legitimate reality, which is really exciting.
Mile 1: 7:19 (included the monster hill)
Mile 2: 7:02
Mile 3: 6:34 (had a nice decline)
Mile 4: 6:40 (had another nice decline)
Mile 5: 7:00 (flat as a pancake from this point on)
Mile 6: 7:14
Mile 7: 7:08
Mile 8: 7:11
Mile 9: 7:05
Mile 10: 6:59
Mile 11: 7:08
Mile 12: 7:05
Mile 13.1: 7:39 (6:57 pace per mile)
Finishing time: 1:32:08, 7:02 pace per mile. Good enough for a 1st place female finish, 12th place overall.
After the race I drank a little bit of powerade, some water, ate some vegetable soup and a banana. Gotta love it when races take into account that No Meat Athletes are out gettin’ it and need some cruelty-free fuel to load up on. Thank you Kenyon for thinking of us!
I changed clothes then had the intentions of hopping on my bicycle and riding along the course to cheer for the other runners. My brother was with me and had an altercation with his bicycle which left him with a completely flat tire and nothing to fix it with, so we decided to chill out for a bit at the Earth Day Festival before walking out on the course to find Dave. I told Dave I would try to run with him the last mile and some change to help him see his race goals through. I found him a bit before the 25 mile marker and joined him. He was doing soooo very awesome but was also experiencing some hamstring issues, so we alternated between running and walking until more of his running buddies joined in on the fun. Seriously, Dave had his own entourage by the end of the race!
This was by far my favorite part of the day, not the 1st place designation nor the prizes that came with the territory, not my own PR, but seeing and feeling the sense of community that exists among us runners. Everyone that was out there helping Dave to his finish had pushed themselves in their own races, but were able to dig even deeper when it came to lending a hand and an encouraging word to our fellow race participant.
And that my friends is why I race. I race to push myself but to also feel like I’m a part of something. Something bigger than myself, a part of a huge running family. The race bling will tarnish, the PR’s will become outdated, but the one thing that will remain the same is the smile that running and racing brings to my face, and the friendships that are formed out on the course.
The world would be a much more beautiful if everyone would just lace up their shoes and head out for a run.