The night before the race, Dan asked me what my goal was.
“Umm… ok well I want to do somewhere between 1:20 and 1:21 because that is my PR, but I did that this summer, when I was in much better shape… I don’t think I could do that now.. but, maybe, it would be good if I could do like an 8:30 pace, I don’t know…”
Dan cut me off.
“What is your goal for tomorrow? Give me a time.”
Dan wasn’t letting me wiggle away from this one. Nothing like a spouse to make you a better
person runner. Dan listened to me basically talk to myself for a while… This one was a little tricky because Coach said to hold my pace at goal marathon pace, which is 8:24, but also to go easy for the first two miles… So in other words I was not supposed to go all out for this race, which was a tough concept for me to wrap my head around. Meanwhile, I wasn’t sure that even if I went all out, I would be able to go faster than goal marathon pace, and this was really stressing me out… If I couldn’t do a stupid 10 mile race at much faster than goal marathon pace, how would I ever run the marathon at my desired pace? But then again the race is not till May. I have over 2 months till then, and I will be at sea level… But then again, all the pace calculators say I should be doing a 5k in about 22:00 which I have never done… Was I setting myself up for failure with an overly ambitious goal? But why shouldn’t I at least try. I was making myself crazy. I finally came up with a plan: Run the first two miles at about a 9:00 pace, then shoot for 8:24 for the rest of the race. This would give me an opportunity to work on getting used to my goal pace. Perfect-o. My super secret goal was to go faster than 1:25 but 1:25 was my official stated goal and the time I would be happy with.
Race day came and my tummy hurt a little, the most likely culprit the fateful habenero crock pot pork shoulder. I hoped it would go away. I got the the race venue with plenty of time, actually waaay too much time.. The race started at 10:15, registration started at 7:30 and the 5 miler started at 9:00. Unsure of when registration would shut down, I got there by 8:30 and breezed through registration by 8:45… Even with my three mile warm up I still had oodles of time, so I headed over to the nearest Starbucks, got an overpriced cup of peppermint tea and did some work on my laptop. This felt uber-efficient, a good start to the day.
At 9:40 I started my warm-up. My legs felt nice and bouncy, which was a good sign. Also, my stomach ache had gone away. YESSS!! I took a gel just before the start and then right on time, at 10:15 we were off. I started out at what I thought was a conservative pace. At the 1 mile mark I looked at my watch…8:30. A little quicker than I meant, but it seemed mostly downhill. I began to dread having to uphill to finish…. I slowed down a little. Still feeling relaxed, I checked my watch at mile 2- 8:39. At this point I had caught up with a couple of amusing guys and we were chatting a bit. They were talking about how people have a kid, their marriage starts to suck, and then they think having a second kid will galvanize the marriage but it only makes it worse. Up to then I only knew the word galvanize as in galvanized steel (the only reason I can even imagine I know this is that I am the daughter of a scrap metal dealer?)… But now I knew exactly what the word meant… Beside the depressing marriage talk, these guys were hilarious, but only for a few tenths of a mile because I had to get my butt in gear after the 2 mile mark, according to my plan. Peace out, homies… I picked it up a little but still felt pretty relaxed. This was a pace I thought I could hold for a while… At the third mile mark my split was 8:14. Ok this was good…a little too fast? As the course continued along the path of a creek (river? hard to say… water flowing in any case), I tried to determine which way the water was flowing, which was actually harder than it sounds. It was going the same direction as us, which made me think we must be going downhill and that was a little depressing, because the whole way back on this out and back course would be up, up, up… I could tell we had a headwind though… I was unsure whether that would compensate for the incline on the way back, but tried to focus on just running relaxed and thinking about now, for now. At mile four my watch read 8:20. As I approached the fifth mile mark (which was not actually the turnaround), I started to see more and more of the folks on their way back, which was a lot of fun. At mile 5 I saw 8:15… The turn around wasn’t for maybe another half mile… When I got to it I looked at my watch and then tried to figure out if I would negative split, but realizing the turnaround was not actually the halfway point, I kept track of how long it took me to get from the turnaround to mile 5, and then I tried to subtract that from my time at the turnaround so I could know what my cumulative time was at mile 5, but for the life of me I could not do the math, and even now recalling what I was trying to do is confusing me. Finding myself useless with this real life math problem was good because I knew it meant I was working hard. I let the math problem go and found that although the effort was getting harder and harder, the tailwind was there. Or at least the headwind wasn’t, and that was nice. Instead of trying to sprint up to someone bigger than me (eg, anyone) to try and draft, like I was doing on the way out, I was able to pick someone and just focus on gradually reeling them in. Going out a little conservatively is my preferred game plan for this reason. One by one, I was picking people off and still feeling good. I never saw the marker for mile 6 but my split for miles 5 and 6 combined was 16:08. Yay! Now it was getting much harder.. my breathing was louder, my legs were tired, but I reminded myself that it was a matter of three miles… less than 25 minutes at this rate, kid stuff… Keep going… At mile 8 my time was 8:16.. nice and consistent… I started thinking about the 9 mile mark and despite my hypoxia and aversion to math, unless there was some kind of disaster I knew I would come in well before 1:25… Double yay!!! At mile 9 I saw 8:13… Ok, just hang on till the finish. I saw a big guy running way ahead but I could see he was fading. I could catch him if I just kept on at this pace. I caught up to him with about half a mile to go. But when I got on his shoulder, he picked up the pace. When I tried to surge a little, he stayed right with me. This was nice. “Do you think…we can hold… this pace….till the finish?” It was hard to talk between breaths but I got it out eventually. He said he thought so. I didn’t know his name but now he was my friend. As we turned toward the finish chute, there was a steep hill and he pulled ahead but I stayed closeby. I maybe could have gone faster but Coach said not to “go to the well” so I stayed out of the Might Puke Zone partly because she said to and partly because, lets face it, its easier. My split for the tenth and final mile ended up being 8:09, for a total time of 1:22:38, and an average pace of 8:17. I gave my new friend a high five at the finish line and shuffled around for a little over a mile for a cool down, very tired, but very pleased with how the race shaped up. The best part was my legs didn’t even feel sore the next day, as opposed to feeling like someone beat them with a bat after my tempo run last week. Ok, 3:40 marathon, I mean business now. I am coming for you. May 1st. Providence.