I sure picked an awesome couple of months to decide to start racing 5ks. June (hot), July (hotter), and August (might-as-well-be-swimming-you’re-so-soaked-with-sweat humidity)
But despite the muggy conditions, last night’s race was nothing short of amazing.
I was riding the exhilarating high of a fresh new PR set while on vacation in Cape Cod earlier this summer when I began to realize just how rewarding and motivating the occasional 5k was for me. The key was making sure they were timed far enough apart so that I had time to recover and continue to build endurance, but soon enough as to not interfere with training for my upcoming fall half marathons. What I found ended up being an small-ish local race, on a Wednesday night after work.
I had never run a night race before, it sounded like a great idea at the time but I failed to factor in how nervous I get before a race. Morning races at least I can sleep, wake up and be nervous for an hour or so and then get it over with. Yesterday was a whole different experience. I was nervous All. Day. Long. I knew I needed to eat but didn’t feel hungry.
I know that you’re “supposed to” go into these races with a time goal. I know that’s what everyone asks, “what time are you going for.”
But I wasn’t. Honestly. My last race (and previous PR) was 25:41. And when I got that time it was a PR and I was over the moon about it, but I had an awful finish. We’re talking watch-everyone-sprint-by-you-in-the-finish-chute type awful. Because one of the hardest things for me to overcome is this nauseous feeling I get in my stomach when I run really hard. Every time I get to the end of a race my stomach turns and I can’t seem to push through it. I slow down because in that moment I can’t make my body do anything else, but the second the race is over I start kicking myself. If I ran the same pace as my last race, but didn’t slow down at the end I would automatically PR. The ONLY goal I had for yesterday was to finish as hard and strong as I could.
My anxiety only got higher as the gloomy morning turned into a complete downpour that caused a ton of flooding in the area. Rain = flooding = traffic a complete nightmare and I was getting horrible flashes of me, sitting in stopped traffic trying to get to the race on time. Maybe this whole weeknight race thing was not such a good idea after all. Luck must have been on my side because I was able to skip out of work early to give myself plenty of travel time. Start time was 7pm and I drove up at 5 minutes to 6. I couldn’t have timed it better, and maybe my nerves calmed down a tiny bit.
All around me runners were warming up. I knew from checking last years results page (a new favorite thing of mine to do before a race) that it was going to be a fast field. It was a perfect mix of intimidating and inspiring all dressed up in neon and spandex. As I did my own warm up (2 miles easy, followed by some quick stride-outs) I went over my race plan in my head. More so that I didn’t go out too fast at the beginning, and less because I actually needed to remind myself what the plan was. Start out at 8:15 pace, no need to go any faster and then finish strong.
One thing I had spent all day debating with myself, music or no music? Confession – I have NEVER raced with music. Sure I have countless running playlists and use them to get through tedious treadmill runs and to pump me up when the last thing I want to do is go for a run. I just have never been the type to race with music, I always felt like it was “cheating” to use music to give you an extra edge. To distract you from knowing how much you were hurting, how much farther you had to run, and just how hard it was to keep moving. I had one particularly kick-ass speed session last Tuesday, and it happened to be with headphones on. I knew that there were times the music pushed me harder. And even though it goes against a lot of things I have done for a lot of years of running. I lined up at that starting line with in iPhone in my hand and ear buds in my ears.
Ten minutes standing at the start jammed packed with other runners felt like an eternity. I got as close to the actual start line as I could with out being in front of any of the super serious runners. One woman near me mentioned wanting to beat her 21:30 PR, another woman was wearing what looked to be a tennis dress. Yet another person was wearing sweat shorts with ties on the sides. Everyone commented on how humid it was. Runners jumped up and down or did high knees to keep warm, plenty of people seemed to know each other and made small talk as we waited.
And then we were running. I got caught up in the fast start for maybe 30 seconds and I realized I NEEDED to pace myself. I cannot ever remember being so determined to have a strong finish in my life. The first mile was a blur of people racing by me on all sides. I didn’t care. I couldn’t get caught up in the crowd I just had to stick to my guns. Even slowing down I was running a sub 8 minute mile. Way too fast. Mental note, the people that run this race are freaking fast! The course loops through several residential streets which made for a fairly flat course and great crowds. Families gathered on their driveways and cheered for friends and neighbors as they ran by.
The plan was to stay at 8:15 pace, but my body wasn’t listening. It really preferred to stay around 8:05 -8:10 so I obliged. After mile 2 I started really feeling and I had to dig pretty deep in my brain to come up with some nasty words to yell at myself in order to keep pushing. Yes my motivation sometimes comes from being mean to myself but hey, “keep going you’re doing awesome” doesn’t always work. Sometimes you just need to tell yourself, “you better not f*cking slow down loser”.
I kept telling myself over and over, to keep going, keep pushing, don’t give up, don’t quit. I didn’t think I had energy left in me and so many times I just cursed the sole idea of signed up for this race and wondered why I keep torturing myself like this. I was running so fast that before I knew it my watch was showing 2.5 miles and then 2.75 miles and my outlook suddently improved. “This sucks huge balls,” turned into “You can f*ing do this don’t give up keep pushing.” 2.80, 2.85, 2.9 and I realized I was really going to do this. I was really going to finish with the strongest kick I have ever had. We took a sharp left turn onto the street we had started on, and then another right just as my watch beeped for 3 miles. I wanted it to be over so badly. I wanted to reach that chute and cross that finish line more than I ever remember wanting anything. And I was f*cking sprinting.
When was close enough to see the finish clock and saw it read 24:58 I was almost in total shock. I had been checking my watch religiously the whole race but only for my pace and my mileage and hadn’t given a second thought to my finish time. As hard as it was to watch the numbers click from 24:59 to 25:01 and realize I had missed going sub 25 by mere seconds (3 seconds to be exact) I was completely overcome with the emotions that only a sizable PR can bring.
Oh yea and despite feeling like it for the last mile I DID NOT throw up. I would call that a win-win-win.
I am proud of my time, but more than anything I am proud that I left it all on the road and didn’t hold back. I don’t have to make any excuses or wonder if I could have done better. I met my goal, I finished strong and I took home a nice new PR that I can’t wait to smash as I continue to get faster.
Overall Place – 165/407
Guntime – 25:07
“chip”time – 25:03 (Don’t think we had actual chips…)
Age Group Place (Females 20-19) – 6th
Avg Pace 8:05