Two weeks ago, I was supposed to run the Kirkland half marathon. Part of the course runs along roads that I run on all the time and the start/finish line is just a few miles from the house, so why wouldn’t I run it? Initially it was supposed to be part of my training plan for the Mayor’s Marathon in June, but since the logistics of it were so easy, I left it in the schedule even after I decided to drop down to the half marathon at Mayor’s. However, that morning I discovered something that I’ll need to remember for next year: that race is cursed.
At least it is for me. When I was supposed to run it two years ago, I woke up that morning with lady cramps bad enough that the idea of running for a couple of hours was enough to send me back to bed. Last year, I didn’t register for it because I was still rehabbing The Foot and I just wasn’t in shape to run it. This year, I was healthy, I was in shape, and I was convinced I was going to have an awesome day.
Which I did, for the first three miles. Then something happened and my digestive system staged a rebellion, for reasons that are still unclear to me. I walked a bit to let things settle down and feel better. Then I realized I needed a bathroom. I’d passed one about a mile back and, thinking the next one was much closer than it was, I decided to just keep walking to the next aid station and go there, rather than backtrack. I wound up walking another 2 miles before coming up on the nearest facilities and at that point? I was done. The pit stop didn’t make me feel any better and I had no desire to stick the race out because… why? I know I can run a half marathon. I know I can run it well. And I know that if a ride home is waiting for me a half mile up the road, I’m going to take it rather than spend 2 hours dragging my sorry behind over another 7 miles. So that’s what I did. I was just grateful The Boy was still there waiting for me instead of assuming he’d missed me and moving on to the finish line. (Happily, we were close enough to home that, had that been the case, I would have just gone straight to the house. I was that done.).
As tempting as it’s going to be to run that race next year, I might just accept the fact that the universe is trying to tell me something and pass on it.
Happily, the 5K I ran this past Sunday has a much happier story. Based on my time from the 10K I ran in March, McMillan told me I could run a 5K in 27 minutes. That sounded totally reasonable to me, so I made that my goal. Sort of. A 27 minute 5K would mean a pace of 8:40 per mile, but I decided to shoot for 8:30s… just because. I have absolutely no logic for this outside of, “It sounded like a good idea.”
Naturally, after a week of sunny 65+ degree weather, race morning was windy, overcast, drizzly and… 45 degrees. A bit brisk, especially since we were all wearing kilts and standing on the lakefront while waiting for the start. Happily, once people started to congregate around the start, I was able to position myself in the middle of the crowd so I was protected from the wind a little bit. I’m not sure if it actually helped, but I told myself it did. I positioned myself about halfway back in the pack and impatiently waited for the gun to go off.
When the race started, I immediately realized that I should have stuck myself way, way closer to the start line. I was passing people left and right, which made me wonder if I was going out way too fast. I don’t wear my Forerunner for races, instead relying on a plain old watch and mile markers to tell me how fast I’m going. It’s a system that’s worked well for years, but in short races like this where I want to go out aggressively, I don’t get any sort of feedback on my pace until the end of that first mile, and this was one of those races where that mile lasted forever. I checked my effort level with myself a few times and, yes, I was going pretty hard but, yes, it still felt OK for a 5K effort. I convinced myself I was right where I needed to be and didn’t need to change anything until my time at the mile marker told me otherwise. When it came along, my watch read 8:35. Exactly where I needed to be.
The surprising thing is… I was still passing people. Even more surprisingly, the crowd I was running with was mostly guys. And I was passing them. Sure, they’d probably spent some quality time warming up in the beer garden before the race, but I was still passing by them and, stranger yet, the women on course were few and far between. I kept chugging along and hit the second mile marker with a split of 8:28. Perfect. One more like that and a bit more and I was home free.
The third mile took us back to the starting area which meant running directly into a headwind in a few places. That was less than enjoyable and it slowed me down, but just a wee bit. The Boy had joked pre-race that I needed to run this one fast so he wouldn’t have to stand in the chilly weather all that long, and when I passed by him around the 2.5 mile point I asked him if it was fast enough for him. To which he replied, “Run faster!” Smart ass.
I hit the mile 3 marker with a split of 8:37 and dumped everything I had left in the tank into that last tenth of a mile. I’d been hanging on the back of a guy for the last quarter-mile or so and I tried desperately to pass by him, but couldn’t quite get there. I was OK with that, though, since as I crossed the line the time on the clock had a “26″ in front of it.
Final time: 26:31. A new PR by over a minute and, get this: good enough for 5th in my age group. Yes, it was a small race and no, there weren’t a lot of fast women (the first woman crossed the line in 21:05), but that’s all beside the point. I was in spitting distance of placing in my age group for the first time ever, and it felt pretty darn good.
Additionally, this race was also a wee baby step towards my big pie-in-the-sky goal of someday qualifying for Boston. To do that, I need to run a marathon in 3 hours and 4o minutes. Now, since my fastest marathon to date was around 5 hours and 20 minutes, this clearly isn’t going to happen anytime soon. However, the pace that I ran this short little 3 mile race at? Is the same pace I need to run a marathon at in order to go to Boston. Yes, I’m still a very, very long way away from being able to do that, but this race puts me one little baby step closer and makes me feel like running Boston may eventually be possible.