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Today is the one-week-to-go mark before the wedding, and what better way to kick off wedding week than by running a 10k? Sounded like a plan to me, so Irwin and I got up bright and early for a race. The start & finish area of the race was actually right next door to where our wedding is going to be next weekend, which was kind of exciting. We got to the race about 20 minutes before the start, which to me totally felt like it was last-minute. I had time to pick up my number, get it pinned to me, put my chip on, hand my extra stuff off and then it was time to go line up. It was a little weird not having time to kill walking around before the race started.

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My goal for this race was to come in somewhere around or under 55 minutes. Considering I ran a 56+ minute 10K back in May and my last couple of 5Ks were both around the 26:30 range, I figured it was totally doable. The fact that the course was going to be pretty flat was also a nice bonus, and added to my confidence. When the morning dawned nice and cool, I knew I had a pretty good shot at having a good day. (Although, this is the first time I’ve run a race in August where I’ve been chilly at the start. Only in Seattle.)

The first mile? Was slow. Slow and crowded. I worked my way through people where I could and hung out until an opening appeared when I needed to. It was certainly annoying, but I hung in there and by the end of the first mile things opened up and I was able to settle into a good pace. I had to run an 8:50 pace to make my goal, but I knew that first mile was going to be slower than that. I got myself prepared for it so I wouldn’t panic, and I was totally right. My split for that first mile was 9:05 However, I felt like I was in a really good groove, so I didn’t get too worried. I figured I’d keep pushing along at the same effort level, which felt about right for a 10K, and get a better idea of how fast I was moving when I hit the mile 2 marker.

Then something crazy happened: I went through that second mile in 8:20. Way, way faster than I needed to. I told myself I could back off a wee bit on the pace, since I had plenty of room, and chugged along as the course took us off of the roads and onto the Sammamish River Trail. I’ve run this chunk of the trail several times, so it was nice to be on familiar ground. I totally missed the mile 3 marker, which initially threw me off. How fast was I going? Had I slowed way down? How would I know if I was going to make my time? AAAACK! Then I took a deep breath and took a quick inventory: I was passing people, so I was still moving along pretty good. My watch said I’d been running for 30 minutes, so I was most likely somewhere beyond the halfway point of the race. Did I feel OK for being halfway through a 10K? Yes, yes I did. I was working hard, but not killing myself, and I still had plenty of gas left in the tank. I decided my current pace was a good one and stuck with it, assuming that I must have slowed down a bit.

So you can imagine my absolute shock when I looked down at my watch at the mile 4 marker and saw a split of 16:43. Apparently I hadn’t really slowed down at all, and I felt surprisingly good for hauling ass at an 8:20 pace for the last 3 miles. Go figure.

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At that point I was almost done, so I just kept on moving. I managed to get through mile 5 in 8:15 and mile 6 in 8:20. My final time? 52:32.

Way under 55 minutes. Way under. Once again, totally in the category of, “I didn’t know I could run that fast.” I still have absolutely no idea where that came from – I certainly didn’t feel like I was running 8:20s the entire time, but apparently I was. Clearly the weekly speedwork is doing me some good. (Although it looks like I’m going to have to start running in a faster group, which, man, that’s just going to be a lot more work. What’s up with that?)

The high point of the race, though, was at the finish line. Somewhere around mile 3, I caught up with a girl and a guy that were running together. At some point, the guy dropped off but the girl stayed right behind me. It was somewhere between miles 4 and 5 that I realized she was just going to follow me right into the finish.

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I was OK with that. From overhearing her talking to her running partner earlier, it sounded like it was her first 10K and the furthest she’d ever run. If she needed to follow someone in, well, that’s totally understandable. I ran my race and she tagged along. I had a feeling that once we got to the finish, she was going to pull ahead of me and beat me. I was sort of right: she tried to pull ahead of me, but I emptied the tank and managed to stay with her, crossing the line at pretty much the same time.

As I was standing there getting de-chipped, she came up to me and congratulated me on my race. She admitted to following me in because she’d wanted someone to pace off of. I asked her if it was her first 10K, and when she said it was, I congratulated her and said she’d done an awesome job. Her response? “Thanks! You’re really fast!”

I didn’t even have anything to say to that. I’d argue with it, but after today? I sort of have to agree. I flew over that course and it didn’t feel anywhere near as hard as the numbers tell me it should have. It might be that I’m starting to get some actual speed, which is awesome.

My next race is a half marathon at the end of September. My goal for it has always been 2:10, but I’m wondering if I should rethink that. I know I can beat 2:10, but I’m starting to wonder if getting under 2:00 could be in the cards for this year.

After all, I am really fast these days.

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