Sunday, March 23, 2014

Amid Doubt

It's been a long winter.  I'm not going to tell you anything you didn't already know...especially my friends in Pennsylvania.  Thankfully, I continued to train through the snow, ice and bone chilling temperatures.  My support team (the Rainbow Runners) carried me through the season.  We commiserated over the mounting snow piles and the missed school days; we chatted about kids and eating plans, running plans and new routes.  Our bond pushed us towards a greater accountability.  My 2014 highlights include racing the West End St. Pats 5K (hoping to PR), picking up the pace during the July Quadzilla 15K and rounding out the schedule with my debut in the NYC Marathon.  There are other races I'll sign up for, but not any I'd consider a 'milestone'.
As the weeks of 2014 peeled off the calendar, our mileage increased - I didn't have any reason to log 13+ mile Saturday am runs; I wasn't even running the local half marathon at the end of April.  I just enjoyed the company.  I did, however, have one race in my sights - West End St. Pats 5K on March 23rd.  The last 5K I ran was the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  I crossed that finish line in 24:43, a personal best.  I couldn't believe that I crossed over into the 24's.  I knew I had to break that time.
I continued to train harder by incorporating hill repeats and some speed work (mainly done on treadmill days - when it was too FREAKIN' cold to breathe outside).   Two weeks before the race, I started to talk about my goal - break 24 minutes.

Last Saturday, I ran my last long run of 13 miles.  I felt that I could have run another 13; a run of 3.1 would be 'easy peasy'.  That same weekend I worked overnight and wound up staying awake for roughly 36-ish hours.  My head hit the pillow on Sunday night at 8 pm and I slept soundly (without any movement) for close to 10 hours.  Monday morning hit me like a ton of bricks - I struggled.  Tuesday morning hit me like a school bus - I struggled again.  Wednesday morning, if I recall, I went running - I struggled again.  Thursday morning I started to come around.  Friday morning, I went running again - four miles with one of the ladies.  By 5:30 am we had hammered the road - I felt much better.  Oh, and I took a vacation day, so that made everything much better.  Later that day, I bopped over to the yoga studio to take a class.  Not really reading the description, I unsuspectedly walked into a level 3 class.  It had been years since I practiced Ashtanga Second Series.  I welcomed the back bending; what a lovely change of pace from the constant forward bends!  I knew, however, that I'd be feeling the bending and twisting in my torso for days to follow.  I topped off the day with a date with my love.  We enjoyed burgers at Emeri's Burgers And More before jamming to Huey Lewis and the News (what a great show!).  Even though we went to bed before 11 pm, I slept until 8:30 am!!  Now that's my idea of sleeping in. Saturday was filled with hustle and bustle that included shopping and lunch with a friend, an afternoon birthday party with Ava and a family trip to get frozen yogurt.  Yum.

Race Day
The 5K starts at 12:15 pm, which is WAAAAY too late for me to bust a move.  On a normal day, I've logged a shit ton of miles, showered, drank two cups of coffee, ate a mean breakfast and start looking forward towards relaxing by 12:15 pm.  Crap.  I started to get nervous.
I grocery shopped early to take my mind off the day ahead, AND, I was not going to shop after the race.  After returning home, I prepped the crock pot for dinner, showered and grabbed a cup of coffee.  The remainder of the morning was spent getting the girls items in order and making sure I had all my gear for and after the race.  By 11 am we were pulling out of the driveway.
On the way there, I told the hubbs that I was nervous.  Yes, nervous to run a 5K.  Maybe my goal was too lofty.  Maybe I was setting myself up for failure.  Maybe the 12:15 pm start would hurt me.  Maybe I didn't eat enough.  Maybe I should have pooped more (for you non-runners, pooping before a run, especially a race, can be crucial).  Maybe I would not run.  Ridiculous inner dialogue.
We arrived about an hour early and immediately walked towards the building to get a little warmth before camping outside on the race route.  I must have peed three times before finally making it outside.  My nerves were getting the best of me, and it had to stop.
I found two friends as I left my family road side.  We banded together towards the starting line.  I knew I had to get out closer towards the front if I would want a fighting chance to keep up a good pace.  With two minutes to spare, I looked around me knowing I would have to weave my way closer to the start.  I waved 'good-bye' and weaseled my way through the waves of the green crowd.  With 45 seconds to go, I took a deep breath with closed eyes.  The horn sounded and I took off.  I passed the family on my way downhill towards the first turn.  I gazed to the right with an extended arm to alert them of my presence, but continued on.  Following that moment, my sport bra started to irritate me.  It felt like my heavier breathing was constricted by the band across my back and chest.  I tried to wiggle my tight torso to loosen its grip, without success.  Damn, this race was going to suck.  At some point, before the 1 mile mark, I gave up.  I stood tall, relaxed my arms and pushed.  I normally scan the sidelines for familiar faces; I did none of this.  I focused my gaze straight ahead.  We rounded another corner headed back towards the starting line when I saw the 1 mile mark.  A gentleman with a tall hat stood at the line with his phone in hand.  He was silent until I crossed the mark - 7:13!, he shouted.  I, in return, exclaimed, 'Holy shit!'  Yes, holy shit, I ran that first mile in SEVEN MINUTES AND THIRTEEN SECONDS.  I have never run that fast in a race.  I'd never be able to maintain that speed.  It was all downhill from here.  But, really, it was...another downhill.  I crossed the starting line, again, and chugged down the hill, passing my family again.  I barely acknowledged them.  When I knew I was out of their sights, I think I slowed down.  I put on a good show for them; now was the time to pull it back.  But I guess that didn't really happen.  I crossed the 2 mile mark to the tune of 14:35.  Sure, my pace slowed, but nothing considerable.  Perhaps, tragedy would be around the next corner.  We made another left onto the main drag that is absolutely a slight incline.  I continued to focus straight ahead without catching anything in my periphery.  My lungs burned, but my arms and legs continued to pump.  The crowd was closing in around me; I needed to finish strong.  We rounded the last corner with the finish line in my sights.  My eyes focused on the clock which continued to tick upward past 22 minutes.  My outside voice softly said, 'Oh my God.'  I crossed the finish mat with my eyes closed and the red illuminated 22 minutes and change tattooed on  my mind.  I slowed to a jog, then an eventual fast walk to catch my breath.  The burning in my lungs produced a taste of blood in my mouth.  The hubbs was surprised to see me so soon.  After all, I wasn't confident that I'd cross any earlier than 24 minutes.  But, I smashed it.  Yay.
I picked up a temporary smoker's cough which I think was a combination of burning lungs and the cold air.  Eventually, the blood taste went away.  Thankfully, it was just a 'flavor,' nothing productive.
Rumor has it I placed third in my age group.  I missed the awards ceremony and the results won't be posted until tomorrow night.  I can't believe that would be a possibility.
What I do know, is that amid all the doubt, I trained hard and got exactly what I deserved.  I had a goal in mind and nothing was going to get in my way.  I can only hope that I keep my eyes on the prize to continue a rewarding 2014...in everything I do.