There was no freak out.
I repeat, no freak out. I didn’t have a nutty. Didn’t feel that ominous vice grip of fear and loathing. Didn’t end up in tears at the starting line.
This fact in itself, already made the race a success.
Not that I didn’t have concerns about being the last person to cross the finish line at the Spring Forward 15K at Mendon Ponds Park in the Greater Rochester (N.Y.) area. But that was a fleeting thought which came mostly out of habit, rather than a place that felt fearful and true.
This particular 15K (9.3 miles) was, in a word, hilly. I had already put in a pretty solid training week. Throw in those hills and the race atmosphere and I had no idea what kind of time, pace or quality I would run.
Then again, the quantitative measurement was only part of the formula.When planning my workouts for last week, my coach asked if it was OK with me to train through the 15K. The heart of his question was about my goal for the race — was I comfortable using the race as part of my training instead of gunning for results. And my answer was a resounding “yes.”
My training is in a build phase for the Galveston 70.3 next month and any races on my docket now are either (a) for fun or (b) for race experience. This particular race involved both.
On the race experience side, it doesn’t matter how many starting lines I’ve come to, feelings of anticipation, anxiety, excitement and nerves all roll around together into one great mishmash party in my mind (and sometimes my stomach). Each starting line is a new chance to ride that wave. Because I could go out this week and run the exact same course as Sunday’s 15K, but the experience would be completely different without the “runners, go!” command or the hundreds of people or the atmosphere of a race and the interesting (and sometimes disturbing) conversations you get to over hear.
For my time goals, my coach gave me a moderate pace to try and average through the hills of the course. It was, in essence, my tempo run of the week and so while a decent clip but completely doable, I still had some concerns about being able to hold that pace on a course with hills of all varieties — rolling, long, steep, off turns, you name it, I probably ran it.
On the fun side, the idea was to get into a good mental space for the hills. Sue calls them “harmonious hills” when we run while Mark explains to me, over and over, that the hills are the fun part. (Of course Mark could have eaten, showered and changed between the time he finished the 15K and I crossed the finish line. But he was my ride and promised not to strand me in Mendon Ponds Park.)
The weather wasn’t as bad as we expected. Temperatures were in the low 30s with a good breeze in some open areas making some spots a bit warm with a long-sleeve top and jacket and other places a bit cool.
The hills were, well, the hills, and I made a conscious effort to not kill myself in the first four miles. With my trusty Garmin I tried to keep around the average pace set forth by my coach, knowing that I could stand to see a faster clip on the downhills and making the executive decision to not look at my pace on the uphills. I took the hills as I felt instead and it seemed to be working rather well for me.
I had one gel to take during the race, planning on taking it around five miles — a little over the halfway point. Frankly, that was waiting a little long for me, but I thought the pre-race announcements indicated a water stop some where in Mile 5.
By 5.7 I realized I was in trouble. I took my gel and found the water stop at the marker for Mile 6.
Shoulda taken that gel earlier. But alas, it didn’t hurt me too badly.
The final three miles had a long hill and a few short, steep bursts which meant that by Mile 9 I was unsure if my legs were still attached to my body. Bracing for the sight of a slow pace, I glanced at my Garmin and found that I was actually running faster than my goal pace. Score! I could slow up a bit.
The finish was downhill into the beach area of the park. Close to the chute another woman came up next to me and we sprinted against each other to the end. (I won. Not that I’m keeping track.) Across the line, she came up and thanked me for being there. Likewise. It gave us both a reason to push through the finish line.
Happy with my overall time, I checked my average pace.
I can only remember one other 15K I’ve run — the Fleet Feet Run into Buffalo in 2008. For fun, I looked up my results.
Yeah. 15K PR.
Doesn’t matter if it was only my second one. It’s a PR. By about 3 1/2 minutes.
Amazing what happens when I take myself out of Nutty-ville and into a space of just being.