Back story: It all started last year, when I was about 160 pounds (27 pounds over my goal weight) and injured with a stress fracture. Even before the injury, my pace had slowed significantly since my previous 10K PR in 2013. That 10K in 2013 was my proudest moment in running--I never DREAMED I would run it under 50 minutes! However, in 2014-2015, I put on 27 extra pounds, and my pace slowed more and more.
In August 2015, when I was in Portland for the weekend with my brothers, I had a couple of training runs to do--one of which was 10 miles. My friend Thomas (who lives just outside of Portland) said he'd ride his bike alongside me for company. It was a hot day (it felt like 120 degrees, although Thomas swears it was only like 75). I had an pretty miserable run--I ran an 11:00/mile pace, but struggled through the entire thing, and I probably complained more than Oscar the Grouch.
I decided that I was really tired of the extra weight and not feeling good on my runs anymore. I impulsively made a bold statement to Thomas that I was going to get back down to my goal weight and PR my 10K in 2016--a goal that was nearly impossible, given my current situation. I thought that by making a statement, instead of a goal, I would be forced to do my best to make it happen. (The difference between motivation and determination).
Anyway, the 10K time that I had to beat was 49:23 (a 7:57/mile pace). In 2015, my pace had dropped to about 11:00/mile (probably could have done 10:30 if I really tried to). To hit that goal was a HUGE task in front of me. I decided to choose a race near Portland, so that Thomas could pace me--I kind of wanted to redeem myself from my terrible 10-miler, and prove that I wasn't a total wimp. I ultimately chose to do the Blooms to Brews 10K in Woodland, Washington, on April 10th. It was a flat course, which is hard to find in the Pacific Northwest, and I needed every advantage I could get!
I spent the fall working on losing the weight I'd picked up. I couldn't run, because of my stress fracture, so I just focused on my diet (counting calories) and I got back to my goal weight by Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, I ran a 5K race, giving it my all. I wanted to see what my current pace was, so I would know how to train for the 10K. I finished in 27:00, an 8:41/mile pace. Not my best time by a long shot, but much better than I'd expected. However, my goal 10K pace was 7:55, so I would have to take 46 seconds off of my 5K pace... and DOUBLE the distance! Impossible? Pretty much ;)
I started training a little differently than I was used to, hoping to stay injury-free. I ran my easy runs VERY easy (an 11:00-12:00/mile pace, typically) and I ran like hell on my speed work. I was excited to see my pace improving quite a bit!
Now, to the whole point of this post... the race report!
|Cute race shirts!|
I'm kind of glad we didn't have much time to stand around at the start, because I was so nervous I thought I was going to vomit. This race has been all I've been able to think about for months, and for the last several weeks, I was feeling very doubtful about whether I could pull it off. I didn't care what my finish time was, as long as it was a PR (49:22 or better). I told Thomas not to let me go any faster than a 7:50 pace, because the last thing I wanted to do was crash mid-race.
The weather was PERFECT for running! Overcast, zero wind, and probably 50 degrees or so. We lined up at the start, and in just a minute, the horn blew and we were off. My plan was to look at my watch as little as possible, and just try to stay next to Thomas, who would be running 7:55 (my goal pace).
|I'm on the far left in pink|
I tend to know at the beginning of the race whether it's going to go well or not; and thankfully, I felt good a mile in. The pace felt do-able, and my heart rate was in the 160's, which is a tempo range for me (when it hits 175, I tend to crash and burn). I wasn't planning to talk at all during the run, but I told Thomas that I felt good and thought I could actually do it.
At around mile two, we came to the only hill on the course; which, thankfully, was a very short hill. I sprinted up, thinking I would catch my breath on the downhill. That was stupid of me, because it turned out there was no downhill! I felt really winded, and had a hard time catching my breath. I was dying to walk for a minute, but I knew I couldn't afford to. I felt my pace slow a bit, but I was still under 8:00/mile.
I was really thrown for a loop when we hit a spot around mile three that we had to turn onto a gravel trail. I had no idea that some of the race was on gravel! Running on gravel is tough, and my pace always slows down. I felt doomed when I saw that, but I just hoped it would be a short path, and then we'd be on the road again. My legs felt like rubber, and they were screaming at me to slow down. My pace slowed into the 8:00's, and I felt like it was just over. I focused on getting to mile four, because remember my crash and burn during my four-mile race? I just wanted redemption from that!
The gravel was never-ending, and when I got to mile four, I was ready to call it quits. My heart rate had hit 175, which is always when I realize that I just can't continue. I saw my pace was in the 8:00s for a couple of splits, and there was less chance by the minute of me making that up later. I gasped to Thomas that I just couldn't do it, and I told him to go ahead, that I would try to catch up. (I knew I wouldn't actually try to catch up, but I really just wanted him to go ahead so I could sulk and jog it in).
Thankfully, Thomas is the kind of friend who doesn't let me bullshit him. Instead of telling me it's okay, I did my best, he told me to suck it up, quit saying I can't do it, and keep going. I finally quit arguing, and just tried to keep up.
I was dying to get off of the gravel! Finally, with less than a mile to go, we turned back onto the road. Instead of feeling the relief of running on concrete, my legs felt SO weird--you know that weird feeling when you get off of a trampoline or roller skates, and you try to walk again? It was like that. It only lasted about 30 seconds, though, and then I just ran my hardest (which at that time, was just barely a sub-8:00 pace).
If I made it, I knew it was going to be very, very close. I started thinking about how pissed I'd be if I had to do it all over again because I missed it by mere seconds, or even a minute. There was a girl about 20 yards in front of me, so I used that mental "rope" trick, where you imagine lasso-ing someone and reeling them in. I focused on passing her, and once I did, I realized I would feel like an ass if I slowed down and she passed me back. Thomas said he was going to continue at 7:55 just behind me, even though I'd sped up just a tad; and that way, he could act as a "sweeper" if I slowed down at the end.
When we got to the very last turn, and I could see the finish line, Thomas told me that it was going to be very close--I needed to give it everything I could. I certainly did not want to fail by just seconds, so I pulled every last bit of energy out of me (which wasn't much) and ran my hardest across the finish line. I had no idea whether I made it or not, and I wasn't even really thinking about that. I didn't want to pass out by abruptly stopping, so I continued jogging and then grabbed some Gatorade and chugged it.
Thomas crossed the finish line and said that I did it. It took a second to even register--my mind was so foggy for some reason! But then I just felt this ENORMOUS sense of relief. I finally looked at my Garmin for the first time since crossing the finish line, and I saw that I'd done it. My Garmin said 49:12, but I had forgotten to stop it right away, so I knew my official time was a little less than that. Jerry texted me my results right away, before I even had a chance to look them up--I had finished in 49:03, a 20-second PR!! AND, I somehow managed to come in first place in my age group.
I felt bad having to wait an hour for the awards, but Thomas insisted that we wait--and then we learned that he, also, placed first in his age group! We had a post-race beer at the beer tent, and then at 10:00, went to the awards ceremony. We got our medals (I even had to stand on the little "1" platform!), and then headed out. I had been dreaming about Cajun Tots from McMenamins for months, and I promised myself that if I got my PR, I could eat as many tots as I wanted after the race ;)
It took a while to really sink in that I had done it. I set a nearly-impossible goal, and I DID IT. It was the hardest I'd ever trained, but looking back, it was totally worth every drop of sweat. It did more for my self-confidence than anything else, and now I feel like I could set some laugh-worthy goals while being sort-of-serious. I'm so happy that I proved to myself that it really is a big mental game. Physically, I was capable of this all along; but mentally, I had some serious doubts.
Anyway, as I write this, I'm on the train to Seattle to visit Laurel (a reader-turned-friend); Allison (an old high school friend); and even meet up with some other readers tonight. Tomorrow, I'm going to be trying cupcakes from around Seattle (Laurel surely knows how to celebrate a PR! ha) and I head home on Wednesday morning. This has been a great trip!
Thank you, by the way, for all the kind comments on my social media posts about the race! I was too excited to wait to share the news in my race report ;)