My first race of 2012. 15 miles with Fort Worth Running Company at Trinity Park. I made a resolution to run one race a month for the entire year. This is a resolution that I know I can uphold, barring any injury, if Fort Worth Running Company keeps putting on these awesome cheap races. I am spoiled by the $10 a race price tag. When I made that resolution it didn’t occur to me that if they didn’t host a race one month, I would be shelling out $50-$100 to run one elsewhere, which I am perfectly willing to do, but certainly not every single month! We will see what happens.
This would actually be the first time I ran 15 miles at once since, I don’t know when, El Schorcho 2010? I have been racing and training for 13.1 but I figured it was only 1.9 more miles, I could handle it. I have turned over a new leaf since January 1st. My training is finally getting back on track, running every day again, and finally (FINALLY!) cleaning up my diet again since the gluttonous holidays. I’ve been going to boot camp regularly and starting to feel like my old self again (to be honest, self plus 6-7 lbs).
I was still concerned though because I ran a long training run the week-end before the race and it was terrible. I hit a wall after mile 10. My hip was throbbing, I was tired, my back hurt, I was slow and I walked A LOT after mile 10. I made it to 12.5 miles when I was close enough to my house to call it quits. My time was terrible! I didn’t even hit 13.1 miles and my time was worse than my slowest ever half marathon. It was just one of those you-can’t-do-anything-about-it, it happens-to-the-best-of-us bad long training runs. It did put a dent in my confidence though. I promised myself when I got to the race that I would run it slow and steady and focus on just finishing the race and not concern myself too much with time.
I woke up the morning of the race with a text from my running partner that she wouldn’t be making it to the race due to some knee trouble. For a split second the thought danced in my head, “If she is not going, maybe I won’t go either. I could go back to bed and do a long run later today.” I quickly dismissed that thought and pinned my race number on my shirt. One lesson I have learned from running, that applies to all aspects of life, is that you certainly don’t have to listen to every crazy thought that passes through your head. With running, never ignore your body, but you should always ignore the negative thoughts. They lie. I pressed forward with getting ready. I stepped outside and although it was a cool 40 degrees, I decided to wear shorts. I knew the weather was going to warm up and I have a tendency to be uncomfortable and hot running in long pants, even in cool weather.
I drove to the park with hot coffee in hand and a blanket covering my bare legs to keep warm on the ride down. I knew that the cold was temporary and within one mile into the race my body heat would warm me up just fine. The race started a few minutes behind schedule and we were off at about 7:15am. The first couple of steps I had a pain in my foot (this happens to me all the time,) which loosened up almost immediately.
The adrenaline rush at the race start usually launches me at a faster than usual pace, but once the herds of fast people run past me, I settle into my own comfortable race pace. This time was a little different because I didn’t have my running partner with me. I usually run the first 2 or 3 miles with her at a slower pace, then eventually speed ahead. I think because she wasn’t there and my increased pace still felt manageable, I started the race off faster than usual and pretty strong!
I worked to stay within a 9 minute mile range and it was easier, physically, than I thought. The course was simply a flat 7.5 miles out along the Trinity River and 7.5 miles back. I focused, at first, on completing the 7.5 miles. When I made the turn-around at 1 hr 12 minutes, I realized if I could keep this pace, my finishing time would be a pace PR. This motivated me on my way back to stay strong. After the turn-around, I switched my focus to getting to mile 13.1 faster than I have ever before. This is when my crazy running brain clicked on. As I passed people, I tried to determine their sex & age to determine if I was moving up in rank in my age group as I made the pass. I secretly laughed at those people stopped at the hydration stations. "Water? Who needs it! Suckers! I just passed 6 people lounging around, sipping on water! Wooo!" This crazy competitiveness is only in my head, I would never voice these things out loud, and it only comes out when running races. It is particularly absurd because I am not a fast runner. I don’t win races. I don’t even place high in my age group in races. There is something that takes over when I am in a groove, that pushes me to want to do my very best and beat everyone else (even though that is likely never to happen).
When I pushed past the 13.1 mark at 2 hr and 3 minutes, I was astonished that I just beat my last half marathon time by 10 whole minutes and beat my best half marathon time by 8 minutes. Wow. I was happy but my legs really started to feel tired at this point. I think I mentally shut down, so my body naturally followed suit. Since I was sure I crushed my previous half marathon PR, I allowed myself to slow down for the last 2 miles. I chugged through mile 13 and once I hit 14, I started to hit the wall. I even had to walk for a couple of brief periods during that last mile, which I hate to do, but it was necessary. The last mile was the slowest and the hardest, but as I rounded the corner from 7th street and ran under the finish line banner, I immediately shifted from misery to that infamous runners high! I couldn’t believe it. I finished 15 miles in 2 hours and 24 minutes, a 9:36 pace! For me, this was an amazing finishing time, especially for a longer distance race!
I don’t know exactly what to attribute this improved pace. I'm sure my clean eating and regular running helped. I’m sure the coffee I had on the drive down helped a little in the beginning of the race. I think I have to mainly attribute the 10 minutes I shaved off my last half marathon time to my boot camp classes that I started up again in December. 6 weeks ago, I joined the boot camp and as a result, my legs are stronger, my lungs are stronger and look at me, I am faster!
Now, I am anxiously awaiting for them to post the final results to see if passing any of those water station dwellers pushed up my rankings!
UP NEXT: The most exciting race of the year. Feb 5, Jessica and I are flying to Huntington Beach, CA to run in the Surf City Half Marathon!
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