Monday, May 5, 2014

How I Got My P.R. -- Part 2

The Tow Path Half Marathon:

April rolled around pretty quickly, and on April 6 I had the Tow Path Half Marathon. Leading up to the race, I had a bit of tendonitis on the top part of my left foot. But besides that, I felt strong and ready to roll. I had confidence in my training, and was praying that I could carry that confidence with me race day. With my training, I knew I was right at 1:30 and would be very close to achieving my P.R. I would NOT have been happy with anything over 1:30, and had a “Do or Do Not, There is No Try” mentality. I either was going to make it happen, or be REALLY REALLY bummed. With this mentality, the night prior to the race, my race confidence was shaky. I laid in bed that night with my heart pounding through my chest. It was pounding so hard I thought it might beat right through my ribs! I said to myself, “The stress is too much. I’m not going to be able to calm myself down. I won’t be able to do it.” I was so worried I was going to blow what I had worked so hard to achieve. But I eventually calmed myself down, took some deep breaths, and sometime after midnight I was sleeping. 

When I woke up the next morning at 5:15am, I had good race butterflies flying around my belly. If you’re a runner, you know what I mean. It’s this instinctual feeling that you’re going to kick a$$ that only comes around once in a while. Despite my anxiety the night before, I knew I had this. I had my pre-race breakfast, hopped in the car, and met my friends at the Cuyahoga Heights entrance of the Tow Path. I was SO excited to have my friends there running the race, and they were the perfect distraction for any possible pre-race anxiety. We hung out, huddled together to stay warm, caught up on life, and used the rest room a few times.  I got in a mile warm-up with some 20 second race-pace strides. My legs were turning over pretty slowly in my warm up, but I would not let my mind go to any negative place. I made it my mission to run my race like I did my treadmill training: one step at a time. I was going to focus only on what I CAN do, and would ignore any feelings of what I can’t do. 

When 7:55am rolled around, I snuck to the front of the pack. I said a pre-race prayer that God would give me the strength to push through and run to my fullest potential. Then, without further ado, the horn went off and off we went! The first few meters of the race are on a BIG, moderately dangerous downhill. I used the momentum of the downhill for a super strong start, and then eased into to a cozy pace when the terrain even out. I felt comfortably fast, glanced down at my watch, and saw 6:35ishmin/mi. Although it was way under my goal pace of 6:53min/mi, I hung on. My instincts were telling me to go with it. And, I did just that. And that was what I did throughout the entire race. I listened to my instincts, focused on each mile, focused on what I CAN do, and therefore ran what felt comfortably fast. I was pushing the pace more than I needed to reach my goal, but just went with it. I did not think about a wall, about the upcoming miles, or about the girl I knew was hanging on my tail. I was pushing through as the first female, was having fun clicking through the miles with the guys I met on the course, and LOVED crossing paths with my friends with the loops in the course! The course was very loopy, so it was hard to keep track of where I was and where I was going. I just focused on the present, exactly where I was and followed the arrows where I was supposed to go! 

Once I got to mile 10, I really started feeling the distance. I had a little side stitch, but focused on my breathing and pushed through it. I knew I only had 3 miles to go, and I was going to PR if I could just hang on. I did not know by how much, but I knew I could blow it if I wasn’t smart these last few miles. Once mile 12 came around, I saw the hill my dear friend Jeness warned me about. It was big, my legs were spent, and I just wanted to get up it without pulling a hamstring. As I was climbing up, the girl who was on my tail swung past me. My goal for this race was not winning, it was reaching my PR. I just couldn’t find in myself to run her race and chase her down for the 1st place finish. So, I let her go and stuck to the race I was running.  And with my plan, I came I crossed the finish line in 1:27:17, 6:39min/mi pace!!!! I pointed to the clock as I crossed the finish line in complete disbelief of my accomplishment. I was almost 3 minutes under my P.R. and WAY beyond any goal I had ever set for myself!!!! I was the second overall female, and happy to have set the pace for the first female finisher. I shook her hand and congratulated her on the great race. I did a one mile cool down and my legs were SPENT. Up to this point in my running career, I had never really raced a long distance race so this feeling was foreign to me. I gave that race all I had, ran consistent miles, never quit or doubted myself at any point, and truly ran my best race. As soon as my friends finished, we hung out at the post-race party, did a little bit of celebrating, and were on the bus back to our cars. 

Got it!

So much more fun with friends!!!!

I was so overwhelmed with my P.R., and did not quite know what to make of it. This race was a game changer for me. Achieving a 3:10 marathon was absolutely doable, and now a 3:05 marathon did not seem completely out of reach. I was dizzy at the thought of a 3:05, but could not ignore that I had it in me to make that happen. I decided I would follow through with my next three weeks of training at the paces I had planned, and let whatever is meant to happen happen at the Glass City Marathon with my family there to see it happen! be continued...

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