Man...what a boring title! But, hey...might as well call it what it is!!
Back a couple of months ago I was talking to my two main running buddies about pacing at the last few races I've been in. (When you coach, your entry is paid if you agree to pace participants in the training group.) I was talking about how I didn't really believe I could run a sub-30 5K and they called me out. They both said they believed I could do it easily....and challenged me to race against them at the Rudolph Run. Well...one of them got hurt and the other one had sick family, so neither of them entered. Not only that, I was forced to run alone several times leading up to that day.
There's a longish side story that I won't go into...but my best friend from Arkansas got to come to watch me race. I explained to her that I wasn't racing to WIN, but to beat myself, to beat my time, and mainly to beat the thoughts in my head that I can't go faster than what I've been running. She and my daughter came out in the freezing cold to cheer me on. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--having loved ones out on the course is like pouring gas on a fire for me. It just infuses me with energy!!
Anyway...I went out the day before the race to run the course, just to get a feel for it. The only thing I didn't like was one lone straight stretch (those tend to be boring). There are two "hills" on the course. I remember the first time I encountered the first hill....when I realized my training group was going to "run" up it...I just about laughed out loud. I thought I'd "never" be able to run up the whole thing. That hill has become VERY easy for me now. I'm not bragging...I'm saying it's amazing! The second hill is a little tougher, but I had run up it a couple of times and didn't explode, so I knew I could do it...and the reward is a nice, fast, down hill slope. On my training run I had to remind myself the whole time to stay slow...and I still kept an easy 10:30 pace.
Now, let me say here for all you seasoned racers....I haven't really had the experience of running a race much faster than my training runs. I read a blog post one time where someone talked about "those runners who race at their training pace"....that was the first time it even occurred to me there could be a difference. The problem is I really have no idea what kind of time difference we're talking here. So when I finished the easy practice run in 31:50....I just wasn't sure what that meant I could run the actual race in. Could I REALLY knock off almost two full minutes?? Also, I have learned I can run "much" faster after a mile or so warm up-something I didn't do before the practice.
I had made plans to run a couple of slow miles to warm up with a few friends. I think that was the best decision I made for this race. I wasn't as nervous as usual because I felt strangely confident. I knew I had been running pretty fast and I knew I had run the course the day before at an EASY 10:30 pace so I "knew" I could go a bit faster than that. At the same time, I was hoping to find someone to hang with so I could chat and not have to listen to the thoughts in my head. The friends I warmed up with didn't say they had a time goal...but one of them said she hoped to break 30 which meant a 9:45 pace. YIKES...saying it out loud started up the naysayer in my head. I decided to set my virtual partner for 9:45 and then VOWED to not look at the pace, but just check to see if I was ahead or behind at any given moment. (Rather than constantly checking like I usually do!)
Completely without fanfare someone yelled go and we were off.....