Sunday, October 16, 2011

Race Report - Hartford 5K

Ralph and I post race

This year was supposed to be the year I was going to switch gears and run some shorter races. Focus on some 5K's and really see what I could do.

And then there was a wedding to plan.

And then there was the race I signed up for but never went to.

And then there was work.

And then there was all the traveling for work.

But somewhere a few months ago, I suggested to Ralph that we run a 5K during Hartford marathon weekend, and we could be around to watch my friend Jason who I'd been coaching for the marathon. It seemed like the perfect plan, and I would have plenty of time to train and run a race I could really be proud of. But even with another race on the horizon I couldn't get myself in gear to train for it. I was running along with Ralph as he trained for his half marathon, but I didn't feel all that fast. I was starting to become pretty disappointed in myself.

As we picked up our race numbers, and meandered through the expo, I was more excited for Jason's first marathon, and Ralph's first race after his injury, than the fact that I was actually running something for myself the next day. I didn't really take the race as seriously as I have in the past, I ate chinese food for dinner, and even had a few glasses of wine because it just felt good to relax.

5:30 am came fast, and in the dark morning hours I dressed in my regular race attire, and packed my race gear bag. It seemed so strange to be packing gear for such a short race. I was packing real snacks, and not worrying about having enough shot blocks or Gatorade, it was strange.

By the time we arrived, parked the car, removed our bikes (and parked mine - more to come on the reason for that later), and checked our gear bags, there was only enough time to do one of two things, warm-up, or use the bathroom. I know a million people out there are thinking "obviously use the bathroom" but no - I insisted we needed to warm up. I said farewell to Jason and his girlfriend and Ralph and I headed out for a 1 mile easy jog. With about five minutes until start we headed behind the line and I was regretting that not going to the bathroom thing. I enviously eyed up the people darting in and out of the port-a-potties all the while reminding myself one of my biggest nightmares is being IN THE PORT-A-POTTY when the race starts.

And then we were off.

I had no planned pace, I had no Garmin (I had lent it to Ralph), my plan was to run a pace that was somewhat challenging but manageable and see how it went. I had pretty low expectations, and if nothing else maybe I'd do bad enough to guilt myself into some real training. I swiftly began passing people, lost in thought, but looking back I couldn't tell you what I was thinking about. I was watching kids keep up with their parents, I was watching spectators cheer on the runners, I was concentrating on my pace making sure I wasn't pushing too hard. As fast as it had started, we were already passing mile 1. I glanced down at my watch to check on my pace, thinking it would be somewhere around 9 or 10. What I saw instead was 8:20. I was literally in shock but I kept going.

The second mile was spend wondering where this speed was coming from and trying to hold on to it. I hadn't run in maybe eight days. I had done virtually no speed work. And yet all the same I was pulling of mile splits that were close to what I had done when I was in the best shape of my life. As we approached mile 2 I wondered if I could hold on to this.

As I pushed through the third and final mile I started to feel that familiar nauseous feeling deep in my core and knew I had to back off just a little. As we rounded the last corner I saw that same uphill climb that led to the arch and had an instant flashback to my finish at the Hartford Marathon in 2008. As much as I wanted to push it, I couldn't do it. I let my pace in that final mile slow down to around 9:20. Despite holding back at the end I was surprisingly impressed with my finish. My final time was only about 1 minute slower than my PR from over three years ago.

A month ago I was looking over past race times and feeling a little bit sad. Almost all my PR's were over three years old. I had some great performances and since then have not had the time to dedicate to training. I was starting to wonder if my best times were behind me. Which is awfully depressing considering I am only 25, but something that maybe I just had to come to terms with. Until yesterday. Yesterday restored all the faith in myself that I thought I had lost. It made me want to run again, to race again, and I was finally for the first time in a long time, proud of myself instead of spending so long being proud of others.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised during a race? Pulled off a performance you were not planning on?
How did it go?

Official Stats:
Time: 26:45
Overal Place: 311/1447
Sex Place: 100/885
Age Group Place 19/153

xx Sara

1 comment:

Rachel said...

nicely done! i truly believe that we perform our best when we take away those expectations. congrats on a great race!