I couldn't have asked for more perfect weather for Sunday - woke up to dry air, blue skies, and a slight chill in the air.
Even though we didn't have to leave until 9:30, I was still up before 6am, and really didn't sleep all that well the night before - too excited and nervous. Luckily the boys kept me busy until it was time to leave Sunday morning, so I didn't have too much time to sit around getting anxious. I had gotten most of my stuff ready the night before, but took a few minutes to go over everything again, and then packed it all in the car. Scott's parents arrived right on time to babysit, we gave the boys hugs and kisses, and headed out right at 9:30.
We got there right around 10:15 - perfect. Just enough time for me to set my stuff up in transition, make a few bathroom stops, and do a very quick warmup jog. My iPod was ready, my Garmin was ready, and I was ready. I always hate those last few minutes before the race starts - the anticipation drives me nuts. We lined up at the start - I'm guessing there were about 70 or 75 of us - were given a few quick instructions, and then we were off.
I did pretty well sticking to my plan of starting out slow on the run. My playlist really helped me keep my speed down, as did my Garmin, which I must have been glancing at approximately every 20 seconds. I'm glad I did, though - Mile 1 came in at 9:18. Perfect. Just about where I wanted to be.
Mile 2 felt fantastic - this is where the course runs right next to the ocean, and the scenery is just beautiful, and the sun was just warm enough - this is the point in the course where, every year I run it, I feel like I could run forever and ever. And once again, my music and my Garmin helped me clock in Mile 2 at 9:24.
I was dying to really kick it into high gear at this point, and I did speed up a bit, but I knew I couldn't go all out just yet, and I took a short walk break at the water stop (right around 2.5 miles), so I was able to keep Mile 3 at a reasonable 9:17 pace.
After Mile 3, I started to allow myself to pick up the pace a bit more, and finished the mile in 8:51. I was still feeling strong, and knowing I was almost done definitely helped.
As I headed into the final mile, all bets were off. I wasn't sprinting, but I was giving it everything I had, and I passed several people on my way down the stretch (which, I have to admit, felt pretty good). As I came into the transition area, my Garmin showed that Mile 5 was completed in 8:47 and the race clock read just over 45 minutes.
I had hoped that Miles 4 and 5 would be a little faster for me (closer to 8-minute miles), but given that I only started running again a few weeks ago, I think I put in a really good effort, and I'm really happy with an overall run time of 45:17, which is actually 24 seconds faster than my 5-miler in Boston on Memorial Day weekend (the last race I ran before the shin troubles began), so I guess that's something to be pleased about.
I ran right over to my bike, said a quick hello to Scott as I slipped out of my sneakers and into my bike shoes, got my sunglasses and helmet on, and decided to skip putting on the gloves. I'm not sure how long I took in transition - won't know until the official results get posted - but I sure felt like I was in and out of there pretty fast.
The first 2 miles of the bike were rough. My leg muscles were screaming in protest, and it took me a few minutes to find my rhythm (the price you pay for not doing any bricks in training, I guess). But once I got through those first 2 miles, things started to click, and I started feeling much more comfortable and picked up the pace a bit.
The course is very flat, with just two inclines. Neither of the hills is terribly steep or long, but on the first 8-mile loop, they both kicked my butt. I just didn't have it in me to attack them, and I really slowed down as I came up each hill, and took way longer to recover than I would have liked. But luckily, those two slight uphills are countered with a loooooooong downhill, so I was able to recoup some of that time.
And for the first time ever, I felt better on the second loop of the bike. And I really, really pushed myself on that second loop. I pushed myself on the first loop, too, but I really pushed myself on the second loop. Every time I wanted to slow down, I reminded myself that that 3rd place finish (in my age group, of course) could be within my grasp, and it kept me going. (And, I have to add - having the aerobars on my bike helped a lot - I spent probably 85% of the ride on the aerobars, and I'm sure that it helped improve my time.)
But boy, was it good to head into the final mile. As with the run, I gave it my all and passed a few people coming down the stretch, and I'm not exaggerating when I say there were tears in my eyes when I saw 1:37:29 on the clock as I headed into the chute. I didn't yet know if that was good enough to place in my age group, but I knew it was a PR, and that was (and is) reward enough.
They were posting the results every 5 - 10 minutes, so I learned pretty quickly that I had just missed the 3rd place prize. It's disappointing, but like I said, having that 25-second PR almost makes up for it : )
All in all, it was a pretty perfect race. Could I maybe have pushed it a bit more on the run? Possibly - but not enough to put me in that third-place bracket. And could I have pushed it a bit more on the bike? Absolutely not. I put EVERYTHING I had into that bike ride. I didn't have my Garmin on, so I don't have the splits for the bike, but I know I finished the 16 miles in just over 50 minutes, which is right where I was in training - and let's not forget, all my training rides were on fresh legs; not on a pair of legs that had just run 5 miles.
Perfect weather, a really fun race, and a PR - what more could I ask for?
Official results are finally posted. There were 80 participants - I came in 56th in the run, and 42nd overall.