Sunday's race was a test for me, and I'm happy to say that I passed with flying colors!
All winter and spring, I've been holding steady with my three days a week running plan, and running some of my fastest races ever. And even as I built up my long runs, I was still able to hold a faster pace over some considerable distances. So I had a lot of confidence going into this race - confidence that I'd set a new PR for sure, and that I had a very good shot at my ultimate goal of 1:45.
And as anyone who sees me on Facebook knows, I came within 9 seconds of that ultimate goal. You might think I'd be upset that I was 9 seconds too slow, but I most definitely am NOT! 1:45 was my oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-I-just-did-that goal; the one I was almost afraid to say out loud, because I knew it was so aggressive. So I am absolutely, positively, 100% thrilled to have missed that goal by only 9 seconds.
It helped greatly that the weather for race day could not have been more perfect. Literally perfect. It was probably about 50 degrees when the race started, and close to 60 by the time I finished. And dry. And sunny. With briiliant, beautiful blue skies. Perfection.
I rode up with a woman from the local running group. We did a few runs together a month or so ago, and found out we were both doing the race Sunday, so decided to drive up together. It was good to have someone to talk to - a much-needed distraction as the pre-race jitters were in full swing.
I had picked up my packet the day before (we took the boys into Providence to see the circus, which was very conveniently located right next door to where the race expo was being held, so it worked out perfectly - and the circus was definitely a great way to get my mind off the race - distraction extraordinaire!), so there wasn't much that I had to do, but I waited while Wendy picked up her stuff, then we headed over to bag check, hit the porta-potties, and before we knew it, it was time to make our way to the start.
We found a spot in the 8-minute pace group, wished each other good luck (she was planning a slower pace than me, so we knew we wouldn't be running together), and a few minutes later, the gun sounded.
I love the first part of this course. It runs along the river, then turns a corner to head into the east side of the city. And with the gorgeous weather and blue skies, it was even prettier than usual, and I was hit with such a huge boost of confidence, and honestly felt like I knew I was going to run the 1:45. All the doubts that had been creeping into my head since Saturday had suddenly vanished. They'd return later, of course, when I started to feel tired, but for now, I was invincible : )
I was also, as usual, going out too fast. I looked down to see my Garmin register a 7:40 for the first mile. Oops. Little too fast. Will I ever learn?!
The first half of the course has quite a few hills, though, so I knew that would keep me honest and force me to slow down a little bit - and it did - mile 2, 7:47. Still a bit too fast, but better. And feeling great.
I had decided I'd stop at every other water stop, so I skipped the first one and stopped at the second one, during mile 4. A decent-sized hill during mile 3 slowed me to 8:02 for that mile, and then the water stop and another hill during mile 4 slowed me to 8:12. I had just a brief moment of panic about slowing down so much, but I quickly pushed that thought out of my head. I knew with the faster-than-necessary first two miles, it would all even out.
I worked on getting myself back on pace during mile 5, though - 8:06. I was still feeling fantastic, but I had expected to feel pretty good at this point. I had actually expected to feel pretty good up through mile 8 or 9. That's when I figured I'd start to feel tired.
But for now, I was just cruising along, enjoying the sights and the songs on my playlist.
Mile 6 wasn't quite as hilly, and I was able to get back down to 7:52, and when I got to the halfway point I saw that I was in fact exactly on target for a 1:45 finish, and I knew that, despite being a little inconsistent with my pacing, I was doing just fine.
Mile 7, however, is one of the biggest hills on the course. I remembered this from last year, so I was prepared, but it still took a little of the wind out of my sails, and was probably the one moment during the race that I felt like I might not be able to keep this pace up the whole time.
Once we finally hit the top of the hill, though, and I had a chance to recover a bit, I bounced right back, and kept reminding myself that there were only 6 miles left, and most of them were flat. And even with the huge hill, I finished mile 7 in 7:51!
It was about this time that I started thinking that I felt too good, and maybe that meant that I was holding back too much, and I should try to pick up the pace a bit. I knew it was kind of a dangerous game to be playing, since I didn't want to push too hard when I still had several miles to go, but I also didn't want to cross the finish line thinking that I could have run harder.
So I pushed it just a little bit, and took advantage of the few downhills on this stretch of the course, and miles 8 and 9 came in at 8:04 (another water stop) and 7:48. And now, as I headed into mile 10, fatigue began to make itself known.
This is exactly what I had expected, though, so I wasn't too discouraged by it, and still managed a 7:49 for that mile.
When I had reviewed the elevation chart on Saturday, I saw the big hill at mile 11, but couldn't picture it in my head. But as I came up to the base of that hill now, the memories came flooding back. It's not a terribly long hill, but it's steep enough to hurt a little - especially since it's at mile 11 of a 13.1-mile race.
But I knew this was it - the absolute final climb of the course - so I dug in and got up and over, and still pulled off an 8:05 for mile 11, and thanks to a nice flat stretch, a 7:45 for mile 12!
I tried to hold a faster pace for mile 13, too, but my legs just wouldn't have it. Still got a sub-8, though, by one second. Mile 13 - 7:59.
I knew at this point that I had my PR, but I wasn't sure what my actual time was going to be since my Garmin, as always, was not in sync with the race clock. And I couldn't see the finish line yet, so there was some fun anticipation before I turned the final corner, wondering how close I was going to be able to get to my ultimate goal.
I had taken my headphones off shortly before the final turn - I like to hear the crowd as I head into the chute. And as I finally got close enough to see the clock, I knew I was going to just miss 1:45, but that I was going to come really, really close, and that I was really, really happy, considering that I was on the verge of setting a new PR that was a full FIVE MINUTES faster than the old one!!!!!
The final .1 mile was run at a 7:19 pace. I'm glad I still had that final kick in me, because it felt great to sprint across that finish line.
And as soon as I stopped, everything hurt. Everything.
I kept moving, milling about, to try to keep the blood flowing. Collected my medal, got some water, and watched a few friends cross the finish line.
As I made my way over to get something to eat, I was almost shaking my head in disbelief. I had felt so confident that I could do this, but at the same time, I sort of couldn't believe that I had actually done it.
So I missed the goal by 9 seconds, but I still passed the test. I've known for a while that I had the speed, but the question that needed answering was whether or not I had both the speed AND the endurance. And now I can say that the answer is YES.
And thus begins the journey to qualifying. Whether it's for Boston, or for Gansett, I'm planning on running a marathon this fall and finishing in 3:45 (or less).
First step is to visit my physical therapist and check in with her. As of right now, I'm feeling no symptoms at all (she said, as she furiously knocked on wood), but I want to pick her brain a bit, and get her thoughts on my plans and goals.
Next step is to do a little more increasing of my mileage over the next two months. Even though marathon training wouldn't officially begin until the end of June, I want to ramp up my mileage now and see how my body responds. Hopefully there won't be any issues, and I can just proceed with training on schedule. But if there are issues, it will give me a chance to address them when I'm not under the pressure of a plan.
But for now, I'm still glowing, and still reveling in a fantastic performance at a great race on a beautiful day : )
368 out of 2400 overall
102 of 1450 females
31 of 412 in my age group
Oh, and did I mention - a FIVE-minute PR???!!!!!