I love setting goals, and I love a good challenge, and I love having a time to chase when I step up to a starting line.
But sometimes the best thing to do is go into it with no real expectations, and no definite goal in mind.
That's how I went into this morning's race, and it paid off big time!
I set up my Garmin last night so that it would only display my overall time elapsed, and no other information. There were mile markers, so I'd know how much distance I had covered, and I really didn't want to know what pace I was running. I wanted to just go out there and give it my best effort and see where I ended up.
That took a lot of the nervousness out of the equation, and although I did have some pre-race jitters, they were far less pronounced than usual. I wasn't expecting anything incredible, seeing as how my last speed workout was nearly 6 months ago, and I've really only just returned to regular long runs.
I felt I'd be happy to hold a pace right around the low- to mid-8s, which is where I've been for my most of medium distance training runs.
The race starts with a turnaround on a dirt road, so I knew I wasn't going to go flying right off the bat, which was probably a good thing. And during the first mile, I felt fabulous. My legs felt fresh and ready to run, and since I had been absolutely freezing waiting at the start, it was nice to be moving and warming up.
The temperature was in the low 30s, and I had debated wearing capris, but am glad I went with long pants. There were some spots on the course that felt a tad warm, but when the wind kicked in, I was happy to have my legs fully covered - and I never felt too warm. I was also really glad I opted to bring my sunglasses. It was very overcast at the start, but then the sun came out and stayed out, and I would have been very unhappy to not have my shades on.
I was also wearing my brand-new Brooks Adrenaline shoes. I took them out for a short test run yesterday, and my foot felt so much happier in them, I decided to wear them today, even though I wouldn't normally wear a new pair of shoes for a half. Since they're a similar type of shoe (stability), I thought it would be ok, and it was - no problems at all. My foot is a little bit sore, but not nearly as much as it had been feeling, so I think the switch is going to be a good one.
Although I had my Garmin display set to time only, it did still beep and flash my lap pace at each mile marker, but except for a couple of glances, I mostly ignored it. I did look down at mile 2, though, and was kind of shocked to see 7:42! I chalked it up to just going out a little too fast, and figured I'd naturally slow down in the next few miles.
I was feeling really good, though, and didn't consciously back off. I didn't want to put in an all-out race effort, but I did want to push myself, so I focused on settling into a rhythm that felt challenging, but good.
The course is mostly flat, but there are some gentle rolling hills as it winds through some residential neighborhoods in the early miles. There are also a couple of turnarounds, and it was fun to see my friends as I circled back.
I kept chugging away and feeling good through the first half of the race, and glanced down at my Garmin again when it beeped for mile 6, and was thrilled to see 7:59. I was still feeling pretty good, and thought that I could probably stay right around that pace for the second half.
I had taken my Gu right around that mile 6 marker, and I was kind of happy that I had passed a handful of runners through the 4 - 6- mile stretch. Passed several people on one of the few hills on the course, and it made me feel good to know I still have some hill strength in me - that will come in handy in Boston for sure!
Miles 7 and 8 were pretty uneventful, but I did look down at the mile 8 beep, and saw 7:48, and thought to myself - "Hmmmm - can I keep that up for 5 more miles?" And I was kind of surprised that I very confidently thought "yes, I absolutely can."
We wound our way through another little neighborhood, and then back out onto the main roads for the final miles. Just as we got to the mile 9 marker, we ran into a pretty stiff headwind. It didn't last for too long, but long enough to tire me out a little.
The mile 10 marker was a very welcome sight. I didn't know if I had it in me to pick it up a whole lot those last 3 miles, but I wasn't about to throw in the towel, either, so I just kept plugging along - and passed a couple more people here, too.
And now I was getting tired. I just kept telling myself to get through the next mile, and concentrated on relaxing my shoulders and making sure I was running as smooth as possible, and not overstriding (something I have a very bad tendency to do when I get tired).
I was so happy to see mile 11, but now I was really digging deep. It's been so long since I raced, I almost forgot how those final miles feel - to be so completely exhausted, but so completely determined to not give in to it, and to instead push yourself even harder.
So relieved to see mile 12, and I knew I had a little left, so I pushed a bit more and got myself to the last turn on the course.
The final stretch is run on a very uneven grassy field, and I knew that, but I was still cursing it as I ran down toward the finish.
I was so, so happy to cross that line, and even more happy to see 1:42:51 on the clock! Very far off my half-marathon PR, but so much more than I ever thought I could do at this point.
I didn't set any records or win any awards today, but I do feel like I kicked some ass !
My first race in 5 months, after nearly 3 months off due to injury, and with only about 6 weeks of regular running under my belt, and I pulled off a 7:49 pace for 13.1 miles! I was shocked - and thrilled : )
I grabbed a bunch of the fabulous snacks they had in the food tent (great spread, and if you've ever considered a TriMom race, I'd recommend this one in a heartbeat - love the course, love the fleece jacket I got, and love the post-race food), but didn't hang around too long. I was cold and wanted to get home to a hot shower!
I'm still glowing, though. I'm so happy that my legs remember how to run fast. It's been a long, long 5 months, and it's so gratifying to know that all the hard work I put in during those months of not running has paid off. I never would have been able to do this if not for all the cross-training I kept myself busy with this fall and winter.
My splits are kind of all over the place, but I still love looking at them, just because it's been so long since I've seen numbers like this for a run of this distance -
Mostly happy with those last three miles - I can still pick up the pace on very tired legs, and that is a wonderful thing. Actually, right now, I'm feeling like everything is pretty wonderful : )
The final numbers -
7th in my age group
23 of 285 females
89 of 487 overall
The road to Boston continues - with more confidence than ever!