As runners, we've all been down the road of despair where we run crappy, feel crappy, things are just crappy. Sometimes the road is long, sometimes short, but whatever the case may be, at the end of the road there is finally this light, glimmer of hope, a small pot of gold. If I'm honest about my training and racing, it's been at least 5 months since I've felt like myself while racing/running. Yes, there were good days thrown in, but in general, I was not myself. And finally, there was yesterday.
The ATR is by far my least favorite race EVER. Yes, it's the biggest race of the year down here; however the 5K/10K merge has always been a cluster, post race food beverage stinks, and the results almost always get messed up. Nonetheless, somehow I always end up the start line year after year. My purpose for running this year was that Sam and I were tied for the top stop in our club's Grand Prix. Since Sam was running, I had to run, blah, blah, blah. Fortunately, the race organizers really took our suggestions seriously and made some changes to the course to alleviate congestion of runners. (The food and beverages still stink, and the results were still inaccurate.) I was NOT looking forward to racing this at all. I had no idea where I stood in my fitness, and while I've been feeling TONS better, I know I'm nowhere near where I want/should be.
So, I decided early on to start the race just at my regular workout tempo pace. I knew I could hold this for 6 miles, as I had already done it this past Monday. It was safe, exactly what I needed in a race, no risk of blow-up or burn-out. At the last minute, I was thrown into a team with Sam, the other Becca, and Amy. This was added pressure to me, but once again, I knew if I did tempo pace I was safe. Sam, Becca, and I started out together right at 6:40 pace. It felt great! At Mile 1 Sam took off, but I stayed put. I was not ready to be risky, regardless of how amazing I felt. Looking back, I wish I would've gone with her. At Mile 3, I decreased to 6:35 and held there. Becca fell back, and I thought I was maybe in 3rd place for the Overall Local Female, which is a tremendous honor in this race. In the past, I've gotten 2nd and 3rd place, but never the overall title. The whole time I was running, I just couldn't believe how easy it felt. I would not give into my brain, though. I know how it goes for me, one minute things feel easy, the next minute I'm nearly licking nasty Mardi Gras infused concrete (figuratively, of course). At Mile 4, I passed what I thought was #3 Local (false alarm, though). I could see Sam ahead, but I would not pass her until 4.5 when I finally dropped the speed to 6:30. After this, I worked it down to 6:25 and held on. Shockingly, it STILL felt good.
The good news is that cardiovascularly (is that a word?), I felt REALLY strong. I wanted to go faster, but my legs wouldn't quite turn over. At this point, I was pretty sure I was winning Overall Local. I didn't even care where Sam was during that last mile. Honestly, I never mind getting beat by her. She works hard and is a rocking awesome person and one of my BFFs! I just trucked on, running MY race, feeling sooooo relieved, blessed, and grateful for how nice everything felt.
Holy crap. I felt like a runner again. I was having fun RACING. People were cheering for me and I was SMILING. I saw one of my coworkers working the last water stop and gave her daughter a high-five. Thank you, GOD, I'm getting BACK!!!!
I tried to sprint it in the last 0.2 and was barely able to get the pace to low 6, haha, not quite there in the turnover department yet.
I didn't run a PR, wasn't even close. Yet, I haven't been this happy with a race in a LONG time. I finally, finally feel good. While I'm not *there* yet, I can feel the progress and improvements. It's refreshing and has me yearning for more. I needed that race yesterday, my own little breakthrough. It was proof that I'm doing things right. The training my coach is giving me is paying off. The lifestyle changes I've made are working.
And I know the best is yet to come...
Run Happy, friends!