Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009 Race for the Summit

Pre-race details. I awoke half an hour before my alarm went off and was actually hungry. (Usually, the necessary bite of breakfast this early is a battle for me.) The rain chances had dropped to near-nil, and the wind was non-existent with an air temperature of about 50 F. Other than the course being unmercifully uphill for the last mile, things were aligning well.

I'd taken the time to familiarize myself with the course (perhaps to an excessive
level). But, I knew every turn and every elevation. This was something that was going to serve me well today.

It's also worth noting that I went into this race quite prayerfully, asking God to grant me the strength, speed and extra strokes of the heart I was going to need to reach my goal. For those of you closest to me, you know that my running is more than about the run. The fact that I can run AT ALL is nothing short of a miracle. I thanked Him for the gifts He had given me to get me here today.

Warm-up. I approached my warm-up a little differently than I usually do. I tend to prefer a very slow jog, I'm so in fear of burning any energy I might need later on. But, my last several interval workouts I have run my 3 warm-up miles at a decent pace (typically around 8:20 or 8:30) with no impact on my "energy." I thought I'd perform better in the race if I ran a more natural warm-up pace. This also turned out to be a good decision (and one I will follow in future races). My strides just before race start felt great, and I was light on my feet.

Race Start. It was unlikely that I'd reach my 22:00 goal here, let alone a PR (beat my previous best of 6 weeks ago, 22:17). The last hill was a killer, and I knew it. I am weak on hill
s. So, I carelessly tossed any real hopes aside and planned something risky. I decided to go out for the first two miles as fast as possible. I wanted to be way under 14:00 to have time in the bank for the final hill / mile.

Of course the gun went off and the 70+ elementary school group surged ahead and sprinted from behind us, and then all petered out in about 50 yards, making us all dodge them left and right to keep from running into them at a sudden walk. But, once that was over with, we were finding our spots, and life was good.

Mile 1. There were a few people who surged ahead of me in the first quarter, as I was settling into my suicidal pace of 6:35-ish. It was a gamble, but I was going for it anyway. Once I found my position, I was not passed again for the rest of the race. I passed the first mile mark at that pace, and pressed on. Really, I was feeling as good as I've ever felt at this point in a race, and that was encouraging.

Mile 2. Here's where things got interesting. The race was pretty flat here, and I was gaining ground on a female who had passed me very early in the race. I watched her knees knock, and decided she didn't have it in the tank. I easily blasted past her. She never fought back.

We reached the end of mile 2 at a water stop and the timers were calling out 13:20s and I was somewhere in there. I knew that I was where I wanted to be before the hill started. I'd been steadily gaining ground on a male in front of me. I decided to try to pass him after the stop. I was listening to him breathe, and it sounded shallow. I overtook him, and then could hear his foot turn-over and breathing quicken. He didn't like it and was going to try to pass me. He never did, and I eventually didn't hear him anymore. I was surprised I won that one.

Mile 3. Shortly into this mile, the ascent began. I knew I'd suffer badly on this hill. The beginning was the worst. But, having run it two days ago, I reminded myself it was going to flatten out just before the 2.5 mark, and I would get a chance to rest before the ascent began again. By 2.4, every nerve, every fiber of my being cried out to quit. I felt like I was crawling in pace. But I started to tell myself the 22:00 was going to be worth it. It was definitely going to be worth it. And I was filled with a hunger to go for it, stronger than I have ever felt before. This is a feeling that has eluded me in previous races. I've "let it go" at this point.

At about 2.5, it flattened out as I'd known it would, and I recovered just a bit. The rest of the hill loomed ahead. I remember looking at my watch for the last time and I could see the finish at the top of the hill. It read 20:30. I couldn't decide if I were 90 seconds away or not.

The final 0.11 miles. I crested the hill, and my body was on fire. My arms were tingling, and I thought I'd have to stop and throw up. It was all I could do not to dry heave at this point. I have never felt worse. I honestly thought I couldn't make it to the finish line. But, I was terrified to look at my watch, and couldn't have done the calculation anyway. "Dig Deep!" I shouted to myself. "It's worth it!" So, I did. I surged with more than I thought I could have possibly had in me. Surprisingly, the average pace for this final segment turned out to be 6:35. Hard to believe I had that in me.

Not two feet from the finish I was greeted by an over-zealous (but very well-meaning) volunteer shoving a water bottle in my face. Rule #1 after I've finished a hard race. Give me space, air and time before approaching me about anything. I was just beginning to dry heave...

My final official time was... amazingly, 22:00. And, that was the goal I set out for myself as I approached the season. The funny thing is, not more than a week ago, both my buddy Rick and my coach Vince got the sorry-filled email about how I'd picked a goal too hard to accomplish and how I'd set myself up for failure and disappointment this season. Both of them, of course, believed in me anyway and told me so. Thanks, both of you, for your continued endless support and encouragement!

I'll post pictures from the race soon.


Sharneysrun said...

Awesome!!!!! I KNEW you would do it :-) Great job, girlie!

Rick said...

Alex, way to push through and decide to knock out your goal even though the course was not ideal. That took a huge amount of guts and determination! Thanks for the shout-out. I'm honored to be your running buddy. That is, if I can still keep up with you! :)

runner-grrl said...

Thanks, Sharon, for also believing in me! Great to hear from you :-) Hope you are celebrating the victory with me, Cheers! :-) --Alex

runner-grrl said...

Rick, I wouldn't be here without your support along the way. Thanks for everything. You can still outrun me, no worries :-). I was the one writing "ode to my bike poems" during last week's long run! YOU were the one who ran another 13 miles... -Alex

lorraineX said...

I could feel your heart beating! What an adventure and triumph! Bravo!

runner-grrl said...

Lorraine, Thanks so much :-) Knowing you and others were cheering me from afar really helped. It was a part of the "it's worth it!" --Alex

Travis said...

Congrats, Alex!

runner-grrl said...

Thanks, Travis! I still think you should have run it with me :-) --Alex

Funnyrunner said...

Hi, runner girl. I've come across your comments on other blogs and thought I'd visit yours. I'm trying to qualify for Boston, too. I came closer yesterday (3:50:16 at the New Jersey marathon, but still no BQ (I need 3:45). My next one will be the Bay State marathon in Lowell, MA - it has the highest percentage of Boston qualifiers every year!

Wish I had a running buddy! :)

runner-grrl said...

Funnyrunner, Hey, thanks for the visit! I missed my BQ last year in Chi due to the heat, but just by 3 minutes and 14 seconds (so I know the feeling!). Yikes! I'm hoping that my devotion to the 5K this season has really lowered my LT, and I should be more comfortable in the lower 3:40s for this year. I hear Bay State is great! I almost chose that over Chi.

I am blessed to have some really good running partners! It's great to help on the long runs.

I'll check your blog out :-)


RunColo said...

You are a 5k racing machine! Nice work!

runner-grrl said...

RunColo, Thanks! Your comments had a lot do to with what I did this year. (Skip the spring marathon, windy, unpredictable, and go for the 5K focus and a fall marathon.)

I will look fondly back at this time in my life, knowing that I gave it my all and accomplished what I set out to do. I'm almost sad to be giving up the sharpness that I feel! But, marathon season beckons... -Alex