Monday, September 28, 2009

Don't Just Climb Every Mountain...Kick Its Ass!

In some ways, I feel like I have been slacking off in training for Kiawah - mainly because it's been a while since I got up early on a Saturday morning and went for a hardcore, long distance run. Seriously - at one point the goal was to add a half mile every Saturday and work my way up towards 13 miles. But then running at the track when totally deserted freaked me out and so I joined a gym and started doing other things like getting my ass kicked by my trainer and using the elliptical (to avoid further knee pain) and going for speed to improve my 5K time and oh yeah - what about the half marathon I am signed up for in December?

Ok. So as part of my training, it is important to do some competitive racing - not to mention it's helpful to be out on terrain other than a track or a treadmill. The 5K I ran the other week was my first step and it went stunningly well. So I signed up for a few more races to help me prepare for Kiawah.

Saturday morning I ran the Hit The Brixx 10K in Charlotte. I can run 10K. In fact, I consider 10K "an average run." In fact, I have already decided that next year is all about the road race (5Ks, 10Ks) because training for a half marathon is serious effort and really...what's wrong with 6.2 miles? Absolutely nothing.

I told myself going into the race that my Happiness Goal was to finish in under 54:00 and that my Mountain Top Goal was to finish in under 52:30 which is roughly an 8:30 pace. In fact, I ran 10K the other week on the treadmill and finished under 52:00 but a treadmill is a weird animal because your ability to control your pace so exactly is abnormal. That said, I knew from my run in Asheville that the competitive atmosphere can push you beyond what you think you're capable of.

While the Asheville race was pretty casual, Charlotte was a whole different story. SERIOUS RUNNERS Y'ALL. I wanted to be towards the front of the pack because I am mildly psychotic ultra competitive and so I found myself amidst a group of hardcore runners who belong to running clubs and who train constantly and who were going for time and OMG one guy near me was trying to run the 10K at under a 6-minute mile pace. Holy Hell. Still - I felt confident towards the front and when the race began, I was glad I was where I was.

The first thing I did right was start my digital watch so I could try to time and pace myself. Of course, that didn't matter because as it turned out, the course was marked. Every mile there was either a sign with the mile number, a clock with the time elapsed, or both. You can imagine my surprise when I hit mile marker 1 and saw the time: 7:24. OMG y'all - running with the leaders has its perks i.e. it totally kicks your ass and drives you to do things you didn't think you were capable of. Still - a 7:24-minute mile is INSANE - especially if you have 5.2 more miles to go.

I tried to slow it down. I kept telling myself that my goal was an 8:30 pace and that I didn't need to switch it up mid-race. Still - by mile marker 2, I was at 15 minutes and some odd seconds and still below an 8-minute mile pace. And then I began to struggle. Mentally. On the one hand, I was frustrated that not only was I not passing anyone, OMG - 1000 people were passing me. On the other hand, trying to keep up was forcing me to run at MY BEST PACE EVER! Should I switch my Mountain Top Goal 2 miles in? Should I suddenly tell myself that nothing less than an 8-minute mile pace will do? Should I try to pass more people? Should I start training harder? Was I going to die by mile 3 if I kept up this insane pace?

Mile 3 came and went. I think I passed it somewhere in the 23 minute range. It was well below my 5K time in Asheville the other week and had I actually been racing a 5K, I would have sprinted the last half mile or so.

I slowed down in the 4th mile. Partly because of all the hills. Partly because my knee started to hurt. Partly because I was tired. Why my knee started to hurt I have no idea. Possibly because I haven't stretched in 100 years? And as far as getting tired, well they tell you when you are racing to not bolt out of the gate full speed ahead. I clearly failed that task when I knocked out my first mile in 7:24. Still I pushed forward determine to surprise myself with what I was capable of. (Yes - I realize this is the zillionth time I've used that expression "capable of." Are you sensing a theme dear readers? Are you?)

Anyways, by the time I completed mile 4, I was running over an 8-minute mile pace. And you know what? I didn't give a shit because I thought back to my original goal and realized I was still kicking the shit out of it and OMG - wasn't that AWESOME?

I pushed myself through the last 2.2 miles through a combination of awesome tunes on my iPod and non-step self motivational pep talks. Oh - and people cheering. Seriously - throughout the whole race course there were people along the sidewalks and at key intervals and mile markers cheering us on which I thought was totally awesome. Towards the end, I did manage to pass a few people and when I saw the sign for mile 6 and knew there was just a wee bit left to go, I tried to sprint as hard as I could. Apparently the fact that I was already close to vomiting up my left lung made sprinting hard but I gave a final push and while I didn't pass the brunette in front of me, I was not remotely disappointed in my results.

Before I get to my actual results, I want to take a moment and take the spotlight off of me. I know...those of you who know me well are going GASP?! Country Girl doesn't want to be center stage? And the answer is...No. Not right now. I want you, dear readers, to take center stage. I want the spotlight to shine on you. I want you to know what it feels like when you set a goal and you accomplish it. Even if it's for just a brief moment.

Prior to training for Kiawah - I don't recall setting too many goals and I certainly wasn't setting them on a regular basis. You know what happens if you don't set a goal? You don't get the thrilling feeling when you accomplish it. So yeah - I don't remember a lot of goals and I also don't remember feeling so challenged nor feeling so exhilarated and proud and capable (there's that word again - note to self: use a thesaurus) when I got through each challenge and met my goal. And I won't lie dear readers. These last few months the challenges have extended beyond the running. But whatever the circumstance, whatever the reason, I have met each trial head on and conquered them one by one. And I will tell you - there's no other feeling in the world. And so I encourage all of you to set some goals and then journey towards that mountain top. The view from up there is spectacular. Trust me - you'll love it.

Now if you're done gagging from my sentimental attempts at philosophy and motivation, let's get back to the important stuff. Let's get back to me and my results. I finished my first competitive 10K in 50:31 which translates to an 8:09 pace. I was 231st out of 806 total racers - not quite the top 25% but still damn good. I was 51st out of 405 female racers (top 12.6%) and 9th out of 83 females in my age group (30 - 34). Overall I was exceptionally pleased. I was even more pleased when I exited the race are and a very nice lady handed me a cold Carolina Blonde. Seriously, I don't think there is any better way to rehydrate and recoup after a race than a Snickers "nutrition bar" and a cold beer.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...


AndreAnna said...

You're so awesome! What an inspiration. I'm proud of you!

kyooty said...

Way to go you! I'm very very impressed. You are right you can't get to goal, if you don't know what the goal is.
You are living it!

Nancy said...

Great job! I love hearing about your race experiences.

Karen from Mentor said...

WTG baby!!!!! You Rock!

too groggy to say more. It's 1:00 o'clock in the freaking morning for crying out loud....go to bed, you're exhausted....oh no wait that's me...

you're just awesome. and what's the female equivalant of "studly?"


Karen from Mentor said...

oh! got it.

Amazonian warrior princess!!