So I ran a couple of races this weekend…which hardly seems new, but since I’ve been actually focusing on training I haven’t been racing as much. Saturday was one of the goal races my coach and I had set–the Pittsburgh Pirates Home Run 5k. I ran this race last year, only I did the 10k, and it felt VERY strange to not be doing 10k. I mean, I’ve come around and no longer hate 5ks the way I used to, but I still tend to pick slightly longer distances when they are an option. But I digress–this was the goal race we’d chosen for my first big goal: breaking 30 minutes in the 5k.
I came into race day nervous but knowing I had put in the work. I followed my training plan to almost the letter–maybe missed some XT here and there, but my runs were on point. I hit and pushed my paces consistently. I did the work. But I was nervous. Because training was never the hard part for me. My struggle always came on race day, during the race. I would get close, get scared, back off. I repeated this pattern in almost every race that I actually set a goal for. So while I came into Saturday knowing there was no physical reason I would fail, I was terrified I would back off when I should be digging in. My coach was set to pace the group I started with (9:30s…which still blows my mind–me running sub 10s…what?), and my instructions were to stick with her for the first 2 miles, then she’d push me on my way to speed up, and when I saw the stadium I was to dig in and push hard to the finish. So I kept up for the first mile and a half. Then we hit the only significant downhill in the course and I couldn’t hold back, so I sped up and went with it. And I kept going. I struggled a little in mile 3, but I kept going. I didn’t quit. I didn’t back off. I dug in and pushed through. And it went down just like I pictured it during my speedwork–I crossed the line with 29:something on the clock. The rest was a little surreal to me. I waited for my coach, got my medal, texted with my husband and BRF, and I cried. Official time–29:30. Clock time was 29:56. No matter how you look at it I hit my goal. Average pace 9:25. I knew I could do it but I’m still kind of in awe that I did.
Which brings me to Sunday, when I traveled to Ohio to do the 10-Mile Drop. I actually did these two races back to back last year as well with good results, so I was excited to repeat. The plan going in was to try to hold my half marathon goal pace since we’re just a few weeks out from my next big goal race. The weather sucked–cold and rainy and windy up on the lake. No bueno. It was NOT fun. My friend and I were seriously questioning our life choices on the bus to the start line. But we started. And I started off way faster than half marathon goal pace. But it felt…right. I wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Mile after mile after mile I was hitting sub-10 paces. When I hit water stops my pace dropped some (obviously) but for the most part I was hitting goal pace or faster. Until Mile 9, which was the freaking WORST. Heading back to the finish, running into the cold wind, my pace dropped significantly and the 10-minute pacer finally passed me. But once I hit that Mile 9 flag, and I had one mile left, I dug in. I was starting to struggle again when a guy walking out from the finish area said to us all (though I felt like he was talking directly to me) “3 more minutes! you’re almost there!” I can do anything for 3 minutes, I thought, thinking of all my speedwork. So I dug deeper and pushed through to the finish. 1:39:45, average pace 9:59. I averaged just under 10 minute miles for the whole 10 miles.
Never did I expect that. And I don’t think I would’ve tried that if I hadn’t had the race I did on Saturday. Knowing I could go sub 10 for 3 miles I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it. It’s an “easier” course than Pittsburgh (net is downhill but it’s more flat with a very slight downhill grade) but it’s not as interesting and there’s not much crowd support (even when the weather is better). Still I definitely feel good about my goal for Pittsburgh at this point–if I could do that on a race course that is less fun to me, then I can’t wait to see what I pull off at one of my favorite races.
I’m still pretty emotional about this weekend. I conquered a big demon and a big hurdle that had been looming for me. Sky’s the limit at this point. I can do anything–and I’m excited to try.