Redemption Town. Population: ME
Yep, I beat my previous personal best and squeaked under 3:45 for the very first time- just five weeks after my crash and burn at Lakefront. And it did it on the hilliest, hardest, damn road course I've ever run. If only I had the wisdom to pace myself this smart five weeks ago! Oh, the regret. But let's not dwell. Let's bask.
I knew going in this wasn't going to be another BQ attempt. Unless something completely unexpected happened in the second half, I knew the nature of the course wasn't suited for such fast time for me, especially with a super short recovery time from my previous race. But like I wrote a few days ago, I was pretty sure I could manage at least a PR if I paced myself correctly.
Ugh, pacing. My nemesis. I was determined not to go out too fast so I positioned myself behind the 3:40 pace group and vowed not to pass them. I had just seen Annie, Rochelle and Kim before the start and I was happy to hear they would be out on the course cheering in the final miles. I didn't feel nervous or super excited but rather just... calm. I remember thinking, "I get to do this. Again!" How lucky am I? That was the attitude I carried throughout the whole race. From the first step over the timing mat, I just knew it would be a good day. Unlike the first mile of Lakefront where my body felt "off" and not fully rested, today everything had this neat feeling of smoothness to it.
Back to pacing though. My goal for the first half was to try hold my pace around 8:20 miles. It was hard to hold back since I was feeling so good and I did a decent job for the most part, although I still was a wee bit fast. For the most part the faster miles were due to some downhills but every time I caught myself going to quick I reeled myself back in again. I knew the second half of the course was going to be super hard and I needed to reserve that energy. Absolutely no 8 minute miles like last month. I came here to finish strong.
I crossed the half a little over 1:49:17*- slightly faster than I wanted but not out of control. Plus,
instead of feeling like I was working hard I felt like I was just getting warmed up. Even the big hill on Observatory Drive at mile 10 didn't knock me out at this point! My strategy of "working with the hills" was paying off. The plan was to relax into the hill on the way up and take advantage of the downhill on the other side. Luckily, every big hill we went up had a big payoff going down. Thank goodness for the little things. Also, I saw Steena with her BEST PARADE EVER sign around mile 12. Yay friends!
*Side note about the halfway mark. I hit 13.1 on pace for about a 3:39 and I never saw the 3:40 pace group after mile 2. They were hauling. I don't know if they were trying to bank time for the harder second half? I thought this was an interesting pace choice. Hmmmm.
After seeing my half split I admit I had the urge to speed up. But I held back. I knew from looking at the map that once we hit mile 16 it would be solid hills until 22. And not little hills either. Big, stupid, hills for 6 miles. The last thing I wanted to do was get cocky and burn out there. I slowed up a bit and kept my eye on the PR prize.
About those 6 miles of hills. That was really evil, you know? For some reason they changed the course this year and took out a long, flat out-and-back at the end that I guess people didn't like. What did they make up the difference with then? MORE HILLS. First we wound our way through Warner Park (I hear people go sledding there? Good. Great. Wonderful.) It kept building and building until we scaled the biggest hill of all in the Maple Bluff neighborhood somewhere before 22ish. I admit I walked parts of these later hills. At this point I felt like it was more important to keep my heart rate from skyrocketing and then power back on the downhill to recover. I had my best mall walker powerwalk on too. One guy told me my walk was faster than his run at that point. Heh.
After 22 though, despite how those last hills had slowed me up I still knew I was golden. I could see the capitol in the distance and even with my fuzzy runner math head I knew I had my PR in the bag if just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The next question was could I squeak in under 3:45? I was definitely running slower at this point but I was passing people left and right so this gave me confidence. Then a little after mile 24 I saw Annie, Ro and Kim! (I didn't know it at this point but Kim had run a PR in the half marathon as well!) It gave me such a boost to see them and I told them I was going to get my PR as I passed. So happy.
I had a big dumb smile on my face until I saw the last hill leading up to Capitol Square. I knew it was coming but I didn't realize just how awful it was going to feel until I was in the middle of it. A half mile climb right at the end, and just when we got to the top we turned away and went back DOWN for a block before climbing up AGAIN to the finish. Oh, the humanity. It was at this point that my Garmin read 3:44 but it wasn't showing the seconds so I didn't know how much time I had left to get in under 3:45. Kesha was playing super loud as they announced my name and I "sprinted" across the finish line.
Holy shit. This year.
A lot of things come easy to me. This has not. Because of what has happened in this past year of training and racing, this crazy goal I have of qualifying for Boston holds even more meaning to me now. But today wasn't about getting to Boston. It was about proving to myself that I am strong. I have improved this year. All my training wasn't for naught. And now that I've learned how to pace myself correctly and run a SMART race? I. Feel. Unstoppable.
I am a babystepper. Following in the footsteps of the great Bob Wylie I will continue to babystep my way to my BQ and beyond. I began with a 4:27 just a little over 5 years ago. Since then I've whittled my way down to 4:07, 3:58, 3:56, 3:50, 3:46 and yesterday, a 3:44. How cool is that? I have a feeling 2015 is going to be a great year.