On Saturday morning I got up very early to run a local 10K. After my personal lifetime worst 10K split at Memphis three weeks ago I have been working on my run. Returning to what I know works for me.
Sherpa Thomas once told me that when you feel off in sport you return to your roots. My roots are running. I return to running because of the simplicity of the sport. What is it about running races that they are so real, down to earth and just – they are what they are. No pretense, no bullshit. There are no excuses in running. You either went hard or you didn’t. You were fast or slow. You can’t blame it on a current, the wind, drafting, buoys, none of that nonsense that doesn’t matter when all you’re racing with is a pair of shoes and a watch.
I put myself about 3 rows deep around some other girls that looked fast. In running there is no mistake – the fast girls look fast; sinewy with thin legs and wearing singlets sponsored by local run stores.
My goal was to take the first mile slow. Inevitably I bolt out at a sub-6 minute mile in every running race. Of course it feels great. For a mile. Then I end up above my threshold and wheezing the rest of the way. That is ok in a 5K. But in a 10K that is not such a good plan. Today I wanted to hold back to a 6:40 pace for the first mile. The gun went off and I took it out at a comfortable pace.
I don’t run with a GPS (somewhere ABK is rolling her eyes). To me, it doesn’t feel right. It feels like someone shouting at me the entire time “speed up” “slow down” “speed up”….I end up looking at the thing and forgetting about the other things that make running good – your breathing pattern, your foot push off, your form, staying loose, the thoughts in your head. How I feel and what I run becomes disconnected. I run to feel good. When it feels good I hold pace. I learned that by running a lot when I was young. I didn’t have a GPS then so it doesn’t feel right now.
Of course the problem is that in the first mile of a race anything feels good. I was running along telling myself “smooth, loose” form cues that remind me to relax and just feel good. Hold back. Keep the breathing under control, 1 breath, 4 steps. I hit the first mile in 6:08. Not exactly the 6:40 I was hoping for.
The next two miles I held back a little more and found two high school boys to pace off of. They were chit chatting and taking overly dramatic runs through the aid stations. Their shenanigans distracted me from the hurt. I realized the first 5K was their warm up. Their warm up was right below my threshold. Ah, to be 16 again. They ended up pulling me through the next 2 miles at a more appropriate pace.
6:08 – right now – is not an appropriate pace!
At the 5K point I know it is time to pick it up. The high school boys start their race and take off. I see a girl ahead of me and make it a goal to pass her. There are many turns on this course and I don’t think I was any faster than her – I just took the turns better. When you are on a course with a lot of turns your run it like you mountain bike. Ride the tangents. Straight lines, not curves!
Mile 4 starts to hurt. This is why 10K is such a bitch. 5K hurts then it’s over. Before you even realize how bad it hurts you’ve crossed the line. 10K hurts those last 2 miles because you’re going a bit slower than 5K pace but not enough to really matter. The worst – an open half marathon. It’s like running a 10K for 13.1 miles. A girl passes me after 4 miles but she has a pacer so I feel like if I had a personal cheerleader, water cup-getter and pacer I would have been able to pass her back (note to self, next time fly in personal Sherpa to run local 10K with me). Mile 5 feels uphill even though the course is entirely flat. Someone tells me I’m in 5th place and it makes me smile. I’m kicking it with the real runner girls. Except they’re about 2 minutes ahead. But still….top 5! One thing was certain: I was totally breaking my MIM 10K time today. Thank goodness!
Mile 6 felt like the longest mile of my life. And I’ve done a lot of long miles. Mile 8 – 22 in Ironman is a long mile. Just 14 of them. Mile 6 here was a loooooooong street where you could see the tents by the turn to the finish line off in the horizon but they were still far away no matter how much closer you got.
I finally make the left turn to the finish line and sprint to the finish. Look at my time and realize I crossed the line over a full minute faster than my goal time and nearly 5 minutes faster than my MIM 10K time. I was pretty excited about that but it wasn’t a surprise. I could tell one mile into the race that my running legs showed up today. The weather was perfect and the course was flat. No, it wasn’t short either. The current was with me and the buoys stayed in a straight line.
I love running. And it finally feels good again. Going to run races makes me want to do them more. To be able to race every other weekend and have it all over in such a short amount of time. No gear to haul back to the car except your warm up shoes. Go back to your roots. It feels good.
After the race we headed back home to hop on our single speed bikes and ride up for some coffee. Single speed into a headwind and slight uphill was not the best idea but coming back it felt great. Later that day I did something perhaps even more challenging than running hard for 6.2 miles. I wore a dress and heels for about 12 hours as we headed up to Minneapolis for a wedding.
It’s safe to say after that my legs were gone.
But nothing a little open bar couldn't fix.