I was well into mile three of the Red’s Race 5 Miler, running out in front as the lead female when this thought popped into my head,
“Sarah, you keep looking around at the start line of races for the “fast women” to see who’s going to win. Maybe that’s you?”
Right behind that thought came the inner critic
“Well, you’re still not THAT fast. Think of all the other women who aren’t here that would have dropped you like a hot potato?!”
Here’s the thing though: it’s who shows up that counts. You don’t have to be faster than everyone on paper, you have to be the fastest one who shows up.
I almost didn’t show up, waiting until the morning of to decide if I was going to race.
The night before we’d celebrated my husband’s 40th birthday with a big surprise, Luau inspired bash complete with roast pig. I was on my feet most of the day coordinating his “date day” with the kids and running last minute errands. I was so busy at the party I never had any of the Rum Punch I made. And when the house was empty by 10pm (this is what happens when you turn 40, every wants to go home early because they’ve a) got a long drive or b) have kids who need to get to bed) a race the next morning seemed more of a possibility.
So when everyone was dressed and breakfast-ed by 8 am we decided to roll out to the race.
As far as races go, Red’s Race is the ideal set-up for our family.
- it starts at 10 am allowing us a relaxed morning
- it’s 25 minutes away
- the finish line is next to a playground
I love the course and the fact that the streets are so often lined with people I know who cheer for me along the way. With the weather forecasted to be some of the best yet, it seemed like win-win for everyone.
I’m always nervous before races, even ones I decide to run morning-of. But the idea of going back to a race I won the previous year had me a little more nervous than usual-that’s some pressure when you show up and you’re the gal who won last year.
I’m definitely stronger than I was last year, but I haven’t done any speed work and my turnover needs some sharpening after a season on snowshoes. Instead of focusing on what’s been missing (speed and drills) I honed in on what has been going well:
- nailing incline paces that were a stretch for me at this time last year
- the cardiovascular and strength benefits I’ve reaped from that double at the National Championships
- my mindset and confidence is 100% better than last year, instead of having something to prove, I’m just here to be in the moment and give my best
Last year, when it came to road racing I was paralyzed by my watch: by pacing and being off pace. Somewhere at the end of last year I deleted the pace calculator from my phone and stopped thinking about it. As we drove to the race I decided to use the fact that I’m TERRIBLE AT MATH to my advantage and not think about the time I ran last year, or the time I ran in 2014 and what paces I should be running.
I let numbers drift out of my thinking and in it’s place I focused on how I wanted to FEEL.
Go to the place where you’re on the edge.
It will hurt.
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Those were the things I told myself as we made our way to the race.
Once the gun went off and we crested the first hill and the initial lung and leg burn faded, I felt good. Really good. Smooth and strong. I had no pacing strategy other than to feel relaxed through mile one and then push like crazy through the next four miles.
My plan was to not look at my watch at all, but when the guy standing at the 1 mile marker called out “5:26!” I did a little WTF and had to look. Yeah, nope. He’s a minute off. First mile at 6:26.
And then the course starts rolling, and the rhythm felt so good. My legs felt surprisingly fresh, unbelievably fresh. That feeling where if you ask your body for a bit more, you know your legs will be on board and carry you there. I didn’t want to push into that feeling too much, I was only 1.5 miles in. Save it, Sarah.
I rolled through mile 2 in 6:17. Woah, I guess I do feel good! These paces were way faster than last year. Just keep pushing. I knew that if I stayed strong in the next three miles I’d have a new 5-mile PR (32:51 is my old PR from 2014). Coming up the hill just before the 3 mile mark, I took a cup of water maybe it cost me a couple seconds, but my dray mouth needed something. A sip was enough and I kept on churning.
Use the downhill to your advantage. I passed the Mile 3 marker: 6:51. Oh! I knew I’d slowed on that hill grabbing the water, but I didn’t realize I’d slowed that much. It’s OK, Sarah. It’s OK. There was a hill. There’s wind. Roll this mile. Flow the form. And in an instant I was back in the moment, pushing trying to get the most from myself.
Embrace the Hill
Sometimes when you’re racing people give you information about what’s going on behind you. Most of everyone was calling out, “First female!” But there wasn’t much said about who was behind me. My focused stayed forward as I pressed towards the hardest part of the course: the hill just before mile 4.
Hills are your thing. Embrace the hill. Strong on the hill.
My legs didn’t have that zippy freshness, but I pressed and pushed and drove as hard as I could up the incline. The same guy who’d been calling out splits at mile one was positioned at mile 4: 26:xx he called as I passed by.
Ok. Is that correct? Do I add a minute? If I slow down and run 7 minute pace I’ll still be at 32. Oh, wait no that’s 33 minutes. If I run 6 minute pace down this hill I’ll be at 32, that could be a PR. But is he still a minute off??
I didn’t even think to look at my watch. Whatever, stop trying to do math, just run as fast as you can. Just go. Recovery breath and go. Fly.
The last mile is my favorite because it’s a fast downhill for the first .80 and then flat into the finish for the final .20. I charged down the hill, glancing at my watch my paces were well below 6 min. Sweet.
Go! Go! Go! Go! Finish this off. Take the win. It’s yours.
At the base of the hill, with about 200m to go an older gentleman called out, “You’ve got 30 yards on her.”
Ho-l-y Shit! Someone’s coming!
I kicked it into another gear and sprinted in to the finish, breaking the tape and taking the win…for the second year in a row. I ran 30 seconds faster than last year and just 8 seconds shy of 5-Mile PR.
A good start
Considering the fact that I’m not training for road racing and haven’t really done anything to sharpen those skills in a while, I feel like this race is a great sign for 2019. Not only have I built on last years fitness, but I’ve gotten the mental monkey off my back and I’m ready for what’s ahead.
Spring racing is here! What races do you have on the calendar?
Mental Training Note: I’ve spent that last year working on the mental side of my training and created a downloadable PDF outlining how I’ve changed my mental approach to race day. This 12-page guide contains templates, visualizations and will help prepare you for your next goal race. Interested in the Race Day Mental Prep Workbook? Click HERE.
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com