Yesterday morning was perfect for a race, and I’m very happy with how I did.
I think it was the best race I’ve had in terms of preparation. I ate normally the night before, laid out my clothes and pinned on my bib the night before, and went to bed early. I woke up refreshed and excited, ate a quick and standard pre-run breakfast (whole-wheat english muffin with peanut butter and jelly and a banana) and left at 7:10 to get there early for the 8:30 start. I quickly snapped a selfie before I left.
With no traffic, I got to North Park at 7:30 and found a place to park at the spillway. I planned to walk to the Boat House for a warm-up. I went alone since I thought it was silly to ask my husband to get up early (he’s not a morning person, especially on weekends) and then stand around there for an hour and a half until I was done. Plus, he needed to stay behind to take the dog for his morning walk. Knowing I’d be standing around for a while, I dressed warmer than I would have if I’d immediately started running even though it was a fairly balmy 40 degrees. I wore my winter running tights, a long sleeve Lulu Swiftly top, and my Lulu Base Runner Hoodie (my favorite winter running top) for the built-in neck warmer and hood I wore before the race started. I also had on my Lulu running gloves but planned to take them off before the race started.
I’d picked up my packet yesterday, so there was nothing for me to do but walk around near the Boat House before the start. Per a suggestion from Kristy on how to manage my low blood sugar, I brought 16 ounces of Gatorade with a tablespoon of chia seeds added. I drank that a half-hour before the start.
Everything seemed well organized, with Elite Runners’ staff and volunteers constantly telling everyone that the 30K start was at the Boat House but the start for the 5K, 8.1 mile, and half marathon was down past the tennis courts. (My phone is enormous and I didn’t want to run with it, so I didn’t bring it to take pictures.) I realized immediately that the course set-up was to my advantage. I started my two practice runs at the Boat House, where there is a slight upgrade out and to Pearce Mill Road. With the actual course start past the tennis courts and the finish at the Boat House, I’d skip the slight upgrade and have a slight downgrade to the finish line.
I got in line behind the 9:30 pace group for the half marathon and in front of the 9:55 pace group. When we first started, I was surprised at how slow everyone was going given that I was right behind the 9:30 pace group. But I think it was because it was just so crowded. I would have had to knock people over to get around them, so I didn’t really have a choice but to start very slowly. By the time I got to Pearce Mill Road, I checked my Garmin and saw that my pace was 10:00. That upset me, so I vowed not to check my Garmin again, but I was able to start getting around people.
The other advantage was that the McKinney Road hill was much earlier in the course. The race had just started, so I was feeling great by the time I got to the hill. And then a miracle happened. The hill that felt like Mount Everest just three weeks ago now felt like nothing. I give a lot of credit for that to a Team in Training coach who was right in front of me with the 9:30 pace group. She kept stopping, standing to the side, and giving advice and encouragement. Where the hill levels out, she told us we were half-way there and to breathe deeply and rest our lungs before the hill got steep again. On the steep part, she called out something I will always remember: “Watch the runners in front of you. They’ll carry you up the hill.” I did what she said and I swear that’s exactly what it felt like–like I was just carried up and wasn’t even running. At the top, she excitedly congratulated everyone for making it up the hill. I loved this woman! I wished she would have left her group and just run with me…ha ha! On the hill, I stayed behind the 9:30 pace group and in front of the 9:55 group, so I was happy about that.
Once at the top, I let myself fly down the hill and passed the 9:30 pace group. A bit later after the course leveled out, they caught up to me and passed me. My strategy was to follow them as closely as I could. With the drama of the hill behind me, I knew I had to just stick to as fast a pace as I could but still didn’t check my Garmin.
At mile 2 I started to feel nausea set in because I was going pretty hard, and it stayed with me for the rest of the race. I was also extremely overheated. I forgot to take my gloves off and was dying with them on, but they’re hard to get off and I didn’t want to mess with them. I kept seeing the 9:30 pace group get farther and farther away and finally checked my Garmin when I had a half-mile to go. My pace was 9:42! I was surprised and excited and knew then my sub-30 goal could become a reality, so I pushed it very hard until the finish. In fact, I pushed it so hard that as I crossed the finish line–which had a clock time of 30-something–I felt very lightheaded, and it took a few minutes of walking around until I felt normal. That was a new feeling. Nausea is something I’m familiar with, but I’ve never felt faint while running. But I knew I’d really given the race my all–there was no way I could have run much more at that all-out effort.
When I looked at my Garmin, I was excited. It showed a pace of 9:38! Had I made my time goal?
There were stations set up to immediately check your time. I cried out when I saw my official time: 30:06 for a pace of 9:42! So close! Still, I’m really happy with how I did. In my two practice runs on the course, I finished about two minutes slower than my goal, so I was pretty happy to be only six seconds above. Here are my official stats.
I know that a lot of people walk 5Ks, and this 5K was a part of Elite Runners’ Couch to 5K program so some people’s first race, but I was happy to be in the top third in my age group and in the top quarter of females.
Overall, I think I ran a really good race, managing the hill and my effort well. I also think the chia seeds really helped with my energy level throughout the race. Now I just need to find a solution for the nausea (though Kristy made some good suggestions for that on her recent post on fueling for race.)
Also, I’ve heard great things about Team in Training. I think if I do a marathon (which I’m thinking more and more that I’d like to), I’d like to participate in Team in Training. I was only near that woman coach for a few minutes, but she helped me immensely. Something to think about for the future, for sure!