Over the past few years, I have drug my feet about making goals for the year instead of resolutions. Goals have seemed more substantial than a “want to,” “will try to,” or “hope to.” This year, I did none of the above. I got a phone call on Monday telling me I had won a race entry into the Hair of the Dog 5k. I thought it was a friend of mine playing a joke on me at first. I just laughed. When the girl from the radio station on the other end of the phone got really quiet, and then said, “This isn’t a joke. You really did win!,” I knew I was up for a new kind of challenge. And for once, it happened right at the beginning of the New Year.
Fast forward three days, and here I am at the side of the starting line, looking at the mass of people starting to line up, and wondering what I had gotten myself into. I’ll be the first to admit that I register to win things because as an artist, money is not easy to come by, and it’s nice to be lucky once in a while. If you don’t enter to win, you’ll never even have the opportunity! Today was a win in 3 different ways. It all started with winning that entry!
The race was around the well-known Mt. Trashmore. (And no, out of town friends, it is not a joke. It is really called Mt. Trashmore since it’s a landfill turned into a park!) Because it was the first day of the year, the race directors gave everyone a few extra hours to sleep and started the race at 10 a.m. I still showed up a bit after 9 to get a warm-up mile in. I bundled up since the thermometer read all of 34 degrees when I got out of bed.
I got my bib at the packet pick-up location, and ran with John back to the car to get warmed up. By then I decided to ditch my running jacket because I was too warm despite the frigid air. I was already having a hard time getting my toes and hands warm, but I knew once I got going they would get warmed up.
The race director corralled the rest of us, gave us the quick version of the course lay out, and yelled a big “GO!” We were off en masse. It’s weird to not have an assigned corral, but most people seemed to know that we were grouped by pace. Somehow I managed in the 8:00 group, and didn’t realize it til half a mile in when my watch was saying my pace was a flat 8:00. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold onto that the whole way because I haven’t been pushing paces like that in a long time. Training for a marathon is so different than training for a short distance race, and I hadn’t seen under 8:30s in a long time.
I felt pretty good, but noticed I was struggling some to breathe as I moved along the course. The cold air paired with low humidity was making it a challenge to make my breathing as steady and deep as it needed to be. I ran without music today, and noticed how quiet it was out as we traversed the streets around Mt. Trashmore. Sometimes it is good to go without music and just enjoy the sounds of life around you as you run. I was definitely more in tune with what my muscles felt like, how my breathing was doing, and the many mental mumblings I kept hearing.
I’ve read so many articles on running, and many resonate with me at different points in my training. One that has truly stuck with me over the years is the one about not allowing yourself to mentally tear yourself apart during training, during injury, during recovery, and most certainly not during a race. Those mental mumblings I was hearing were not nice. I mean it. NOT NICE. Any athlete will tell you they want to be better, quicker, stronger, more flexible, etc. etc. Berating yourself is NOT the way to get there. I caught myself in the midst of doing just that in my mental mumblings as I placed one foot in front of the other today. When I realized that I was doing it, I yelled at myself. (In my head… out loud would have incurred a few quizzical looks.) I was determined to not even touch a 9:00 minute pace after seeing my first mile was an 8:19. Then the complaints started.
“I could be in bed right now.”
“I could ease up. No one would care.”
“This is a RACE. Move your tushie!”
“It’s so cold!”
“Why can’t I keep up with that girl?”
And finally, “STOP IT! You are fearless! Give it everything you’ve got! Seriously, when was the last time you RACED a 5k???”
That did it. I moved my tushie. I told myself that there would be no more berating, only picking it up when I could, and giving myself some leniency on pace if I needed it as long as it didn’t hit 9:00 minute pace. Well, it did hit a 9:05 as I was jumping across some ice, and I quickly picked it back up, crossing the finish line with some serious strides at a 7:40 pace. Take that you mental mumblings!
While I defeated my mental mumblings, my lungs defeated me. The cold air was too much for my poor lungs, and I couldn’t breathe when I was done. I quickly sought out a familiar face and asked for a spot to sit where I could breathe in warm air. I couldn’t even cough. I started to kick myself mentally again for not carrying the emergency inhaler I own for situations like this triggered by my severe environmental allergies that often mimic asthma. Thankfully, I know a lot of people and was quickly maneuvered to the race director’s traveling truck mobile with warm air pumping. I finally could actually suck in some air without shaking, and the coughing started. Always a good sign when your body wants air to get in your lungs! Note to self: on cold days, check the humidity and carry the stupid inhaler!
Despite this little setback, I would call it a solid race. I managed to PR with a 26:22! That’s a flat 8:30 pace the entire 3.1 miles. And the third win, you may ask? I placed 10th in my age group out of 31 other women. I’d say I started off the New Year with a bang!
Let’s not forget 2014. I did smash my goals from 2014 as well. I wrapped up the year with 1,227 miles even though my original goal was 1,200! I managed to run THREE marathons in one year instead of the TWO I had originally planned on. The only goal I did not meet was running a 4:20 marathon. I will tackle that this year. In 2015, here is what I had set my sights on:
- Don’t do as many races and focus on racing STRONG at the few I do race.
- Race the Blue Ridge Marathon and aim for a 5:00 marathon over 7,430 of elevation change
- Race the Wineglass Marathon and aim for 4:15 or better
- Run 1,200 miles (This is a solid running schedule, and there’s no need to be stupid about having too many miles on the schedule. It’s all about QUALITY, not quantity.)
- Be fearless! That’s the new word for this year!
Live. Love. Run. PASSIONATELY!