It was a RACE DAY today, BlogLand! I was completely psyched for this race, as not only was I hoping for a (somewhat lofty...) PR, but it was going to be the first time I got to meet a whole lot of the Spartan Chicks (and a few of the guys!), that I've "known" on the FB groups, etc. for quite some time.
I signed up to do this race quite a while ago, after finishing the Frosty Knuckle 5K in February - which happens to be put on by the same company. I had such a good time running with the Portsmouth Spartans, Peyton, Amy and Brian, that I knew I'd be back for the next area race: The Tortoise and Hare 10K Run and 3K Walk. However, being the excessively social human that I am, as race day approached and I was getting psyched up for it (It's just part of my process, alright?!), it occurred to me that it would be even MORE fun, with even MORE people. My brain started working... Shortly thereafter, I put up a post on the Spartan Chicks message board, alerting everyone to the race and seeking some buddies. Let me tell you, BlogLand, I could not have asked for a better response. 8-10 of the area ladies jumped on board immediately, expressing their concern for certain obstacles (needing a babysitter, pushing a stroller, having a long drive, getting a new tattoo, or even having never run that distance before), but in true Spartan style, everyone found a way to come out and run and/or support.
After an uneventful (just under 3 hour) drive down to Salisbury, Ma, we located the grounds for the event. This was slated to be a small-ish event, as it was the first annual. Clad in our pink and black (and yes, it was totally a day for bionic pants!), we found another couple of chicks, then another couple more... and soon, a pink and black group of us ladies had amassed (and some very tolerant and awesome husbands! hehe)
|(Sadly, not all are represented... there was a long line for the bathroom, and it was getting close to race time!)|
When I asked the GT a couple of weeks ago if this was even a realistic goal, he informed me frankly that it would difficult, but it was very possible ("Impossible is nothing!"). As I stood there with all my Chicks around me, getting my game face on, I reviewed the three simple directives the GT gave me:
1.) Warm up a little before you start.
2.) Don't let Peyton out run you.
3.) Suck it up, when it hurts.
This, my friends, is how you know you have the appropriate GT for you. First, they're realistic - not all sunshine and roses. If my GT had told me something like, "Oh, no! You can ABSOLUTELY do that, no problem!" I would've gone into it with a much different mindset. Instead, you'll note he told me to to "suck it up, WHEN it hurts," knowing that it was going to be a really hard push for me, and if I wanted to do it, this is what would need to be done. Also, to add the final touch to our race-plan, he poked at what he knows drives me the most - competition (internally or with others). On a practical level, he knew that Peyton would be running at the pace that I needed to be at, but what he said to me was "don't let [her] out run you." Do you see how that instantly makes it competitive? Mostly the competition would be with myself, though - fighting to keep up the pace and just not lose Peyton, my pacer for the day.
My head was in the right place, my body felt good, I had a plan, and we were off!
The first 2 miles were good. I trotted along with Peyton at well under a 10 min/mile pace. I recognized that it was decidedly not as easy for me as it was for her, but I reminded myself that I didn't sign up for these things because they were "easy." I fought with myself internally during these first two miles, because this was definitely -not- a natural pace for me. I'm pretty comfortable at about a 10 min/mile... but this, was certainly, not that. I huffed and puffed, but reminded myself of all the little things (regulate my breathing!) and told myself that physically I could do this, I just had to get my mind out of the way. We kept running.
My body fought me. I had to let Peyton pull ahead of me, around the first water station. I figured I hadn't lost her, if I could still see her clearly, and I just needed to go a tiny bit slower. I kept running. I was still under a 10 min/mile pace, but it was beginning to feel very hard.
Mile 3 found me running alone, but still pushing hard to keep Peyton in my sights. I could still see her, but I was very aware that I was now starting to lose her - meaning I wasn't keeping up the pace. "Just keep moving" I told myself, and reviewed all my previous training; I knew that my muscles could do this, it was just going to be ugly. I stayed in my rhythm - left, right, left, right, left - and trudged on. My body was screaming. We'd never done this pace before and it was making me extremely aware of it. While I didn't hurt anywhere, per se, I was breathing harder than I usually do, and I felt like my legs just couldn't go at that speed.
Then, the cramp hit.
Yep. Every runner knows that that is one of the single most aggravating events - you're running along, and suddenly, OUCH, big stitch in your side. I kept running through it, putting my arm over my head to try and stretch it out, while taking deep breaths to try and make it go away. It must've been the funniest sight to see, because at this point, we were running on the side of a major roadway. I can not imagine what drivers thought I was doing!
3.5 miles in, and I was struggling harder than I have in quite a long time. I was at the verge of losing Peyton from my sights, if I hadn't already, and I just felt like my body didn't have it in me to continue like this. I was frustrated with my inability to do this, but made the executive decision to walk for 15 seconds to regroup, then pick back up at a pace that I could maintain and just keep going.
At this point, a little more than halfway, the race became really grueling for me. I had genuinely *needed* to walk for those 15 seconds, but as I picked back up into a run, I realized just how much those first 3.5 miles had drained me. I was clearly NOT ready to run at that pace. I kept moving. But, I admit, as I kept moving, I started to spin my wheels in my head at this point - how I wasn't ready to handle that pace and felt I should be, how if I'd not struggled with maintaining the consistency of my training, I'd be better, if I had managed to lose the weight I planned on, this would be more manageable - and so it went.
A few times I mentally checked myself, because I saw the road I was getting myself on. This was no good for the running. I pushed on.
Around mile 4, one of the Spartan Chicks, Shaina - pushing her 2 adorable girls in a stroller - jogged by me with some words of encouragement. I definitely needed those words of encouragement, but (I won't lie) there was a momentary punch to the gut as I got passed by the lady pushing 100 # of adorable kid/stroller. I should be able to do better than this, I thought to myself. I tried to pick up my pace. Keep pushing, I told myself... and "Suck it up, when it hurts". It hurt.
Not too long after, I got passed by the ever-supportive Amy and Brian (you guys are awesome.); I was back to fighting the side cramp that wouldn't go away, and as they passed, Amy informed me she had rolled her troublesome ankle, early on, but was still running. If that's not inspiration, people, I don't know what is. I had started out really strong, but was burning out fast. But if Shaina could do this pushing a stroller and Amy could keep running on her bad ankle, I could certainly at least KEEP MOVING.
Now, I'm not going to lie, BlogLand... I had to walk (15-20 seconds) a total of three times during this race... mostly in the last 2.5 miles. I *had* to. It has been a long time since I really felt like I HAD to walk, but legitimately, it was not mental... my body was just spent. But, I kept at it, the best I could. My run became slower, but it was still a run, and I resigned myself to the fact that I may just need to walk on occasion to get to the end of this beast. My body was telling me that I had not tackled it correctly.
I was reflecting on how I should've done this differently, as I got passed by one more of my Chicks, Jessica, in the last mile. I heard her yelling at me from behind, and picked up my pace a bit with the encouragement... but sometimes, you just ain't got it in you. She passed me, too, with smiles and encouragement (all of you that passed me, you have no idea how much you actually helped me!), and I fought to keep on keepin' on.
At this point, I was really physically done and truly just counting down to find the finish line. I tried to appreciate the scenery and the flatness of the course (thank GOD), but my view was really colored by the fact that I was having to summon up every ounce in me just to keep my feet moving.
Finally, we turned back onto the Ghost trail - what would make up the last 3/4 mile or so of our race. I was almost done. I wanted to finish strong, and in the best time possible. I ran.
I rounded the corner and suddenly saw it in the distance... the Finish Line.... and a crowd of pink and black. My Chicks were there, no matter how slow I went. I was suddenly extremely proud to be part of this group, no matter how grueling this race was for me. Then I heard the shouts of encouragement. That's it, I said to myself, it's time to lay it all out there and "sprint" to the finish. Running with a burst of energy that I'm SURE was sent to me telekenetically by my Spartans, I finished at a renewed pace.
Glancing up at the clock as I crossed the line, I was hit with a pang of disappointment: definitely not under an hour. While I don't have the "official" chip time, the clock showed JUST under 1:07 (Like probably 1:06.58) when I hit the line.
I was so insanely relieved to get to stop, BlogLand. You have no idea. I'm sure anyone that has pushed themselves to a beyond a physical limit knows what I'm talking about. Being able to just stop, without knowing your race time was hanging over your head or there was a finish line to find, was so wonderful. My body was ecstatic.
As I stood there, trying to shake my disappointment (as this time will end up being slower than my first 10K time), I suddenly had a moment of perspective, thanks to the support I found at the finish line. While being handed water and being congratulated on the Finish (on the FINISH, not the time it took me), and reminded how far I'd come, I realized this was just another step in the journey and an opportunity for a learning experience.
I gathered a few extra water bottles and watched for the rest of the pink and black to cross the finish line, and reflected on what I should be learning and taking away from this race:
1.) Yes. I did not hit my goal, but how was I supposed to know if I could do it, if I didn't try?
2.) I learned that I next time I run a 5K race, I'm going to smoke any of my previous times (thank you GT, for noting this point, that I wouldn't have thought of); While I could not YET (YET!) handle the whole 10K at that pace, the first half (5K) was at WELL under a 10 min/mi. SO, in effect, I did PR in a way - I ran the 3 fastest race miles I've ever run, to date.
3.) I learned that it's never about keeping up with someone else, or "winning". It's about doing the absolute best that YOU can do. So what if it took me 1:06 to cross the line? I know that for the first three miles, I attempted something I had know idea if I could do, and for the last half of the race, I beat Old Me in to the ground, as I fought the negative thought trains and urges to walk that used to keep me comfortably on the couch. It was a lovely day, I had great friends waiting for me, and I was RUNNING A 6.2 MILE RACE.
4.) In that same vein, I was running a 10K. Maybe my time goal was a little lofty, but irregardless, it was something that me of 2 years ago would not have even THOUGHT to attempt, much less finished in as good a time as I did. Physically I never would've been able to. Now, physically, this race was pretty damn hard for me, but I could make it until the end, and I was still running. I RAN across the finish line. That is a Victory, no matter how you look at it.
5.) I still have a lot to learn. I need to learn more about pacing. I probably could've run this race faster overall, if I hadn't tried to go so fast in the beginning, and burn out so fast. However, I thought maybe I could push my limits and do it... but, my body reminded me that we are still a work in progress, and I need to still put in some time, before I am able to beat all these goals. No matter what your brain wants to do, there does come a point where your body can't. I currently know where that is, at the moment, and am feeling triumphant that I pushed hard enough, dared enough, put it on the line enough to find out where that was.
I sometimes have trouble putting these things in perspective; My head knows where I *want* to be, and doesn't always allow the necessary time that I will actually need to get there. When I am feeling disappointed in a victory like this, I need to remind myself - I haven't even been running a year in my whole life. I couldn't run 20 seconds 8 months ago. Today, I ran 10K (6.2) miles, in about 1:06 with an average mile time of somewhere just above a 10 min/mile. For a new runner, still carrying the weight that I am, that is pretty effing good. I need to remember that.
Going forward from here, I'll be continuing my run schedule (with the dreaded sprint WODs), making sure to incorporate those long runs 6-7 miles. Also, there will be a distinct focus on my nutrition, because this race reminded me that I really need to get my weight off this plateau (anyone that has battled being overweight knows what I'm talking about... sometimes you can just FEEL it making your life harder. Particularly at mile 4. lol).
Overall, I'm happy. I had a WONDERFUL day with some truly wonderful people. PR's were broken, first timers triumphantly crossed their first 10K finish line, and people did things they weren't sure they could do. A big AROOOOOO!!! to all the Spartans that came out and ran and supported. You have no idea how much it was appreciated.
Finally, since it was The Tortoise and The Hare race, just before Easter........
Post-Race picture with the world's shortest Easter Bunny! (please note the two adorable Spartan Chicklettes to the far right! hehe)
Those, BlogLand, are the hot, sweaty, accomplished smiles of a bunch of ladies Living their life to it's limit, not just letting it happen to them. AROO!