Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race Simulation before Comps

Last night, I met my training coach/fellow medievalist Sarah on the track for a race simulation 5k.  It has actually been 2 years since we've run together.  We meet regularly and chat a lot (it helps that we're in the same grad program!), but just don't run together (she is really fast - like 37 minutes for the 10k).  The last time we actually ran together was in October 2009 at MCM, when she jumped in for the last 10 miles and helped me get my first BQ.  Anyways, there are still a couple of weeks before my next 10k (Veteran's Day 10k - 11/13), so she wanted to have me to a race simulation, just to test out the gears.  She said she would pace me, and that I would just tuck in behind her.  She said that we would be aggressive in the beginning, ease up slightly midway, and then push at the end.  I've never actually done a 5k on the track, so no matter what, this was going to be an interesting experience.  Sarah also said she was going to be interested to see what my effort looked like - as she gets the times I run for track workouts, but never sees me in action.
We got to the track (the one at our school), and there was a field hockey game about to start, which meant we were moved to lane 5 of the track.  Sarah said she would count the laps and approximate the 5k distance being in lane 5.  I was like, "Thank goodness, I can't do that kind of math right now."  And we were off!  From the "gun" I felt so tired.  I am sure part of it is just getting ready for comps, but it felt hard to go all-out, which is what you need to do in a 5k.  And as spectators were going up to the stands for the field hockey game, we had to do a little bit of weaving between lanes, so not perfectly smooth.  I didn't even use my watch - Sarah was doing all of the timing.  She yelled out "6:30" for the first mile, and I did not think I could do that again 2 more times.  The middle section was really hard - Sarah was about 8 yards in front of me, and I could not catch her for the life of me.  She kept yelling out, "Come on, come on!"  It was so hard to respond and try to pick it up.  I could not believe how hard this was, and in my head, I kept thinking, "I am really blowing this and now waiting her time, ugh."  With a mile to go, 2 of my friends showed up to watch the game, which I had no idea, and so they cheered for me as I passed them.  It really was an interesting experience - here we are doing these laps, Sarah is cheering me on, the stands are filled with people watching another game, but they're also seeing this race simulation as well.  Sarah put her hand up to mark that we had 2 laps left, and I was so relieved.  Maybe I could kick a little bit.  Then, with one lap to go, I was able to get a little closer to Sarah, and was just trying so hard to keep going (again, no idea what kind of time I am running), and my friends were cheering me in to the finish.
PHEW!  I finished and stubbled off the track exhausted.  She asked how I felt, and I said that that was one of the hardest efforts EVER.  She said, well, good, because you ran a 19:57!
Now, that is approximately 5k - we can't really count it because we couldn't do it in lane 1.  But wow!  She said that it equates to about 20:15 on the road, so definitely a PR (sort of) for sure!  I could not believe it, I felt so tired, I thought I had run about 21.  But nope, this was the fastest 5k effort ever!
Sarah said that that is what I need to feel like during a 5k or a 10k, and that I need to push myself a lot harder.  This is the challenge with coming from a marathon background - you find a pace that works that you can hold onto for a loooong time.  Now as I am moving down to these shorter distances, I just need to be more aggressive and be uncomfortable with the pace.  
All in all, I was really pleased with it.  It was a really good learning experience, and a great confidence booster going into comps.
And speaking of which...
Comps start tomorrow.  The written parts will be Thursday and Friday, and then my oral exam will be on Wednesday - a week from today.  All of those months of reading, all of those years of coursework, come down to about 9 hours of exams.  It is hard to believe it is here.  As much as I am nervous, I am also really excited.  I get to show my professors, who have invested a lot of time in me, what my intellectual journey has been like over the past 3.5 years.  I know I have grown up a lot, wrestled with these books and dealt with some of the big questions.  I have read and read and read, and thought about these books in a variety of ways, so that I could use a book on memory (Phantoms of Remembrance) to talk about literacy, church history, death and commemoration practices - I can spin these books in a number of ways.  For my family and friends, it's all they've heard about for months.  And I cannot overstate my gratitude to everyone for all of their support during this preparation process.
Just like a marathon, my big day (or in this, a few days) is almost here.  I'll certainly be listening to psych-up music on the way in to the exam, have a good meal tonight, and do all of those other pre-race rituals that have worked in my running world.  While my professors have called the exam "trial by ordeal," I am looking at it as the culmination of years of training.  Deena Kastor said that "Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us," and I am going to seek to define myself in this exam.

1 comment:

  1. Really awesome effort out there! It's amazing what we can do when we have someone else to push us and just worry about running and not time. I'm so impressed by how much speed you're developing. Good luck tomorrow and Friday!1