Monday, September 17, 2012

Beyond any expectations: 2012 Navy 5 Miler

Now that I have more of a traditional racing season, the first race is known as the "rust buster" - designed to shake off the rust and be the first time of testing out my fitness in a while.  The last couple of "rust buster" races I've had were in 2 distinct weather conditions:

  • Last fall, I ran the Arlington 9/11 5k - and it was in the 80s
  • Last February, my rust buster was the Love the Run You're With 5k - it was 20, snowed overnight, and 22 mph winds
This split the difference - 60, beautiful morning, no wind.  I was really excited about the weather - best weather we've had in DC since I got back.  And I had had a good day yesterday - my boyfriend and I hung out, and since the packet pickup was on the Air Force base in Anacostia, we hung out at the base (there is a beautiful park there across from Reagan Airport) for a bit.  There's nothing like a nice, quiet, relaxing day to get ready for a race.

This morning I did my warm-up to the race from my apartment (definitely a perk about my new apartment - exactly 2.5 miles away), and the weather felt nice and cool.  My warm-up always freaks me out - I know I'm running several minutes slower per mile than I ultimately will in a race.  But, I knew better than to get too wrapped up in it.  The start was at the Washington Monument, and I was able to hit the bathrooms twice (seriously? the body is a weird and amazing thing) and check my gear, and slowly inch my way to the start.  There were already a lot of people lined up, so I had to push my way to the front to get my spot.  And then, with the clang of the Navy bell, we were off!

I saw a few girls run up way in front of me, but I knew all too well that I could not get caught up in passing people in the beginning.  I felt great - for someone who hadn't gone under 7:00 pace for any run since mid August - amazing.  I went through the first mile in 6:18 - which was way too fast for a 5 mile race, so I dialed it back in.  The next couple of miles were in the 6:30s, I felt like I had locked into a good rhythm.  I love running on Haines Point - it is is flat and beautiful, and it is so easy to settle in.  It's also fairly quiet too.  While it can be great to have crowds to motivate you, it is also very nice to have the quiet as well to just focus. I looked down at my watch at 2.5 miles, and had run about 16:16.  Wow, if I can just hold onto this, I will be well under 33 minutes. I was just really surprised at how good I felt - I was blazing, but didn't have the sluggish feeling that had been a part of my runs lately. Ok, this is feeling good. At around the 3.5 mile mark, I started to pick up the pace.  I think at that point I was in either 7th or 8th.  I wasn't sure - it was hard to see who was up front.  But I passed 2 girls, and then saw that up ahead of me was another pack of 3.  I decided to wait a bit more before I picked up the pace again.  I told myself to just go for it during mile 4, I could really push - one more mile would be fine to shift into that final gear.  I then felt like I was winding up and could push, and I passed them decisively.  It felt great.  I was not going to turn my head at all to cheek, I was just going to keep going.  We headed back to the Mall, where people appeared, cheering and clapping.  I felt so good.  Someone even yelled, "there's only one woman in front of you!"  Really?  I couldn't even see any other girls.  Then, within 100 yards of the finish, this other girl blew by me, I could not react to her fast enough.  But I did not care, because on my watch read:
32:32 (6:30) pace, and I ran 6:10 for the last mile!  So beyond my A goal!
I was 3rd woman overall - the highest place finish I've ever had in a DC race.  I just had a big smile on my face - this was beyond anything I could have expected for the day.  And in some ways, that made it all the more special.  I totally know the feeling of gratification after months of hard work that demonstrated great potential.  But as of late, I haven't been able to see that, and so this was just a great delight.  I've already gotten some grief from my parents, who said they knew I was going to run fast.  But still - when you have week after week (after week - really, it's been like 6 weeks) of runs that are sub-optimal, why would you expect a good one after all of that?
They had an award ceremony after, and check out the trophy!  I've never gotten one that big before - pretty sweet.
What a great way to start the fall racing season.  Looking forward to the rest of the season (and to more fall weather!).

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