Yesterday was all about celebrating little successes, but today it’s about celebrating a semi-big one.
You see, I have a secret. Saturday I did something that I haven’t done since January 15, 2012.
But first let me back up a bit…
Since I started running again I’ve approached it very differently then I did pre-injury. I started heart-rate training at the urging of my doctor, which has made for some pretty slow (miserable) runs. If you’re unfamiliar with heart rate training, in a nutshell you have a max heart rate that you can hit while you’re running. You aren’t allowed over that heart rate during your run. Essentially, you train your body over time to run faster and faster while maintaining the same heart rate. Sounds easy enough, right? Except it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s hard and it sucks. The first time I ran by my heart rate I clocked in a 13 minute mile. For me, that’s painfully slow. Like, I want to sit down and cry slow.
But I’ve kept at it. Every Tuesday I go out and run 5 miles. The first Tuesday of each month, I compare the splits from that 5 mile run with the previous month’s 5 mile run. And at the beginning of October something magical happened – I got faster. To give you a taste of what I mean without getting too far into heart rate training, here are the splits from September and October:
Month 1: 9:29, 9:59, 10:51, 11:50, 12:18
Month 2: 9:04, 9:31, 9:50, 10:18, 10:22
So I’m getting faster.
Now that I’ve explained how I’ve been running, it’s time to get to the good stuff. On September 10 an email hit my inbox that made the wheels in my head start to turn.
I ran the FBC Greater Things 10k last year and PRed at it. And I started to think, what if I ran this race – which is ridiculously small, right by my house, and no one has to know I’m running it – and I PRed at it again. I weighed the pros – it’s close, it’s cheap, I could back out of it if I wanted, and I would tell no one so there would be no pressure – and then the cons – what if I was still hurt, what if I did terrible – and ultimately decided to pay the 10k entry fee (it was like $25) and then if I ended up not racing it was no big deal.
I debated back and forth all month. Remember: I haven’t run a single mile faster than a 9 minute pace in months. I got super nervous. I thought about not running it.
Finally, I went to see Dr. Hinson Thursday on my lunch break for a pre-race tune-up where he told me to run the race for fun, not for time (AND I MET LEXY!!). I laughed out loud. I am way too competitive to ever run a race “for fun.” I continued to consider not going.
Friday night I ended up going to bed early and Saturday morning I woke up a bundle of nerves. What if I had completely forgotten how to race? What do people even take to races? WHAT IF I BONKED?! What if I had to stop and walk? What if I PRed…
Looking at a race map for the first time in 10 months isn’t intimidating AT ALL. Wait, how do I read one?!?!
I went through the usual rituals – bagel, peanut butter, banana, bathroom, warm up mile on the treadmill, wake up Sean, get out the door, drive over to the race, try to ignore the butterflies in my stomach…
And we waited. And waited. The race ended up starting about an hour late (con of being a small race that is a family fun run and not a serious race) and before I knew it I was toeing the start line for the first time in almost exactly 10 months.
Probably one of the most flattering pictures of me ever taken. Here I am, just awkwardly standing around, picking at my fingernails. Where do I go? The front? The back? Where is everyone? Do you like my shoes!?!
I lined up near the front and waited as they counted down…
Time to say a prayer. PRAY PRAY PRAY THINK MOTIVATIONAL THOUGHTS PRAY PRAY PRAY!!!
…and then we were off.
Everyone else is starting their watch, so I shall too! Also, I am starting to smile BECAUSE I’M FREAKING STOKED!!! I’M RACING!!!
And I felt like I was flying. And then I looked at my watch and realized I was… 7:21? You need to slow down.
There I gooooo!!!!
I reigned it in, let some people pass me and settled into a comfortable, quick pace. Miles 1-3 I was focused solely on maintaining a sub-8 pace and enjoying the scenery.
Mile 1: 7:44
Mile 2: 7:51
Mile 3: 7:53
Around the halfway point I started a mental battle that stayed with me for the next two miles. I kept telling myself that I was done, that I couldn’t sustain that pace because I have been running slow – not fast – for months, and that I should just give up. I countered all of that by arguing that the mind gives up far before the body does, that I was capable of doing this, and that I needed to catch the girl in front of me.
Mile 4: 8:01 – caught the girl and passed her
Mile 5: 7:59
At mile 5 I started doing fast math in my head, which is not easy considering I am a writer, not a math person. I figured out I could still PR and I freaking lost it. I got so excited that not even the fact that I felt like I couldn’t possibly speed up was enough to hold me back. I started trying to speed up, passing the 5k runners left and right.
Dr. Hinson!! Do you see me?!?! NO HEEL STRIKING!!
I turned the corner into the parking lot that the race ended in and I almost cried.
Mile 6: 7:33
Dr. Hinson!!! CHECK OUT MY FORM!!!
At that point I started sprinting. When I saw the time clock my stomach dropped out of my body and I broke into a huge grin while pumping my fist.
Last 0.2: 6:51
I was too fast for Sean to even catch me cross the finish line. OK, if you look closely you can see me dying behind the left hand pole of the finish line.
Overall time: 47:05
Last year’s time: 48:54
I have never been more grateful for my body allowing me to run in my life. This race was far from perfect – I clearly have a lot of mental work to do because it was a battle – but it proved to me that the way I’m training right now is working for me and that I still got it.