With that in mind and my new mantras in my tool box I hit the road with mrp to the race early Sunday morning. I found NC and ran my early warm-up before performing my other pre-race rituals: pinning on the number, changing into flats, etc. Hit the starting line for some strides and lined up next to my occasional training buddy MZ. Luckily he picked a spot close to the front, as you will see!
Despite all the detachment and mantras and all that I still had time goals for the race. A) < 1:25; B) <1:26; C) p.r. (1:27:34); D) course best (1:28:39). MZ was going for < 1:24. I thought I'd go out with him for the first mile or so and see what happened, since lately I've tended to go out a little too slow. The bell rung and MZ went out a little too fast--I could tell it was quite a bit faster than the 6:25 we had discussed. Sure enough around .25 in I saw sub-6:00 on the garmin. We backed it off some and then a woman came roaring up beside me. I heard Coach G in my head encouraging me to be competitive so I thought I might as well give attaching to her a try as long as it was semi-comfortable.
So, I stuck to her like glue for about half a mile. We went through the first mile (according to the garmin) at 6:14 (it's a little downhill, so not too worried about it and it felt fine). But as soon as we hit the mile marker she picked it up from there. I was not about to do that, so I had to let her go. MZ got away not long after that too. Around mile 3 I could see a bit where the runners ahead of me were and realized that woman made a ton of ground on me in 2 short miles. Good for her, I thought! She was clearly going for a much faster goal than I was. I was ok since I was running the mid 6:20's as I had wanted for the first 3-4 miles, since they're a bit downhill. I did just that without thinking about it too much. Each mile beeped in the right range.
At either mile 4 or 5 I noticed the garmin went off WAY before the mile marker. I made a mental note, but didn't worry about it at all. After the downhill miles I settled into a mid 6:30's rhythm. I would have liked to see a low 6:30's or high 6:20's, but I just rolled with it. Between mile 5 and 6 an older dude ran up beside me and encouraged me to hang with him. I did for about a mile, but then we hit a small uphill and he got away from me a bit. He yelled back to me, "Come on! You never know what's up ahead!" I never did catch back up to him, but his words stuck with me for the rest of the race!
I have to be honest. After he got away from me there was a minute or two in which I really had to fight the negative feelings. I was getting crushed by the first woman, MZ was long gone and even the older guy was getting away from me. Woe was me. But then, just as I was battling with myself I noticed something way ahead. A vision in pale pink. The first woman! I could see her waaaaaaaaay up there, but I could see her and I couldn't see her before that. Maybe. Just maybe. And this hope was enough to renew my commitment to stay positive.
At each mile thereafter I noticed she seemed just a little bit closer. I ran every one of those miles between 4 and 9 in that mid-6:30's range. My garmin beeped consistently between :35 and :40 before the mile marker, so I think mile 4 or 5 was just long, while the rest were on. Mrp said the same thing after the race. I knew I needed to add this time to my predicted finish and I knew I wasn't going to reach my A goal, but if I really hustled I could maybe, just maybe reach my B goal.
Mile 10 has the big uphill of the race and that wasn't too bad in 6:40. After that hill my race plan called for picking it up. So I did. And as I did the woman ahead got closer and closer. I was now holding steady in the mid-6:20's again and gaining on first! At mile 12 I was worried I'd run out of real estate, but I told myself I still had over a mile to get her. I pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed and with .25 to go I caught her. She stayed with me for a second, but then I turned on the jets I've acquired on the track and I just put that hammer down and ran with my eyes closed until the finish! And then I heard the announcer. "And here's our female winner, The Salty One with a time of 1:25:59!"
The last second win and the meeting of the goal by the tiniest of margins left me elated at the finish. Since mrp came to the race and NC and Coach G were also there we made it a point to hang out and have some fun afterwards. I grabbed an illegal beer courtesy of JV and swigged all bad-@ss like out of the open container on the way to Coach's car. And then we had brunch with a big crew of fine folks and have had more fun than I have had in a long time post-race!!!
We came home and I saw the results only have my gun time. Which is 1:26:00.40. NOOOOO! I talked with the R.D. who said that the timing company's new policy is to only acknowledge gun times for the overall placers, but that my chip time is used for age group records. It just so happened I have the almost old lady age group record of 1:25:59.59 and that, my friends, is going down as my official p.r.! Like I said, good thing I started close to the front or it could have been worse!
Anyway, I am now left feeling pretty good with things. A couple of months ago I would have been bummed with this time, but it is a substantial p.r. and a step in the right direction on all accounts. Big breakthroughs in running are hard to come by, but I am still hopeful one is right around the corner for me. Maybe it will be in 4.5 weeks, maybe not. But it will happen. In the meantime, I'm on the bubble for sub-3. That will be the goal, but if it doesn't happen this time I'll be ok as long as I keep moving in the right direction.