Another 5 mile race in the books and learning you're actually strong.

Well, guys. Fall is finally here. I never thought I’d be able to say that. I had doubts the heat would EVER leave, but like all the years prior, it comes and goes as promised. I know that sounds all poetic and mushy, but think about it. How amazing are the seasons? Every year we get to experience a re-birth of color, smell and temperature. I think if we took a vote, fall would win for everyone’s favorite season. IMG_8447.JPG

Despite wanting to talk about how great the cooler weather is and rave with everyone and their mother about pumpkin spice lattes, I’m going to live in the past for a few more posts (or at least until I catch up with race recaps).

Let’s go back a few weeks to the Memphis Road Race Series 5 mile.

LAWDDDD IT WAS HOT.

Dead of August and minimal course shade.

Let’s do this.

I was coming off a win and big PR at the Overton Park 5 mile classic a few weeks prior, so there’s always the pressure to better that time. Knowing Overton Park was half on trails, and this was all on road and less hilly, I thought surely I could grab another PR.

Since racing garmin-less, I’ve felt less expectation to hit a certain “time” or “pace”. My plan? Go for a win and be brave. Alright, here we go, I can try to do that! I don’t ever have a difficult time competing against those around me, but the tough part of this race came two days prior.

On Thursday before the race (race was on Sunday), I had a great workout with a training bud. Let me give you a little background info on my training plan. My coach will sometimes give me a “general” range of reps for intervals. For example, Thursday’s workout was “18-24x 8 seconds at 200meter pace with 1 minute rest between each”. Okay okay, I know what you’re thinking. 8 SECONDS?!? I promise, if you run these correctly, 8 seconds is difficult. My coach gives us a range because we need to be in tune with our bodies. If my legs are only able to give me 18 reps in a given day, I do not need to feel the pressure to run all 24. I really like this style. I know some people would always run the maximum given amount, but really, you have to listen. That day, I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen. This workout was tough. By the time we got to number 16 in this workout, my legs were screaming. I knew it would be a good day if I made it to 18. If I were running this by myself, I would have stopped at 18. Then there’s that competitive side of me again…shoot. Always sneaks in. Before I knew it we completed all 24, and I could barely jog home my legs were shaking so bad!

IMG_8347.JPGThe next day I was kicking myself for being stubborn, knowing I had a race in 2 days and I needed to recover! I took an ice bath, stretched, foam rolled, everything I could to try and recover. Well, the soreness was still present on race day. Stiff legs and far from poppy, but my coach advised me to still run it, and just treat it as a tempo. That completely took the pressure off, so I obliged and planned to still run.

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Also, what else was present on race day involves Mother Nature. Dang it! Despite feeling like everything was against me for this race, I took an ibuprofen for those Mother Nature cramps, and decided I’d still give it my all despite feeling sluggish and fat. (If you’re a woman you can understand).

Just as the name of the race implies, this is a series, meaning you’ll usually find the same people at each of the races. I didn’t sign up for the entire series, but I was fully aware there were some fast girls running all the races. When I got to the starting line, I made my way to the front, and noticed only one other girl lined up at the front. I figured that’s who I would be up against.

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Welllll, come to find out, homegirl ran division 1 track and cross country a few short years ago, and wellll, she went out with the 2 lead guys from the get-go. Shoot. I kept her in sight, and promised myself I’d try to reel her in after mile two.

The first few miles were relatively uneventful. I had no watch, and the miles weren’t marked, so I had to estimate where the 2 mile was by the water stations. I figured they probably put them every other mile, so when I came to the first stop, I guessed that was about mile 2. I kept division 1 homegirl in sight, and went to go catch her, but she must have had the same idea as me with the men in front of her, because she sped up, too.

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I grabbed a swig of water at the aid station, and I don’t know if I forgot to breath or what, but after grabbing that water, the infamous diaphragm side cramp came on. Shoooot. I knew it would be a long 3 miles, but I decided, “hey, I already have a million factors against me this race, what’s one more pain?” So, I dug deep and tried to keep homegirl within visible distance, although I could tell she was pulling away little by little.

Like I said, there weren’t any mile markers, or maybe I was too distracted by my legs being on fire and my side cramp coming through my rib-cage, but I had no idea how much distance we still had to cover before the finish. This was probably a good thing, to be honest. If I knew I still had half of the race left, I think mentally I would have given up then.

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It’s so amazing how our brains work. I swear I thought I still had at least 2 miles to go in this awful race, and then I hear someone say, “Mile 4! One mile to go!” WAIT ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I can hang on for another mile!

So I did.

I stayed with the pack of guys I ran with most of the race. As much as I wanted to pull away from them like I normally would try to do, I just couldn’t. I was giving everything I had to stick with them.

IMG_8462.JPGThe last little bit of the course winds around a huge park during which you can see the finish line the entire time. Can we all agree these are the WORST courses? Seriously, I was like, “Can I just cut across that baseball field and finish, pleassseeee?”

The finish chute is somewhat on an incline, so I pushed up the hill. My body hurt and I felt nowhere near a PR, but when I saw the finish-line clock, I was pleasantly surprised! 15 Second PR! 31:58. Barely got under 32! 6:23 average pace.

Not incredible, but we all know a new personal best is better than no personal best, and for what my body gave me that day, I can’t complain one bit. Hot weather, course with a million turns, stiff competition, and tired legs were what I had to work with, and I made it work. It wasn’t pretty, but I made it work.

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I learned that day you’re capable of probably more than you think you are. Not wearing a watch further solidified my previous thoughts that it can hold you back. If I had set a time goal or even a pace goal, I probably would have been super conservative for fear of not being able to get a PR with my tired legs. I’m glad I didn’t wear a watch, and I’m glad I was able to push through when it wasn’t my best day.

As for homegirl, she beat me by about 40 seconds, and I kept her in visible distance the entire time. I found out some of her other times from races, and she really is a phenomenal runner, so I’m pleased with being in relatively close proximity even! Ha!

Now, back to autumn. I am soooo glad the temperatures are no longer as hot as that race! Stay tuned for more race recaps from this summer! I’m slowly getting through them, and look forward to sharing more race days and insights I learn from this crazy journey.

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