Monday, February 23, 2009

All we know is distance

I was geeking out so much over my race on Saturday that I couldn't really think of anything to post on this until now...even now, I'm not really sure how to explain my race or how I feel about it, but I'm going to try because I feel like it's significant to me, and if its any indication of how outdoor season is going to go, then I am really, really looking forward to outdoor!

One of the few nice things about having a meet at the Shell is not having to get up at some ungodly hour and drive somewhere. I woke up around 9:30, had breakfast, and just hung out goofing around with the BF for a couple hours - it did NOT feel like I had a race. I went over to the Shell around 12:30 which turned out to be kind of pointless since no one from our club was running until 2, but Jade and Brittany and a few other people were there so we just hung out, watched the invitational 1200 (it's always fun watching people run your 400 pace for a 1200. yup.) and the prelims of the sprints and whatnot. I didn't actually start getting nervous about my race until the women's mile started - part of me wished that I had run that instead, just so I could be done. Jade ran an awesome race, she ended up going sub-5:30, and my other teammates ran well too. We watched the guys mile, and then Claire, Brittany, and I (the 3K crew) went to go warm up.

Everytime I warm up for a distance race, especially the 3K, I wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life. And how I got here - wait a second, wasn't it just 3 years ago that I was a SPRINTER? And now I'm running a serious long distance event? This can't be right...this can't be right at all. Its always during my warmup that all my doubts bubble up to the surface, as the 3 of us jog silently around the McClain center, each lost in our own world of thinking about the race. All of your senses are in hyperdrive - is that a side cramp coming on? My breathing doesn't feel right...that left hamstring feels really tight - each random twinge signaling disaster for your race. And yet we jog on, as time ticks down towards the moment when we'll be on that line, staring down 3000 meters of track.

So we came back out to the track, and time seemed to just slooooow down...every race seemed to have more heats than it was supposed to, and I kept doing strides and stretching nervously because I had nothing better to do. In this race, as with most distance races, it wasn't so much running well that I was worried about, although obviously I hoped that's what would happen, but it's just knowing that what you're about to do is going to hurt very, very badly, whether you run your best race ever or your worst. We talked to our coach about what we wanted our splits to be - I said I was shooting for 12 flat-ish, and no splits over 50, and Claire joked with me that I was shooting for 11:50, which I laughed off - yeah right, dropping 22 seconds? That's hilarious. Finally, it was time. We lined up, and then, the gun.

Probably the strangest thing about this race was that I basically ran it alone. Everyone was seeded above me by a pretty large margin, and the one girl who wasn't ended up running a 10:52...and your seed time was a 12:16 why? I honestly can't even say what was going through my mind during the race. I started out in 44, and knew that I had to pull back a bit, but even so my next couple laps were 45 and 46. I came through the mile in 6:12 and all I kept telling myself was "don't slow down. DON'T SLOW DOWN". Of course, I had no idea whether or not I actually was slowing down, or where my competition was, or anything at all for that matter. My only awareness was of the red track stretching out in front of me, the occasional call of my name from a random point on the backstretch, and splits. I kept listening for splits. A couple of times, they didn't come, and I assumed that meant that I had fallen off pace; that my coach didn't want to tell me...but looking back, that makes absolutely no sense, since you would think she would want to alert me that I was off. But aside from listening for splits, only one thought ran through my head - the number of laps to go. Over and over and over...5, 5, 5, 5, 5, like some kind of crazy cadence in my mind. With 4 laps to go, I finally heard another split - "48!" It suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't dropped off pace. All I had to do was make it through 4 more laps without slowing down, and I would PR. After that there was nothing - I just ran. I ran, and ran, and with each lap and the call of another "48" I came closer to home. I had completely given up looking at the clock by the time I reached the last lap. KICK!! I poured it on with everything I had left in me. Coming into the final straight, I finally looked up at the clock and saw eyes were blurry from the dry air and the effort so I had no clue, and in my haze I thought it was that moment, all that mattered to me in the world was reaching the finish line before that 11 became a 12. And in one last glorious moment as I crossed the line before I bent down hands-to-knees and commenced sucking air like I would never breathe again, I saw the glorious, glorious number:
A 22 second PR. I couldn't even believe it. As it turns out, I didn't run a single lap over 48. And that's the thing about this race - yes, I only beat 1 person. But I finally RACED. Even though there was no one else there to race with, I dug down and pulled out what I knew I had. I actually executed the race the way I wanted to - for ONCE in my life! And I don't even feel like I'm anywhere close to my peak this season, especially with the training I've been doing so far. So I guess I'm really going to have to work on that water jump, because I am ready to kick some 3K steeplechase ass in outdoor.

I love long distance. Who would have ever guessed?

all we know is distance
we're close and then we run

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