Up until Saturday, I seriously thought it was impossible for me to run well on the track at UW-Oshkosh. It's a gorgeous track, just built my freshman year, but for some reason, I've had crappy luck with my races there. From hurdles to the 1500, it just never has quite worked out. So I'm happy to say that after 4 years of trying, I have finally broken the Oshkosh Curse and run a freaking awesome race at the Oshkosh Invite.
The day honestly didn't really start out that well. I was feeling kind of tired and out of it despite getting a ton of sleep the night before - not having to leave until 10 (an absolutely luxurious time compared to the usual 7 or 7:30) was pretty awesome. When we got to the stadium, the weather was pretty much the best I've ever seen it for this meet - relatively warm (like 50), sunny, and not absurdly windy. It was definitely breezy, but nothing like the ridiculous windstorm we had to deal with last year.
I was definitely really nervous the entire day - probably partially because I always seem to run like crap at this meet, partially because after looking at the heat sheets I was afraid that I was going to just about get last. My legs felt like bricks on the warmup and then my stomach started tossing and turning as I was doing strides - I seriously felt like I was going to puke. Not exactly the most ideal feeling to have going into an over 3 mile race...yeeeeah. But much as I always want to stop time in the middle of the 200 heats and just postpone actually doing the race forever, it doesn't work that way, and soon we were on the line, 29 girls in the 5K (what a HUGE heat). The gun goes, we go.
The first lap or two of the 5K I never really know what the hell is going on or think about much...just kind of getting over the initial adrenaline surge and get into a pace. I went out in 45 for the first 200 which seems to be pretty standard. The first couple laps I kept telling myself to not worry about the leaders, since there were girls in the race who run 17 minute 5Ks...this was not the time or place to do something stupid. I focused in, but it was tough to get into a rhythm the first few laps because there were a surprising (to me anyway) number of girls right around my pace. I got stuck behind a pack for about half a lap, got irritated with running on their heels as I always do, and put in a little surge to pass them, then focused on the next pack, which I soon was directly behind agan. I passed them but this time it was a little tougher to pick up the pace enough to get passed, and I think I got passed back by a couple of those girls later on. But anyway. I came through the mile in 6:20, which was right where I wanted to be - I knew that I went out too slow (never thought I'd say that!) last week and that I was going to slow down regardless, so I could pick up a lot of time by pushing it a little the first mile. Once I semi-passed that second group, the people I couldn't pass started pulling away from me, but I pulled away from the girls behind me (some Kim girl from St. Norbert...at least that's who I heard people cheering for vaguely behind me). There were WTC people scattered all around the track cheering, the most ridiculous of which was Dallas who alternated between yelling "here we go Audrey, here we go (clap clap)" and yelling my splits in the second half, which I was pleased to hear were 2 seconds or so per lap faster than last week.
I hit the 2-mile in 13:01 to my shock and awe - that is by far the fastest I've ever opened a 5K. And it was in the instant that I heard that time that I pretty much just thought to myself - "fuck it, I am PRing today!" So the entire second mile, I've been slooooowly reeling in this Northern Michigan girl. At first she seemed way too far for me to get her, but I guess by some combination of her dying and me not, all of a sudden I was right on her shoulder. I know you're not supposed to pass on the curve, but I didn't feel like sitting behind her any longer - I surged and passed her, of course sealing my fate for spending the rest of the race listening to "Go Jess! You can catch this girl!" Um, no, sorry Jess. You actually can't. I was still feeling really strong (seriously, who AM I?) and kept pushing. At some point with like 1200 to go, all of a sudden Dallas was on the other side of the track screaming "now's the time to put in some EFFORT!" I almost started laughing...yes, because I'm not trying at all right now...haha. Anyway, the last 1200 I never really think too much. It just kind of happens...I'm running, running, thinking I've put some distance on Jess and hoping she doesn't appear out of nowhere...running...running...just willing my legs to keep going onward. I looked at my watch for the first time all race with 400 to go and saw 18:58. And with that, I knew it - if I could just make it through this last 400 meters in some sort of slightly reasonable time, a PR would be mine. I kicked. The last lap seems to drag on forever, and then I'm in the final stretch...I cross the finish line, slam my watch (of course, there's no clock anywhere in the vicinity) and look down in anticipation.
Despite gasping for breath and feeling like I'm about to fall over, I'm pretty sure I just yelled "YES!!!"
So I was giddy for the rest of the day. Still am, actually. We watched the men's 5k, the 4 x 4, and the 10K, which included a dude projectile vomiting as he sprinted down the home stretch, and the guy pacing him being like "it's ok dude, don't worry about it, just keep going". At least it was the home straight...how would you like to run even a 400 with puke all over your face? Classy.
So sub-20:30 5K = accomplished.
Suddenly, my goal of sub 20:00 doesn't seem so absurd. If I keep dropping time like this...I'm already thinking about what splits I need to run to get at least sub 20:15. I am such a loser, and I care not one bit.
Oh, and here's the song I had in my head for the entire first mile of the race:
Ummm....sometimes I don't even know.