I didn't want to do it. It's rare to go into a race that you just know is going to be awful, because there's no way it can't be awful, and it's not a pleasant feeling. I started my warmup. I felt OK, but already like I was putting too much effort into running at a jog. I met up with some teammates and we headed to the line. I asked for some blessings from the running gods that this not be a TOTAL embarassment, and then it was just time to get it over with.
I felt terrible pretty much as soon as I started running, and it never really got any better. My quads and calves were burning right out of the gate and my face felt like it was going to explode with the pressure. I tried to just stay relaxed and not think about the seemingly constant stream of people passing me, and just worry about making it through this damn thing. I came through the first mile around 6:40, which was actually somewhat surprising. I knew that there was no way I was holding that pace for the whole five miles on the day I was having today, but it did give me some hope that maybe I would manage to salvage this from being a total disaster, and so I tried to stay relaxed and keep going. I was actually able to maintain a pretty reasonable pace through miles 2 and 3, coming through the 3 mile mark just under 20:30. Through all of that, I was feeling OK - not awesome, not good enough to even remotely try to push the pace, but I think once my body got adjusted to the idea of running the soreness and the congestion became just sort of a constant level of background discomfort. That was all well and good until about mile 3.5, at which point my body was basically just over the whole thing. Snot and spit were flying everywhere, my legs were toast, and I just wanted this slog to the finish line to be over so I could stop running. I definitely slowed over mile 4, which I'm guessing was right around 7 minutes flat. The last mile was just a death march of wanting it to be over; after being basically a straight out and back for the first 4 miles, the last mile takes several awkward twists and turns where you feel like you're much closer to the finish than you actually are. Add to that the fact that I was starting to feel my high hamstring tie up, and it was just time to get this over with. As I turned the corner and could actually see the finish line, I saw low 34s up on the clock. Well thank God, that wasn't a total disaster. I crossed the line in 34:24, feeling absolutely like a hot mess.
An important component of this race are the free photos. Every year at this 5 miler, I receive the gift of an absolutely hideous finishing photo hahaha. This is one of those pictures where I feel EXACTLY as bad as I look.
I managed to rally on the post-run high enough to enjoy the beerfest for a bit with some teammates after the race - tried a couple of tasty beers I hadn't had before from Victory and Anti Villian. My teammate Aly, who is just crushing her training, got 2nd overall and really killed it, and of course the GBTC team came in first (teams were scored by top 3 men and women...since our top 3 women went 1, 2, 4 in the race, I think that pretty much sealed the deal. Fast ladies!)
The race was much more fun after it was over
I actually had to look up my time from the previous year, because I knew it was similar, but turns out I ran just 7 seconds slower than the year before. Now, here's where I get a little bit stupid: that REALLY bothered me. I chose to completely ignore all of the relevant facts about the race (I was sick, the running that had occurred in the previous days) and ONLY focus on the fact that I ran slower. But no. All I could think was the fact that I ran slower this year, the fact that I really should be running faster than 6:53 pace for short races if that's my goal HALF MARATHON pace, how will I EVER be able to do that if I can't even do it for 5 miles? And on and on. It was really so damn stupid - a normal human would be like "dude, I basically ran the same time as last year, even though I'm sick and still recovering from something really tough I did! That's awesome!" I let the negativity sort of drag me into Tuesday's track workout, my first in awhile, where I ran not quite as fast as I wanted to and got all grumpy about it. Stupid! I guess it was really just a week where I felt like I want to be getting faster, and I don't seem to be getting faster. How do I do it? How do I get faster? Sometimes the doubts creep in that maybe I just can't get faster, though I know that can't be true. Add to that a little personal life dramz (let's just say that while I've accepted for the most part the fact that my relationship is a little atypical and the standard date for a couple years -> get engaged -> get married formula does not apply - it's been 8+ years, there are times when that fact makes me feel slightly less than adequate or satisfied and this weekend was one of those times) and I was feeling far too introspective and mopey for my own good.
I watched the Trials on Saturday and was totally excited and inspired by watching these women and men compete, both up front really running for Olympic spots and in the back of the pack, just achieving a dream. Feeling all inspired, I went out for my easy run...and it sucked! But I thought about the fact that each and every one of those women who stood on that line earlier in the day had also, in the days and months and weeks and years that led up to achieving their dream, had had runs that sucked. We all do.
So then, FINALLY, all of this story leads up to my long run on Sunday. A lovely day with a HIGH of 11 degrees and windchills resulting in "feels like" temperatures ranging from -6 to -20 throughout the day. It was so, so tempting to just put it off until Monday, but I was motivated by, of all stupid things, FINALLY getting a damn 50 mile week in. So, off I went. I made a route that was basically 2 big loops, with a smaller out and back at the end, giving me 3 opportunities to bail to the treadmill if it really was that bad. The first 3 or 4 miles I felt awful. My legs just weren't moving and my stomach hurt and I was just like...how am I going to get through 18 miles this way. Once all was said and done I realize that the reason I felt this way is because I thought I was running like 8:15 miles and I...uh...wasn't. #noGPSproblems. All of a sudden around mile 4, something clicked. I was listening to a song that was like a remix of ABC, 123 (After looking it up, it's "Easy Love" - Sigala). It was catchy, the sun was shining, I was almost done with my first loop, and all of a sudden I was like...yeah. Yeah! Yeah! I thought the feeling was just because I was running too fast 4 miles into my long run, but the feeling stayed. The WHOLE run.
I kept looking at my watch and feeling like I had to have screwed up mapping my route, or something, because there was no way I could be running this fast. But the information I was getting from my legs while I was running confirmed that yeah, this FELT like I was running fast. It just felt completely and utterly fantastic. I stopped around mile 9 to grab some water and take a Gu, and when I started again I felt like I had barely been running at all. In the later stages of the run my face kind of started to hurt from the wind, and I questioned whether I might be getting frostbite, but my legs never once caved in. It was a feeling that I've never experienced before on a long run: the feeling of strength, even in the later stages of the run, a feeling that my legs could go on indefinitely. It was absolutely spectacular. I felt like after weeks of tapping on the glass of being fit, the window had finally shattered and I was through. As soon as I got home, I immediately mapped and re-mapped the course to confirm - I even ran an extra loop of ~0.25 which I timed but didn't count in distance, just to account for any mapping error. And sure enough: I had just run 18 miles in 7:32 pace. Now granted, there were of course quite a few stops for traffic, water, etc...but that is faster than my current marathon PR pace. And it absolutely felt like I could go faster! It was, in short, exactly what I needed after a week of confidence decreasing runs, because now I feel like I'm ready to take the next 9 weeks and make myself faster.