I really should stop doubting myself. (Hold on, this is a long one.)
I haven’t been this nervous before a race in a very long time. After a speedwork session last week (mile repeats at 7:18) I questioned my ability to chop off that much time off my 5k PR. 54 seconds is a lot to chop off for a 5k.
While I knew I was going to push as hard as I could there was something in the back of my mind telling me to step back so I wouldn’t be completely devastated if I didn’t make my goal.
That voice was still there at the start.
My goal pace for this race was 7:20. That’s what I kept telling myself. Hold 7:20 for each mile and you’re golden. I knew I needed to start close to the front if I had any chance at being able to hold that pace from the very start.
Four minutes after making my way to the center of the road, we were off.
Instead of holding myself back, I focused on finding a comfortably hard pace. I glanced at my Garmin a couple times but didn’t back off when I saw 6:4x. I kept pushing and focusing on my breathing. A side stitch tried to derail me within the first half mile but I wouldn’t let it.
I passed the first mile marker right on schedule, 7:20.
You don’t really have time to zone out in a 5k. They’re so short that you’re constantly thinking about the next thing on the game plan. You’re (or at least I was) always checking the Garmin.
The only frustrating part of the course was the first turn off Main Street. The course narrows to one lane. With so many people running, even when you’re running with the fast people, there wasn’t enough space to pass. You could almost hear sighs of relief coming from multiple runners when we turned off that street and were no longer limited to one lane.
Through this part my pace dipped a couple times below the 7:20 mark. Those were the only times I told myself to pick it up.
Otherwise, between mile markers 1 and 2 I kept wondering why it seemed like we were going so slow. We weren’t actually going slow, of course. 7:00-7:20 is not slow. It was almost as if my equilibrium had shifted, shifted higher. It’s a weird (and hard) thing to describe but I like it. If comfortable hard is now 7:20, I can’t wait to see what it will become with more training.
When we made the turn at mile 2 I was still on track. Almost 14:40 exactly.
I was encouraged but knew that the hill was close.
Oh the words I could say about this hill. I won’t of course but there are many to be said. It’s not a steep hill like Walnut Street in Asheville. It’s one of those “long”, slow inclines, the kind that drains you almost as quickly as a punctured balloon.
As I started up that hill, I kept telling myself I could beat it. That I would beat it. I hate hills but I’ve become pretty good at running them. I still don’t like this one. In fact, I’m pretty sure I said “I hate 5ks!” out loud in the middle of this hill.
The only good thing about this hill? It ends. Then there’s a slight downhill to the finish.
It’s so much fun to run down Main Street. It’s also so difficult at that point in the race. You’re so close to the finish line yet there’s so little left in the tank after that lovely hill.
I tried to step it up but that magnificent sprint I had hoped for didn’t come. Then I saw the clock over the start line. As I approached it hadn’t ticked over to 22 minutes yet. I briefly wondered if I could swing a 21:xx. Then I remembered that that was the start line, not the finish. A tenth of a mile remained.
I started to celebrate. When I crossed under the start line I had just under a minute to run one tenth of a mile and still make my sub 23 goal.
I really hope I was able to smile for the finish line photographer. (I was still feeling a little like death warmed over from that hill.)
I crossed that finished line, hit stop on the Garmin and indulged in a celebratory fist pump.
I still can’t believe that time. That’s a 1 minute 23 second PR. I didn’t just beat my goal. I smashed it! I kept looking at my Garmin and wondering if somehow I missed part of the course.
I don’t have any finishing photos. Mom missed me because I was going so fast. That’s a good problem to have.
Not only did I get make my 7:20 average pace goal but I also smashed it with negative splits. Now that’s what I call a great race!
7th in 25-29 age group
I guess you could say that I’m happy with my time, especially since once again I have the fastest 5k time in the family, by 30 seconds no less.
Now it’s Hilton Head Half Marathon time. Goals might just get a little crazier.