Ages ago I saw a friend of mine, Doug Dugroo, running on the trails and when I asked him how he was doing he replied “Every day I’m vertical is a great day!” That simple statement of gratitude stuck with me. The stress fracture and subsequent 8 weeks off was awful but, in a way, I’ve been rejuvenated; reminded ten folds how much I love this ridiculous sport. That feeling combined with lots of hard work over the last month left me with zero nervousness for my first bigger race back from injury this past weekend. We didn’t taper for it but I went in with expectations and a plan unlike the race I blogged about last entry. With no nervousness and all excitement, mentally I put myself in a position to succeed, which is something we try to practice on a daily basis because it translates to the marathon more than people give it credit for. The mental side is huge.
Race morning my babysitter showed up 20 minutes late. I was planning on meeting friends at Running, Etc. where we would all leave our things and warm up to the race start 2 miles away. Instead the late sitter sent me into a panic wondering if/when she would show and when I arrived to the store late with friends waiting on me, I threw my key on a safe store shelf, leaving my gel, sunblock, and phone in the car. Not a big deal except that when we arrived at the start, because of the humidity, I felt like I needed something for fuel. Running, Etc. had a tent that we all hung out in before the start and the booth next to ours had dum-dum pops. I politely asked for one and there you have it; I had a lollipop for pre-race fuel. Ha.
My plan for the race comes from my favorite Shalane Flanagan quote “Put yourself in position to capitalize on the day.” Basically I translate that to- train hard, race smart to succeed. One thing I’ve gotten better at over the years is knowing my own racing style. I know when there are girls that are faster at the shorter distances than I am, I need to have patience, stay the pace so I can negative split, and trust that my endurance will pull through. We went through the first mile in 6 flat and while I felt great, there was still a solid pack of girls within seconds of each other. Our second mile slowly spread out a tiny bit and left an amazing runner, Octavia, and I together. We stayed within steps of each other for the next 3 1/2 miles, and I can’t speak for the other runners but since I knew how fast the other ladies were, felt like they could pop up and blow by us at any second. It was a fun and exhilarating welcome back and I looooved it. Octavia and I went back and forth as the lead female, surging a bit and our splits were 5:58, 5:52, 5:58, & 5:50. These were my mile splits according to my Garmin watch which had us running 5.1 miles for the 8K. I didn’t see mile markers during the race or get mile splits afterwards so that’s all I have to go by. The official results have us at a slower average and that’s perfectly fine. I was a terrible tangent runner but only have myself to blame for not knowing the course. The last mile I was able to push ahead a bit to pull off the womens win and 7th place overall (guys & gals). After a rough Spring it felt so darn good to win.
Without a PR am I happy with that race? Absolutely. I came ready to work and had patience enough to stick with a plan. It’s hard to admit that I’m not back to the shape I was in January (before my injury) but this was a nice stepping stone to get there. I’ve been working very hard daily, staying on top of strength and drills, keeping only positive training elements in my life, and sleeping and eating (mostly) right. With another few weeks of training I believe I can get back to the fitness I was at, then start building on it as we aim for the Chicago Marathon. Next up I’ll run the Tidewater Striders Summer Series in July like I do every year and also a Trail Half Marathon that I have never run before. For those who have asked, I have had no pain at all in my back. Thank you all very much for the support and for reading! I hope you are all having a wonderful summer!