Yesterday I did the Groundhog Run 10K. The race took place in the Hunt Midwest Subtropolis underground caves in the KC area near Worlds of Fun. I wouldn't want to do more than a 10K in that place--after about three miles, the novelty of running in the cave wears off. Everything starts to look the same.
It was awesome to run someplace other than a treadmill or track. I think I've only run outside five times since November, and four of those were in Orlando when it was COLD! Since my my plans for a fast race at Disney were derailed by rain, sleet and cold weather, I wanted to be fast.
I've been working really hard for the last three weeks on picking up my pace. As I've said before, I'm not a fast runner. A year ago I hated running. Every gain in speed and distance comes from a lot of hard work and consistently working toward achieving my goals.
Two weeks ago, I had an amazing running week. Every time I ran, I was faster than the day before. It seemed like I'd finally broken through a plateau. On that Friday, I ran 7 miles in 62 minutes on the treadmill, which was huge for me. The next morning I woke up and could barely walk. I didn't run last week, except for a lap around the track a few days to "test" my hip and knee to see if I'd recovered.
Finally, it was time for running club on Saturday morning. I was confident I was ready to run again. It was the first day of our new club, and I didn't want to skip. I had a pretty good run. I felt fast. (I still don't know exactly how far I ran because my Garmin watch with the footpod designed so I can use it indoors, did not work properly.) But, I felt good and went to bed Saturday with the confidence that I could turn it on Sunday morning at the 10K.
I woke up early. I think my body is finally trained to know it's time to run at 5:30. Since I was awake, I had extra time to stretch out my hip and lower back, which was a bonus. I ate a banana and a Kashi bar (another attempt to find a food that my stomach will tolerate when I run.) & filled up my sports bottle with Spark to drink on the way.
Runner Idol/ Virtual Coach has been working on my mental game. He knew long before I did that I was capable of running faster. I had an email from him waiting when I got up, reminding me that I was tough and fast and was going to kick @ss in the race. I decided it must be true, and dressed in tough, ninja black instead of my usual girly-pink to help remind me that I am no longer a girl who runs because it's fun. I'm a bad ass runner chick who runs fast because she can (and because, yes, it's still fun).
We were running underground, and I wasn't sure my new Garmin footpod would be reliable. In theory, the footpod makes it so the watch will work without the GPS, which also means it works like a pedometer and might not be accurate. Just in case, I wrote my mile and half mile goal times on my arm so I'd have an easy way to see if I was on track to meet my goal. (I am aware this is geeky and weird. :-)
The watch didn't work right, as predicted. They didn't have half mile markers. And, not every mile was marked. It was very hard to gauge my speed.
My goal was to run a 9 minute mile. I'd only done this one time before, on a treadmill, where I had the luxury of constant feedback on my speed and distance....and the ability to up the speed to crank out a 7:30 mile if needed to meet my goal time.
At the start of the race, the tunnel was packed. Thick with people. We walked down the side tunnel to the start and stood near the 8:00 mile pace group. We didn't belong there, but there was no way to get back toward the 9/10 minute mile groups. So, when the race started, I got shoved in with the 8:00 minute mile group. I knew going in that I couldn't get stuck in a pack at the start if I wanted to run 9:00 miles. If I didn't start at 9:00, (if I got stuck running a 10 min mile for the first mile) I was not capable of catching up.
There I was with the 8:00 minute group. The pack spread out fast. I had lots of space almost immediately. And....I was keeping up with them! It was a little dark, and I was running too fast to even see if my watch was working. When I hit the one mile mark, I looked down at my watch. I ran my first mile at just over 8 minutes, exceptional for me.
I noted that the distance wasn't tracking properly on my watch, so I'd have to rely on my watch time and checking my time at the mile markers. I also knew I couldn't keep an 8:00 minute pace for 6.2. miles. I dropped back a bit. But I had no idea how fast I was actually running.
There was no mile 2 marker.
At mile three, I was pleased to see I was ahead of my 9:00 goal pace by about 2 minutes.
I was half way there! I could do it. Mile four was a little difficult. I tried not to slow down. (I'm very frustrated because my stats are stuck on my watch. They won't download. I'm pretty sure mile four is where I got off track. I'm dying to see.)
Runner Idol/Virtual Coach told me that I had to have fire coming out my shoes on miles five and six. I kept telling myself that I needed to get faster and work harder. I couldn't slack.
By mile six, I believed it again and kicked it up until I crossed the finish line.
I was soooooo close! I finished in 56:23, which put me about five seconds per mile behind where I wanted to be.
I was happy--it was 16 minutes faster than my last 10K--but I was also depressed. I know I could have done better.
Then, right before bed, I realized what I had done. I went out there, ran my fastest race ever, and I did it without the constant feedback from the treadmill, or the ability to increase the belt speed so my feet would have no choice but to keep up. I went out there and gave it my all, without much of an idea as to whether or not I was even close.
Most people would not consider me a fast runner. I know a lot of people who can run 9:00 minute miles without training nearly as hard as I do. I've said for months that I can run forever. Yesterday I showed myself that I have the potential to be fast, that my body knows what speed feels like, even when all my gadgets fail me.