Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Considering that I’ve been running now for over 8 years, you’d think I’d have developed the ability to judge where my fitness is at at any given point of a season, but this past Sunday proved otherwise. The Bobby Doyle 5 Miler, held in Narragansett, Rhode Island, was a first for me in a number of ways. It was my first time racing as a member of my new team, The Heartbreakers. It was my first time representing my new apparel sponsor, rabbit. And, to cap things off, it was not only my first race of the season, but my first workout too! (in an attempt to have my cake and eat it to, I’ve decided to incorporate running workouts in local road races as part of my training).
I went into the race with relatively low expectations, looking to do nothing more than see where I was at and have some fun. My race plan was simple: don’t do anything stupid. By that I meant don’t go out like a bullet, don’t get wrapped up in racing people instead of doing the workout as planned, and, most importantly, don’t be married to my watch. I figured if went out conservatively and picked it up a bit the second half, I’d have a solid first tempo effort somewhere in the 30:00 – 31:00 range.
The gun went off, and I stayed calm. Women I know I am capable of competing with when I’m at my best surged to the front, and I let them go. I was controlled. I was relaxed. I was just cruising along. And at the first mile marker, I was 20 seconds under pace 😳.
Normally when I find myself in this situation, it’s because I have, in fact, done something stupid. For instance, this past March I decided to run the first mile of my season-opening 5k in 4 minutes and 58 seconds – 15:24 pace. I then proceeded to die a very slow and painful death and finish in 17:13. In that race, I put myself in a hole from which there was no escape. I saw the split at the mile and instantly knew I was toast.
But this past Sunday was different. Despite seeing a mile split that was significantly faster than what I had previously decided was a conservative opening pace, I knew I was OK. I felt good. I felt comfortable. I knew I was within myself. So as surprised as I was by how those first 1609 meters had played out, I kept on it. And it turned out great. I spent the entire racing working my way up through the field, passing by some who may have gone out a bit too hard, especially considering the 85 degree heat and high humidity. I struggled a little bit in the 4th mile, which was the only real uphill mile in the race, but I rallied for the final mile and finished strong. I ended up placing third overall for women with a time of 29:00 for 5 miles – 5:48 pace.
This race was a pleasant surprise. Not only was I proud of the overall time I produced, but I was proud too of my ability to stick to a my race plan. In the past, this has been something I have struggled with. To be able to execute a race plan – especially one that involved me being conservative and staying near the back early on – shows that I have grown a great deal in the last two years. It tells me that I am ready to take the next step in my running career, tells me that I am more than ready for what is to come.