I am 99.9% planner/ control freak. Which doesn’t leave a tremendous amount of room for spontaneity. So when phrases such as “jump in”, “give it a go” and “roll with it” began slipping from my mouth last week, it was enough to warrant a CT scan of the head.
On Thursday, I got word that the Junior Olympics track and field event my kids were scheduled to participate in on Saturday had been postponed. The shift in schedule meant I could possibly race the 5 mile Alaska Run for Women on Saturday morning. The tendon I strained two months ago was finally feeling 100%, and while I hadn’t done any speed work in two months, I was really itching to race and test my fitness. So, I channeled the 0.1% of me that isn’t obsessive compulsive about planning and training and preparedness, and I picked up a bib. (Insert the slow clap here while I march courageously toward the race registration table in a triumphant act of spontaneity, impressive only in contrast to my usual boring, control freakish ways.)
Even up until Saturday morning, I wasn’t sure I’d be racing. To get to the race in time, my husband had to get home from his night shift on time, the odds of which were not in my favor. But on this particular morning, it all worked out. He made it home to hold down the fort, and I made it to the start in time to warm up and do a few strides.
I did have a couple of goals going in. The C goal was to PR. The last time I’d run a 5 miler was nearly two years ago in the Johnnycake Jog with Salty (well not really with Salty–my five months pregnant running buddy left me in the dust before mile two). I’d since run faster 5 mile tempos than that particular race, so I figured even if I tanked, I’d still have the consolation prize of a PR. The B goal was to run under 35:35 (7:07) so I could earn a spot in the “elite” corral for next year. And the A goal–which felt particularly out of reach given my lack of training–was to get sub 35:00/ 6:59.
I didn’t have a race plan or a set pace to target, and I didn’t have a good idea of what I could do. I knew it was likely I’d go out too fast and that this could make for a miserable finish. But I didn’t jump into a race last minute just to run it conservatively! I decided as I waited at the start that I’d rather run out of steam at the end than have too much left.
The gun went off, and for about 30 seconds I felt gloriously fast. I think I ran the first quarter mile at a 5:55 pace. I considered what it might be like to maintain this pace for another 4.75 miles and wisely slowed my darn self down. The first mile contained most of the uphill portions of the course, just a few relatively short but steep pops. The first mile clicked in at 6:56. The second mile had a bit of downhill and I was able to catch my breath and reel in my adrenaline, clocking in at 7 minutes flat. By mile 3 and 4, I wasn’t letting myself look at the GPS and didn’t hear/ see the splits, but this was definitely when I slowed.
There were two women who I stayed with from mile 3 to the finish. Every time I mustered the courage to try to pull away, they stayed with me–and vice versa. I think it was around mile 3.5 that I began feeling and looking like death. For the next half mile, I contemplated whether I should attempt spitting the nasty dry-mouth saliva I’d accumulated over the last 3 miles. Finally, around mile 4, I decided to go for it. I fell a couple paces behind my racing companions and turned to spit as if it was somehow going to go on the pavement and not all down my chin. Yeah, that wasn’t gross at all. I quickly used my Salty Running tee to slop up my spit. Phew, no one saw that, right? Um, wrong. As luck would have it, we went from being totally in the woods to turning a corner with dozens of spectators–including the official camera guy with the monster zoom. So my foiled spitting attempt was witnessed by all and well-documented. My pace might be mediocre, but my timing is impeccable.
By the final half mile, I was toast. The race finished on a track with spectators in the bleachers, providing some great motivation to hold back the pukey feeling and just keep running. I finished in 35:17, averaging 7:04. You know how they say that if you look pretty at the end and it didn’t hurt, you didn’t do it right? Well, I did it RIGHT y’all. Judging from the fact that I felt entirely awful for two-thirds of the race, I’m comfortable saying I gave it my best effort.
C goal: Check. A nearly 2.5 minute PR!
B goal: Check. Put an E on that bib and pin it!
A goal: Rain Check! Next year, that sub-35 is mine!
Lesson learned. You can add a bit of spontaneity to your life without the world coming to a disastrous end. Which is good to know, should I choose to let that 0.1% part of my personality loose again in the near future.