I decided to do this one two days ago. I figured that my workouts for that week made for a decent taper, plus the weather was supposed to be fairly cool. I wanted to go for that PR, preferably the dream sub-20. Monday, I had done the hard 6.5 that made DOMS kick in on Wednesday, so on Wednesday, I worked out the soreness with 3.5 of hill training. It had been 3 weeks since the last race, which was okay but not a PR due to the uneven XC terrain. I did a strength session on Thursday to get in my PT for the week and left Friday for resting.
By the end of this past week, I was strangely rested. It's been so long since I've gotten 6-7 hrs a night. It was more like 4 last week, and maybe 5 for months before that. Maybe too much rest... I woke up after 3 hrs last night, had a bunch of decaf and cocoa, which probably made it hard to fall back asleep. Lesson learned. I was also a bit hungry, so I had cereal and milk at 2am.
Woke at 6:45, had my warmup shower, packed, and drove out to the Y. The morning started off chilly in the low 50s but soon started climbing as the sun rose, such that as long as you weren't moving and causing a wind chill, you felt perfectly comfortable in a singlet. Once I was moving during my warmup, though, it got chilly. I started my warmup 30 min before the gun, which was probably too early. The warmup was along their dirt track, which is about 1/3 of a mile long. It was nice, and maybe I'll do repeats there at some point, since I've found no such soft surface thus far since moving here. I miss outdoor intervals sessions on the track. A real rubber-surface track would be preferable, so that I can be more exact on my workouts, but this will do just fine.
Anyway, once I was booted up in my Saucony A4s, I ran for 3 min, chilly. Then, 3 min of dynamic stretching. Then leg swimgs. Then, waiting... bathroom again. It was a small race, maybe 100ish, so there were no bathroom lines, for once! My legs maybe got a bit heavy during that wait, so I should stick to a 20- or 15-min prior warmup like I normally do. I was just too excited. I think I dreamed about running and maybe going for my PR... well, at least that was part of it... there was also something stressful that happened, like college or work or something, but I don't remember.
So... kept moving around... oh yeah, and HIS radio, one of the local Christian stations, was a sponsor, so there was great music that I was singing to the whole time. I had drawn a map of the course with all the street names and taped it on the back of my number, so that I'd know where to turn and expect landmarks and mile splits. Kept pacing.
Time to line up! I thought there'd be some fast people who'd want to get in front of me, but nobody went up in the space I left them, so I got right up to the inside of the start line. The gun was off, and two boys charged off, but I was third. Okay, glad I didn't get in peoples' way. About a quarter mile in, a HS kid and a man charged by, and I hung behind them through the half-way point. The streets weren't closed to traffic, but there wasn't much traffic, so it was okay. The HS kid dropped off at the crest of the hill, at about the 2-mi mark. They said it was a flat course... I think not. Just the one major hill, but without it, it would be faster. That's good news, I guess. There was sidewalk, but since concrete is 12x harder than asphalt, I ended up staying on the asphalt after the halfway point. It's noticeably softer and less poundy on your legs.
After the 2mi mark, we were doubling back and doing the "stick" part of the lolipop-shaped course, so I got to see the runners. I cheered this one person on (see below for more on Rob's Biggest Losers), and a kid behind her gave me a high-five. Haha. Man, that cheered me up big time and gave me extra energy for a bit.
The last mile, I was getting tired. I knew that in the first mile, I probably had good form. I had just read a Runner's World article about form. Arms were at 90 degrees, not crossing the middle of my body. I think my slight lean's probably fine. I don't know how my footstrike is... but much better than it was 2 yrs ago, I think. Last night, I decided that I need to videotape myself running from the front, back, and side to check. I can take sideways glances at the mirror by the treadmill, but it involves looking backwards, so it's not a great view, and it's a bit hard, but I usually look okay. For the last mile, though, I wasn't thinking about form, since I was getting tired and feeling the run. Hanging in there... just a mile left... I've done 9.0mph 0.75mi intervals before, so I should be able to do okay. Checking my watch, though, I realized that I was probably not going to make the sub-20 goal.
In the last half of the race, I could feel that my arms were my limiting factor. Can't single out one single muscle... all of it felt tired. So even though I think my arms are over-developed as it is, maybe I need to strengthen a bit more. Rather than doing more with weights or bands, I think functional strength would be best... strengthen the arms by sprinting and making them pump. Or maybe they're tired because they have too much muscle to carry around. The fast XC college team girls usually have pretty small arms. Dunno.
Kept fighting to hold it. Saw an intersection up ahead but was afraid that it may just be the midpoint of the last section, but fortunately, it was the last turn, leading to the final 0.1mi. Thank goodness. Cranked it up for the last 0.05 to bring it in at 20:44 (6:41 ave, vs 6:27 needed to break 20)... a PR by 7 seconds. Can't complain about a PR. Decided on wearing my singlet because this was a YMCA event, but it would've been less hot without it. Give me 40 degrees, no singlet, and a flat course, and time to get my arms stronger and a track to practice faster-than-race-pace running (which I never get a chance to do on the treadmill), and I think I could go sub-20.
The spectators and fellow runners afterwards were super nice and offered congratulations and chatted with me. It was also great cheering in Rob's Biggest Losers (Rob's a host on HIS radio). These guys had been training for the past 14 weeks for their first 5K ever, and it was inspirational and so heart-warming watching them finish. Oh man, you're just so excited to celebrate this accomplishment with them. They were awesome. Rob ran in with each one of them, too, which was cool. There were also age-group awards, a good number of which some of the Biggest Losers took home! Really cool - I hope they've seen how fun running can be and will stick with it. There was also a kids' run around that dirt track, and they all got cool running dog-tags.
I got a $25 gift certificate to FleetFeet, which I used to get much-needed arch insoles and a magnet to cover up a dent I got on my bumper when I got rear-ended a couple months ago... unfortunately, the bumper is not metallic, so the dent is still saying hello to everyone... but I just put the 13.1 magnet to the right of the back of the car. I also got a glass paperweight with the 3-D bubbles that somehow get inserted to make the shape of a winged foot. It was really nice. The shirts were cool, too, in that they had Isaiah 40:31 on it:
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
So, it was a really cool morning... first time I've ever won a race! The closest I've come is 2nd, at my last race. It was a small race, but special because of all the really nice people.