My goals were to gain experience and have fun. I like the atmosphere of races. I signed up the week of, and once I did, it made my entire week more exciting. I had something to look forward to as I went to work and stuff. I decided to "train through". I think I have an idea of what works best in my taper plans, based on past experiences, but even shaking things up can have its own purpose. You may find out that something else works better, or even if it's still sub-optimal, you can find out exactly how much it affects you.
I slept 4-5 hours a night this week, so on Friday night, I was ready to sleep at about 8pm, and I woke up at 5:30. I wasn't so eager to get up, even with race morning excitement, but I did. I had my warmup shower. The hot water warms up my muscles, and I for some reason don't like to race without washing my hair first. Odd. Anyway. I wasn't super hungry, but a mini-Clif bar hit the spot. And a few cups of decaf and lemon water - not excessive, just replenishing. Don't want to have to use the bathroom near race time.
Got there at 7:10am, picked up the packet and race number (101 :) ). I had a huge flock of butterflies in my stomach. I guess it's a good thing... means the body is responsive and getting adrenaline and all systems ready to perform. Put on my shoes, went through the stuff in the packet, which is nicer than what you get at most races these days. Bi-Lo sponsored little trinkets, and I read through a nice tract.
(Wellford Baptist Church)
At 7:42ish, I went out for my warmup. I know I should've waited until 7:45, but I tend to get really eager. I did a 3:30 min slow warmup, then dynamic stretching and ROM. The race was delayed about 15 min, but I walked around to keep moving. Temps were unseasonably cool-ish. Upper 60s. Good.
We started at the front steps of the church and went out, following cop cars. It was kind of neat to be close to the front and to see the cop cars. I must've started a bit too quick, because I led for the first 30M or so, but then I pulled it back a wee bit and settled in as others passed. I tucked in next to some other runners. There was a girl behind me and another in front of me, and that's how it kind of held.
The course was a bit hilly. I've been wanting to get better at hills, since I normally get passed a lot on the uphills. It will be important if I do the Philadelphia marathon, since there are some moderate hills at mile 9. I seemed to be taking them ok, though, or at least it was close to what the people in front of me were doing. There were a couple of small out-and-back portions, which are always fun. The girl who was leading was really nice and cheering people on on the other side as she ran, and she knew their names, and they knew hers. I wonder if she goes to that church.
There were no mile markers, but I felt pretty good about my pacing. Just holding it. I stayed behind the leading girl and just went, knowing that as long as I stayed close, I could probably outkick her at the end. I had never really understood why elites raced tactically, rather than doing even/negative splits at max effort. I've never been fast enough to actually have to race with any sort of tactics, so this was kind of interesting. But maybe it's so that you can draft or so that you can run to win, yet save something for other races and training. Anyway, I was comfortable with just hanging in. I'd look at my watch to estimate about how many minutes left of running we had.
We neared the end. There were some uphills. We were getting close, based on the time elapsed. There was an uphill, and it looked like the church should be right about there, so I started picking it up. The girl picked it up, too, and faster than I could handle. It turned out that there was a turn and still a little stretch of road to run. The girl kept going faster, though. So even if I had tapered and made this goal race, I think she could've covered any moves I tried. I was breathing somewhat hard for the last mile or so... not super hard, but noisy, but she seemed to still be cruising on an normal run or something. She had been doing most of the work by taking the front and looking for the arrows on the ground, and had the energy and kindness to encourage people. I didn't win, it's an honor to lose to someone as nice (and fast) as her.
My final time was 22:08, about 84s off my PB. The hills added a decent chunk of time, and tapering and training would take off some more. The rest... we'll get there.  I'm determined and more motivated than ever to train hard, though. Ready for a rematch, haha.
(I liked that - Running to the Cross)
Afterwards, it was fun meeting a few people. I'm super shy... probably in the 99.99 percentile, haha. So it's nice when people come up to you and chat. They were a really nice group of folks.
What did I Learn...
1. What it's like to run a tactical race. If you race against the same set of competitors over and over again, like the elites do, you can learn everyone's strengths and weaknesses. If I ever run against this person again, I may have to push the pace a bit more, so that I don't get outkicked at the end. I normally can pass most people in the finishing stretch, but not this time.
2. I could still use more hill training, but I seemed to do okay or at least better than normal, as least judging from other peoples' relative paces. Does it mean that I'm really improving, or just that the people who are normally around me on hills are going too fast on the uphill?
3. Gained - motivation to train hard.