Oh, and yes, I went all out with the red, white and blue because it was July 4th and I like to go big. The morning of the race was gorgeous, warm but totally dry, which is rare for this time of year. Lucky us.
As usual, I was up at 5:30am. I sipped some coffee and tried to relax while I waited. And then waited some more. For the record, I really wanted a second cup, but I didn't do it. Too risky. I left around 7:30, got to the school around 8:00, grabbed my bib and shirt and then took off for my warm up. It was already pretty hot when I got going and by the time I was back I was sweating profusely. It's a smallish race so I did notice a few people looking at me and wondering why I was already soaked. Gotta love it. A little side story here. I stood in line for the bathroom and listened as the people next to me had the following conversation:
Guy: Where's Mike?
Girl: I think he's off running.
Guy: Oh yeah, he's probably off doing his 20 mile warmup.
That's right folks. A lot of us, regardless of whether we're fast or slow, like to warm up before we race. Does it seem weird? Perhaps. Is it weird? Not really. You can't go from zero to sixty in your car without seriously stressing the engine. It's no different for our bodies. As a runner and a coach, I 100% guarantee that you'll have a better race if you get the wheels spinning prior to the start. Don't believe me? Try it next time. Still think it's ridiculous? To each his own.
Okay, so back to the race. It was just before 9:00am, I was warmed up and ready to rock. I won't lie and tell you that I didn't reconsider using my watch. It's kind of scary to let go and run without knowing how you're pacing yourself. But, once I got to the line I'd talked myself back into it. I chatted with a few gals who were also wearing Oiselle, running gear being one of the great uniters, while I tried to stay calm and breath, reminding myself many times that this was supposed to be for fun. Finally, we were off. I'd give you the detailed play by play but there really wasn't one this time around. I settled in behind a couple women, hoping to use them for pacing. I grabbed water at the first mile and shifted gears a bit. I had no idea what kind of time I was running and I've never felt so free in a race before. There were no mental games. I was just cruising, feeling good, letting my legs dictate and going with the flow. It's a hard course, and the heat makes it tougher, but I was feeling really good and my body was responding each time I surged. I got through miles 1-3 pretty comfortably and then mile 4 felt about 20 minutes long, but it didn't matter because I didn't know my pace and there was nothing I could do about it. And because of this, I didn't really care. I just wanted to be done. Someone told me I had the lead right as I started in on my final mile. I was fired up but without knowing who was behind me while also knowing I didn't have much left in the tank, I knew it was still anyone's game for the win. At the final turn for the finish I saw a woman waving her hands madly and I had a feeling someone was gaining on me so I dug as deep as I could to stay in first. I crossed the line in 32:19, my fastest time to date, which I was thrilled about, mostly because I beat my 32 year old self. But the best part was that I was overcome with pure joy and elation, a post-race experience that hasn't happened for me in quite some time. I hate to sound cheesy here, but I was so ridiculously proud of myself for following through with my plan and then having it play out even better than I'd hoped.
Before I'd left for the race that morning, my kids had wished me good luck and told me to bring home the fudge....or else. They were joking. Kind of. I did bring home the fudge. Lots of it. But I also brought home a fresh batch of confidence in myself and my body. We runners battle illness and injury and whole lot of other crap. But, in the end, our bodies are going to do what they are capable of on the day. And in most cases, when we consistently work hard day after day, despite the small bleeps in the radar, it's more than we expect. I need to remember that. We all do.
Listen to this:
Giants by Lights