“Wow, you are fast!” This is not considered a compliment when dating; however, in the running world, it most certainly is! Fast and running are two words that never went together to describe me until recently (Note: I am still not that fast; just quite a bit better than I used to be). I was always content with being a middle-of-the-pack runner, consistently ticking off miles during training runs and races but not exerting too much effort. It wasn’t until this summer that I made a concerted effort to do something that seemed impossible to me for the longest time – consistently and comfortably run at a sub-8 minute pace and run a fast 5K.
The training part wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I loved being able to zip over to the high school track during the boys’ baseball and football practices and crank out some intervals or really push myself during tempo runs. I saw my times dropping, and it was an intoxicating feeling. Leaving it all on the track/pavement during a training run was a rewarding feeling, one that made me want to train harder.
Between August and October, I saw my 5K PR fall three times. First, was a PR and first overall female for me at the Run for Suds 5K in August (23:08 but I swear it was a long course), but I crushed that at the Miles for Mutts 5K in September when I ran a 22:42, which was good for 2nd overall female. That PR held for a month until the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon offered me a free race entry to the Beech Brook 5K in Pepper Pike. Honestly, the race was awful for me. My shoe came untied a little after the first mile, and then around 1.5-1.75 miles, I stopped to walk for a bit when I thought I was going to puke (Note to self: DO NOT eat McDonald’s the day before a race!!!!). Despite all of that, I was able to finish with a 22:27 – my fastest 5K to date and 2nd female overall behind my speedy friend Pam.
My improvements didn’t stop at 5Ks. Because I have been too
lazy busy lately, I haven’t had a chance to write about my absolutely awesome half marathon experiences! Out of everything that happened this race/running season, nothing has made me more proud than the Northern Ohio Half Marathon in October. Hell, it is one of my top 3 running experiences to date! Leading up to the race, everything was wrong. I didn’t eat or hydrate as well as I should. I was busy running around the day before the race with football games and babysitting. I slept for crap the night before, and don’t get me started on stomach issues. Despite all of that, I ran my perfect race complete with negative splits and a super kick for the last mile (7:26 pace!). This is the first race where I felt physically and mentally strong the entire time, and I couldn’t keep from smiling. Everything about it was effortless! When I started the race, the goal I set for myself was to finish under 1:50. I completely blew that out of the water! I crossed the finish with a smile and a nearly 11-minute PR (1:43:57, which BTW is 7:56 pace!). That effort earned me first place in my age group.
The week after Northern Ohio, I ran the Towpath Marathon Half for fun because who the heck doesn’t love a half marathon through the gorgeous Cuyahoga Valley National Park?! It was also my friend Cory’s first half, making it a great experience and automatic PR for him.
I wanted to extend my racing season, so when the opportunity came up to run a half in my county right next to the place I work, I just had to sign up. The Inland Trail Half Marathon was November 5, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The weather was awful in the morning with rain, wind, lightening, and thunder, plus it was unseasonably warm and humid. I felt great during this race for the first 2 or so miles, but after that, it was a mental and physical battle to keep moving forward. Some races you have it and others you don’t. I definitely got a burst of energy at the turnaround on the trail and knew I only had about 2.5 miles left. Seeing the encouragement from others as I made my way back lifted my spirits and breathed life back into my legs. The last two miles felt easy, and when I made the last turn, I was so happy to see my oldest daughter and one of my twin sons standing there with our goofy little dog cheering me on. That run, although hard, was good enough for third female overall and my second fastest half to date (1:44:57).
So you might be asking yourself, “Why is she bitching that there’s a downside to all of this?” This might sound a little elitist or run-snobby, but it is hard for me to run now without putting the pressure on myself to do well. Before this year, I was lucky to place in my age group at a small, local race, and that was completely fine with me. Now, my attitude has changed. I have been fortunate to run well enough this summer and fall that I have placed at pretty much every race. I hate that I don’t feel satisfied unless I am “fast,” even with training runs. That thinking wears on me mentally and kills my motivation. I have really noticed it in the last few weeks.
What’s the remedy? I think I need to take a little time off from racing and just run to enjoy it and keep myself physically and mentally healthy. I am not signed up for anything until the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 8K and Full Marathon Challenge in May, although I will be running the 20 Mile Drop in April and the Green Jewel 50K in June. I have really big goals for CLE. Okay, big is a super understatement, but I am not at a point where I want to share. You will probably hear more as we approach the race. I think now is a great time to get a little rest, refocus, and find the motivation I need to propel me through another marathon training cycle. It’s going to be a great ride!