This last weekend I started off my 24th year of living with a rousing 13.1 mile trail race. Being less than 1/10th the distance of an Ironman (not that a half-marathon insignificant in the least) and my first competition since IMWI, I couldn't believe how quickly the race flew by. Correspondingly, I'll try to keep this update short and avoid excessive tangents..
I went into this race with basically one goal - to hold it together for the entire duration of the race. Previous to this race, I don't think I have ever finished a race as well as I had started it. Falling apart half or three-quarters of the way through a race and still finishing is admirable (maybe) and means that I have always been giving it my all, but it means that I've been absolutely boneheaded in my pacing. So, for this race, I wanted to pull off a steady effort throughout the whole race, and I also wasn't eager to suffer and have to reach quite as deep as I did 3 weeks ago at IMWI.
The relaxed atmosphere of the event played into my goal of steady pacing and taking it easy. I needed to stay chill and the venue was perfect for that - there were no long lines, no meetings to discuss the rules. Just a few tents in a field surrounded by the woods. I picked up my bib number 10 minutes before the start time, strolled over to the start line with 90 seconds to go, then bounded along with a couple hundred other runners when the gun went off at 8am.
There are usually at least two personifications that are active in my head while I'm racing. One is the uber-competitive and brink-pushing character. We'll call him "Samson". Samson brandishes a whip and says things like, "PUSH!!", "You're here to race - MAX OUT!", "Empty the tanks!", "You're faster than them - get in front of him/her!" and, his favorite, "Don't be a SALLY!!" The other character is more casual, wants to soak in the energy and environment, and wonders why Samson wants to grind my body to bits. We'll call him "Finn". Finn looks on the world with softer eyes and offers statements like "Just go easy, that's fine", "Look how awesome this is!", "Race your own race", and "Enjoy it".
I think most triathletes, myself included, have a strong Samson. Why else would I or any other triathlete grind away on the bike until we can barely spin the pedals any more - it's not like we find that feeling particularly fun or enjoyable. We do it because we're way too competitive and are always pushing the envelope of our perceived capabilities.
The relaxed atmosphere and quiet trails through the woods must have been powerful, because Samson actually shut up for most of this race. I went out and ran the first 2 miles at 7:40/mile pace. I looked around the woods, kept my mind quiet and let my legs spring me along. When things were feeling really hard, instead of pushing even harder, I just went easier. Simple as that! I maintained that even pace and quiet mind all the way through mile 12. Then Samson came back out for the last mile and reminded me to "Empty the tanks, ya Sally!!!" And, instead of coming in shuffling and broken, I crossed the line feeling good enough and finishing with a 6:20 mile.
My finishing time was 1:42, or an average of 7:42 per mile, on an extremely hilly trail run. I was so stoked to have ran an even pace and to have finished well. And, I WON! (My age group, that is.) Heck yea! I've came in 2nd and 3rd a number of times in the last 2 years, but this was my first win, so that felt darn good!
As always, thank you for reading! I hope you can get out and enjoy the fall colors this weekend!
October 25: Green Bay Duathlon (3mi run/22mi bike/1mi run)
Nov 8: Madison Marathon and Half Marathon - 13.1 mi run
July 24: Ironman Canada