Saturday, June 26, 2010

Well that's a first... literally!

So, I ran a race this morning. That probably doesn't come as too much of a surprise - I seem to be running a lot of races these days. But my decision to run this race was fairly last-minute. After my not-triple-but-double-race-weekend last weekend, I thought I was done running races until September.

Apparently, I thought wrong.

I found out there was going to be a race right in the town I live in. It's an old race - it's been around longer than Steamboat, I think. But I've never run it before, because it is small and intimidating. Yes, I'm intimidated by small races, because I have always feared finishing last. And for the record, although I never have finished last in a race, I have finished second-to-last. So my fears are not completely unfounded. Of course, that was 4 years ago and there's a story behind it... but I'll save that tale for another time.

These days, with all my recent PR's and whatnot, I don't worry so much about embarrassing myself with my slowness. In fact, I now look at small races as sources of great opportunity. In small races, I have the chance to place fairly high in my age group. Do you all remember that time, a couple months ago, I stumbled across a 5k race (it was a complete coincidence), signed up for it at the very last minute, and then won 2nd place in my age group? Even in the Cherry Festival 5k, which had over 450 runners, I placed 6th in my age group (out of 39). They don't give out awards for 6th place, of course, but I was still pretty proud of that. Never mind the fact that I was less than 1/4 second behind 5th place... grrrrrrr...

Anyway, fast forward to today. I rolled out of the bed this morning and decided that since I needed to run 3 miles anyway (per my training plan), I may as well run 3 miles with a bunch of other people and get a t-shirt and some bananas and cookies out of it. And there was that teeny tiny voice in the back of my mind saying "You could place in your age group too, you know..." I told the teeny tiny voice to shush.

I arrived at the high school, registered for the race, and then jogged down to the starting line. The 3 mile route was a route I'd run many many times, so I knew where the hills were, and how the elevation changed. I knew that it would be mostly uphill for the 2nd half of the race. I knew I would need to start conservatively to save some energy for that uphill battle.

And then I proceeded to do the complete opposite of that.

I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but I'm not so great when it comes to pacing myself during shorter races. I tend to go out too fast and then die off in the middle. Today was no exception. I ran my first mile in 7:31, which, incidentally, is the fastest one mile time I've ever recorded. (Prior to that, it was 7:43, which I ran this past Tuesday at FAST in a one-mile time trial.) So theoretically, I should have finished that first mile and then promptly died. But I am strong-willed when it comes to avoiding death. I pushed on, albeit at a much slower pace. My mile splits, as you will see below, were 7:31, 8:08 and 8:36. So, uh, yeah... that whole starting-off-conservatively-to-save-energy-for-later plan went just swimmingly.

Per my mile splits on the Garmin, I finished in 24:13. Per the official race results, I finished in 24:43. I'm not sure why there was such a large discrepancy, but they were having difficulty with the clocks when they were trying to start the race, so perhaps there was a timing error. And it's possible my Garmin was wrong too, although everything looks to be in order from my map and charts. But I think the strongest theory is that I was running so fast that my time slowed down, while time continued as normal for the race clock because it was stationary (per the Theory of Special Relativity), causing my Garmin to register a lower time than the race clock. I bet elite runners experience that problem a lot. *nods wisely*

Feeling good about my finish time, I stuck around for the awards ceremony, thinking that maybe I had a shot at 3rd or 2nd place. When they got to calling out the awards for my age group, I was on the edge of my seat, tapping my foot and biting my nails nervously. I'm still so new to this whole winning-awards-for-running thing, that it's all very exciting for me. They called out 3rd place... with a time of 30:something. Ooooo, I definitely had finished faster than that! Then they called out 2nd place... with a time of 29:something. Really? I was definitely faster than that too! And then they called out first place from another age group by mistake, and nearly gave me a heart attack. The announcer quickly realized his folly and called out "Sorry about that... First place in Female 30-34 is Emily ***** with a time of 24:43."


I did mange to get up and get my trophy without tripping, fainting, or crying. It was close, though. On all three. I felt like I was winning the Miss America pageant. I wondered to myself, Should I fake-cry? Wave to the audience? Wear a tiara and carry roses? And would someone sing to me "Here she is... Miss Female 30 to 34...."?

Okay, so it wasn't the Miss America pageant. But I won a trophy! A trophy! Look at it, all shiny and pretty, with the runner girl on it (who, by the way, I think I could beat in a race, just judging by her stride). And it says right on it "1st Place". That's just plain cool. I feel shocked, awed and damn proud.

So we've looked at the pretty - now it's time to look at the ugly: my run graph. This run graph may have won an age group award, but it's still not a good graph. I went out entirely too fast, and you can see my pace just got slower and slower and slower, until the last half mile, where I started to pick up again. I even took water in the middle of the race, not because I was thirsty (although I was), but because I needed an excuse to slow down for a little bit.

So, if I ever want to become a short-distance specialist, I suppose I'll have to work on my pacing. I have no problem running negative splits in a half-marathon or marathon. I know I have plenty of time to ease into a comfortable pace and then gradually build. But in shorter races, there's not a lot of time for anything gradual, and that makes me nervous. The nerves cause me to take off like a rocket, and then I fizzle out.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still very pleased with the run, and most of all, with my trophy. Maybe I'm not as slow as I think I am...

*puts on tiara and waves to the crowd while fake-crying*

Peace. Love. Train.

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