Monday, April 7, 2008

And the winner is....

Not me, if you’re looking at the official race results. But if you’re comparing me this year to me last year, I TOTALLY WON!!!! After a nice warm-up walk and jog with Amy, we lined up at the starting line, this year bumping into the 8-9 min/mil starting bin instead of the 10-12 min/mi bin. After cooling off just a little (it was 35 degrees and cloudy), the gun went off and we took off like a bunch of lemmings headed for the Clark Fork River.

The start was fast. Amy flat took off, never to be caught. My heart rate spiked immediately, and for the first few minutes I felt very anxious, nervous, unsettled. It felt strange to be running fast at the beginning of a race. And the sounds of all the footsteps and people breathing all around me was a bizarre sensation that I’m unaccustomed to, especially since I usually just run by myself with headphones on, or with one other person in a secluded area. But the thundering of footsteps, the panting all around me, and the quickness of my own feet all led to a near-panic-y feeling for the first few minutes.

I talked myself down, though, without losing speed. It took a few minutes of telling myself “this is okay,” “just find your rhythm,” “remember— you’d rather go out too hard and crash than finish wondering if you could’ve gone faster.” With those little pep-talks I began to feel a rhythm to my feet and my breath, and began to get comfortably uncomfortable.

Then, all the sudden, there I was at the first mile, and glancing at my watch I saw an 8:38. (actually, the course was marked in kilometers, but I had looked beforehand at the race route on Map My Run, so I knew approximately where the mile markers were). I worried just briefly about whether I’d gone too fast and blown it, but quickly shifted that thought out of my head and focused on my form as I crossed the first bridge over the river. I saw Amy out in front quite a ways, and was psyched to see her having a good run. “I hope she can hold it,” I thought, fairly confident that she could.

It was smooth sailing for the next little bit. I had a good pace going, the field had narrowed out a bit and I was playing leap-frog with a small group of other women (who all looked like Real Runners!) Then around a mile and a half or a little more, the doubt once again started to creep in. “I’m only half way there—can I keep this pace up for another mile and a half?” But just about as soon as those thoughts had time to enter, I pushed them right out and thought about my form. I leaned forward from the ankles a bit more, and felt a new lightness in my feet.

That lightness carried me to the base of the Hill, or the 2 mile point. I looked at my watch, and it said 17-something. A wave of calm washed over as I realized that I had ten minutes to get to the finish line. No problem. Amy was making the turn to run across the bridge as I was starting up the hill. “Holy cow,” I thought,” she’s flying. Go Amy!”

The charge up the hill was no big deal, as expected from last weekend’s training. But once I got on the bridge my heart was still racing, and I felt a pain in my abdomen starting to rise. Once again I threw my thoughts to my form, and imagined a bungee cord attached to the middle of my chest and to the far end of the straight stretch I was on. I felt the cord pull me along, and subsequently opened up some space in my chest, got a few good breaths, and let the pain slip away.

I made the turn to run downhill, and told myself to use the downhill stretch as a recovery. I let my legs flop, uninhibited by my mind’s fear that we’d trip and flail forward. Amy was practically out of sight by now, and I was elated to see that she was having a terrific race. I knew that I was running well, too, and as I passed the 4k marker I did a little math and figured that I only had another 5 minutes or so to run. “So come on, you can do anything for 5 minutes!”

I passed a few women as we rounded the backside of the baseball stadium. Then I hit the home stretch, a ¼ mile or so on a gravel trail along the river. If it was scenic, I didn’t notice. All I knew was that I wanted to kick, to give it my usual sprint to the end. But try as I may, the sprint wasn’t happening. My little legs just didn’t have any extra kick in them.

There were no other runners right in front of me, so I didn’t have anyone to race. But I looked up and saw 26:17 on the time clock just a hundred yards or so out in front of me. I gave it whatever push I had, and was blessed with motivational cheering from Jordan, and then Amy who rushed around from her recovery spot and cheered for me. I crossed the finish line knowing that I’d smoked my goal out of the water. As had Amy. Go us!!!

After 30 seconds or so of my usual post-race heaving, I straightened up and there was Amy, ready for our celebratory hug. We were both so proud of ourselves and each other, it was awesome. We both exceeded our expectations and both felt we’d given it just about all we had to give. What a terrific feeling!

Post-race we enjoyed a great bowl of chicken chili and breadsticks at McKenzie River Pizza with Jordan and Beth. It was good to re-fuel and to get warm and to see friends that I hadn't seen since last fall. For the rest of the weekend I kept thinking about how proud I was of us. Sure, it would’ve been nice to beat Amy. But it was even better to see her push herself harder than she has before and realize that she’s so much stronger and faster than she thought. As for me, it was awesome to have proof that my efforts over the last several months have paid off, both in terms of the physical and mental training I’ve been doing.

So who won? We both did. And it rocked.

Official stats (Amy, I hope you don’t mind me bragging on you so much on here!):
Finish Time, avg. pace, and last year's time:
Carly- 26:25, 8:31/mi (29:55 in 2007)
Amy- 24:45, 7:59/mi (29:0? in 2007)

Place in Age Class & Amongst All Women:
Carly- 22/68 & 60/356
Amy- 16/68 & 37/356


Anonymous said...

YOU ROCK!! That's awesome, I'm so proud of you for blowing your old time out of the water by 3 and a half minutes!! Way to go, you must feel so great. ~Wendy

Anonymous said...




Robyn said...

I'm so, so, so happy for you. A true glimpse of what's possible....ANYTHING. Consistent 8-minute miles are on the horizon.