I can’t believe that I am saying this, but I ran a PR at the Shrimp Festival 10K yesterday morning! After years of seemingly no major PRs, it feels absolutely incredible to see the pieces coming together and the hard work paying off.
I had a 4:45 alarm set for a 5:30 departure Saturday morning. I made coffee, looked over my race plan and wrote my paces on my hand before we left the house. I’ve mentioned it before, but I really think that the process of thinking about the paces and having it “tattooed” (temporarily) on your body, makes you more accountable and more invested in the plan. We dropped my car off at work on the way to the race (it was on the way anyway) and arrived at the Orange Beach Sportsplex around 6:30. I still needed to get registered, which was a very quick, seamless process. They had laptops for us to use to get registered day of and the race was actually chip timed this year (so fancy)!
My pre-race “plan” had me doing a 2 mile warm up about thirty to forty minutes out from the race, taking a gel about ten minutes out and then doing a few strides right before it was time to roll. Daniel ran the warm up miles with me. It felt absolutely ahh-mazing out. The temperature and dew point were in the LOW 60s, which is quite the change from any racing conditions we’ve had over the last 6 months. We ran into Lizzie and Jill along the way. We don’t get to run together as much as I’d like for us to, but it’s always so nice to see sweet friends.
We made it back to the car right on schedule and I made a last-minute wardrobe change into my McKirdy Trained singlet. I had on a different tank that started to feel like it was weighing me down (it was falling down in the front and becoming a dress) during the warm up and I didn’t want to deal with that mid-race. I changed into my #fastshoes, took a Huma gel and made my way over to the start line.
The race plan looked like this:
Miles 1 and 2: 6:05 – 6:10
Miles 3 and 4: 6:00 – 6:05
Miles 5 and 6: 5:55 – 6:00
Last two tenths: Roll Tide! My coach actually wrote this in my race plan, which I thought was both hilarious and amazing!
I had a wonderful pre-race pep talk with my coach on Thursday evening and after that conversation, I KNEW that I was ready to do this thing. If I ran at the upper end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 38:00 and if I ran at the lower end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 37:30. My previous PR was 38:32, so either way, it seemed like a PR was within reach. Granted you never know what might happen out there, but it felt really good going into the race knowing that my fitness was there and I was ready.
The race starts and finishes at the Orange Beach Sportsplex and runs on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail (a trail system with over fifteen miles of trails throughout Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park). The trails are all paved and it’s a great location for a race. The only minor drawback is that the GPS satellites have a tendency to be a little wonky. Thankfully, I didn’t have any issues with mine yesterday!
I started out pretty much right on the start line. I felt pretty confident that I would be within the top 5 to 10 runners, so I didn’t feel bad about taking a front spot. I wasn’t sure who, if anyone, I would be able to run with going into the race, but as it turned out I had two guys to chase for the majority of the race. I LOVE having someone to work with and chase during a race and I was so thankful to have those guys up there. I settled into third place overall within the first half mile and that’s where I stayed until the fourth mile. I know that isn’t super exciting or anything, but it is what it is.
The guys in front of me were only a few yards ahead and their pacing was right on point with what I planned to do. My splits for the first four miles were 6:06, 6:04, 6:03 and 5:57. I didn’t look at my watch during the miles at all. I did, however, look to see my splits. Sometimes I get into a bad habit of looking down during the mile as much as every quarter-mile, which I think only seems to make the miles feel longer. I didn’t do that and the miles truly seemed to be flying by. I felt strong, smooth and in control.
I knew that miles five and six would be a challenge. John and I talked about this a good bit during our pre-race chat. He told me that I would have a gut check around mile five and that was when it was time to really get serious about racing. He also suggested focusing on anything that wasn’t hurting (eyelids were his suggestion :)). I passed the second place guy and caught up to the first place guy during mile five, so that mile really didn’t seem to be that bad. I had other things to focus on at least. My split for mile 5 was 5:58.
As it turned out, mile six is where things really started to feel tough for me. The great thing about that was that I knew I only had about 5 or 6 minutes to go. I knew I could hold on. I also knew it just might hurt a lot in the process. I was running right behind the first place guy at this point and I assumed that we would work together for the duration of the last mile. Unfortunately, just passed the fifth mile marker, he almost took at wrong turn! We were turning right to head back along the same trail that we had run out on, but the 5K runners were going the other way and he started to turn left. I said, “I think we go right,” and continued right without any hesitation. He lost a second or two at that turn and I hated to make the final pass in a situation like that, but at the same time, it is the runners responsibility to know the course.
Even though I was struggling a bit, the last mile also went by very quickly. The 5K runners are running the opposite way on the trail and it’s always motivating to see all the other runners and get a few words of encouragement. I love out and back courses for this reason. I told myself to stay strong, to finish strong, to run strong … basically just BE STRONG. Before I knew it, I was at the sixth and final mile marker. My split for mile 6 was 5:59! All that was left was to kick it in (or roll tide it in as the plan prescribed) to the home stretch. I tried to make a conscious effort to pick the pace up. My final two tenths were 5:41 pace! Whew. My official time was 37:30! Just over a one minute PR! Holy smokes. I was on cloud 9 and over the moon. I think I paused at cloud 9 briefly on my way over the moon!
I stumbled back to the car, feeling tired but incredibly euphoric at the same time. I texted my coach and he immediately called me to talk about the race. I was still a little bit out of breath as I tried to tell him how it went. I texted everyone I could think of that would be interested in the outcome (not that it is a long list) and then headed out to do a couple of cool down miles. Daniel ran the cool down miles with me as well, which was nice. We called it a day after two miles and made our way over to the post-race party and the awards.
I needed to get back to go to work, but I couldn’t not stay for the awards after a race like that. I’m so glad that I stayed too, because not only did I get to visit with my friends for a bit longer, but also I got all the amazing prizes. I got a medal, a coffee cup and a really pretty shrimp painting (that just so happens to match the “color scheme” of our house). Sweet! I honestly would’ve probably just been happy with the medal and the coffee cup, but the painting just really put it over the top.
Even after all that, I still made it in to work by about 10:30. I felt like complete and total garbage when I got there, but I went and got it done. My head was poudning, my stomach was “unsettled,” and my heart rate was definitely still elevated, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I knew I had done some solid work that morning and I was so happy about it. Runners are so weird. After my solid work on the roads (or paved trails in this case), I did some solid work on the taxes. Just two more returns to wrap up by tomorrow (and yes, one of those is my own)!