Saturday, March 27, 2010

34:37!!!

AM: 3 miles
PM: 2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 10k race @35:30 or faster (5:42 pace)
Actual: 34:37 (5:34 pace); 5k splits 17:23; 17:13
10 min. c/d (1+ mile)
Results

So this was unexpected. I mean, I figured I was fit enough to beat 35:30, but given my lack of 10k-specific training I honestly thought low-35 was best case scenario. I was wrong.

Leading up to the track meet, Tanya and I enjoyed a pretty relaxed day. In the morning we took a field trip out to the bay with Simmons to get in a light shakeout, if for no other reason than to kill some time. We drove past the Google campus to the same spot we hit up last year and spent a few minutes on our feet soaking up the morning sunshine. The rest of the day was spent lounging around the hotel and hanging out at Starbucks before finally heading up to the track around 7. Tanya would be racing in the fast heat of the 5k at 8:30, and when she left to go warmup I booked it back to the car. The air grew chilly as soon as the sun disappeared behind the trees, and I knew it wasn't smart to sit around shivering for the next three hours.

I emerged from our rented Dodge Charger (ballin!) in time to watch Tanya's race from the top of the home curve. Hoping to break 16 minutes, she ran smart and stuck onto the lead group from the gun. I cheered like a mad woman every time she passed me, willing her keep her with the pack. She ran smart and very tough, digging for every second on the last lap, but ultimately came up just a few seconds shy in 16:03. D2 star Jessica Pixler absolutely dominated the field and cruised to a 15:44 victory, firmly establishing herself as the woman to beat regardless of division. Watch her ridiculous performance here.

Before I knew it, warmup time had arrived. I set off into the darkness along the same path that Tanya and I ran last night, alone with my thoughts. This is when I had my first inkling that the race was going to be good. Normally on my warmup I'm able to assess how my legs feel, whether it be tired and heavy, fresh and light, or somewhere in between. Tonight I felt nothing. I knew I was running and I knew my legs were carrying me, but I didn't feel them at all. It was quite strange, actually. At the time I took it as a good sign and hoped the feeling would carry over into the race.

10:10pm was go time. I lined up on the track with 30 other girls, all of us shivering. I would warm up as soon as the race began, but in the minutes leading up to the start the air was downright cold. Just like at indoor Nationals, I felt absolutely calm on the line. I knew that parts of the next 35 minutes would hurt like hell, but I was prepared for anything.

Once the race began, I settled comfortably into a chase pack. Chico State runner (and fellow D2 competitor) Tori Tyler shot out to the lead, gapping both my pack and a smaller pack in front of me after the first mile. I didn't know enough about her to know if the strategy was courageous or reckless; in the end it would turn out to be the latter. In the moment, I told myself to stay relaxed in the pack and find a rhythm. It wasn't until the first mile that I glanced at the clock; it read 5:32. A little faster than goal pace, but it felt like a jog. I rolled with it. In fact, the entire first 5k felt like a jog. Normally I'm in race mode and incapable of having coherent thoughts, but tonight I felt aware of everything: the announcer, the shouts of encouragement from Tanya and Simmons, the mindless songs floating in and out of my head. I don't have any other way to put it except that I knew I was in the middle of something good. I was running with the pack, moving up when necessary. I passed through 5k in 17:23, well ahead of 35:30 pace. I remember thinking how easy it felt, and for the first time the thought of negative splitting the race entered my mind. My breathing was still very controlled, and sounded much more relaxed than the breathing of those around me. But even though I still felt good and was tempted to pick up the pace, I held back.
The 10k is a long race, longer than I'd remembered, and there was still plenty of running to be done. I told myself to stay on pace for at least another mile before making a move.

Meanwhile, Chico State's Tyler was moving backwards. Within the span of a few laps she was swallowed up by the lead pack and spit out the back, and I knew I could catch her before the end of the race. I was still undecided about when to make a move, but fortunately I didn't have to think about it much longer. Rhiannon Jones, an athlete from UAB, swung around me and picked up the pace, and I made the split-second decision to go with her. Though I hadn't met Jones, I knew who she was; my good buddy Blake Boldon coaches her and we share similar PR's from indoors. Miles 4 and 5 passed with me sitting firmly on her shoulder, still feeling comfortable but definitely noticing the shift in pace. I felt antsy, ready to kick, but there were still several laps left. I told myself that with three to go I would move. I swung around Jones, expecting her to fall back, but she responded and stayed right with me. We passed a sputtering Tyler with two laps left, and at this point I finally felt the weight of the race descending upon me. I was ready to finish the thing. At the same time, I knew I was running the race of my life, and part of me wanted to hold onto it for a little while longer. I've never really experienced that in a race before, but I felt it tonight.

At the bell lap, I gave the clock a passing glance and quickly calculated that I would be well clear of 35 minutes. I thought of a text message Simon had sent me earlier in the day--"remember, nobody has beaten you on the last lap in 2010"--and went for it. Jones didn't respond. My legs and lungs burned all the way to the finish, but I never felt out of control. I watched the clock ticking ever closer to 34:40 as I approached, but when I crossed the line I knew I had beaten that time. It was actually hard to believe, that I'd run the time feeling as good as I did. I wasn't truly pressing until the last mile and a half, but even then there was never a doubt in my mind that I had something left.

So, there it is. Almost a 2-minute PR (my previous best was 36:12 from this race last year). I know I still have a long way to go. But, like I said yesterday, it's pretty rewarding to see how far I've come.

5 comments:

caitchris said...

MEAGAN! this is so great! way to go out there and to NEGATIVE split as well! Stanford has such a great atmosphere and we are all proud of you back in Charlotte. :o)

Jilane said...

Fantastic

KG said...

Nice work...keep rolling

allanjel said...

Just started reading your blog, but ... WOW!!! Congratulations on such an awesomely executed race.

mmmonyka said...

First mile in 5:32 that felt like a jog...Don't know whether I should laugh or cry (about my pathetic runnig). Congrats!