192 Drinks.... 616 Miles
I've become accustomed to placing in the top 20's for women in these New York Road Runners races. I try not to take for granted that I am very fortunate to be running at that level. Nevertheless, it must be human nature to covet the talent of the 23 women ahead of me in a race and to forget about the 2641 that finished behind me.
I knew I was well prepared to have a good race this morning and I felt relaxed and confident when I lined up. They're trying out a new start system so that the faster runners won't get stuck behind crowds of slower people at the gun (like what happened to me in the last race), so I was feeling pretty studly for having a purple sticker on my number denoting me as local elite. Wasn't I just so special? Still, it added to my sense that I was ready to crank out that PR.
I started out very evenly, concentrating very hard on running comfortably and not letting the adrenaline of the start push me along with a faster crowd than I could handle. My first split was a 6:26, a little faster than the 6:40 average that I was aiming for, but it felt reasonably sane. I took a few slow, deep breaths and tried to take it down a notch. Mile two went by in 6:32 and I still felt like I wasn't pushing myself overly hard so I just went with it. 6:35, 6:32, 6:25, 6:26...hey, this was fun!
I passed my coach and he let me know I was the 6th woman. SIXTH?? Yikes. I have a history of crashing and burning around mile 8 or 9, so I started to worry a little bit at that point. I shook out my tense shoulders and really tried to relax and slow down a little bit...6:27, 6:24. What's a girl to do? It felt good, why not go with it? Besides, I'd slowly moved up on the woman ahead of me and was now officially in the top five. Make that top FOUR...the second fastest woman on my team was still recovering from her amazing Boston finish less than a month ago and her legs were feeling the pace, so she dropped back a bit and gave me a friendly "Good Job!" as I incredulously passed her by.
This is not where I run. This is not my place. These are the kinds of things I fantasize about on my long training runs in the park. The imaginary scenarios that make my heart beat a little stronger...the daydreams that keep me going and make me pick up the pace. That's exactly what it felt like and I was terrified that at any moment I was going to blink hard and realize that I was just out on the bridle path wishing and hoping to be doing exactly what I was apparently really doing.
The next two miles didn't go quite as smoothly. I was running about 25 yards behind a pretty big pack of runners that included the number three woman and I was just concentrating on keeping my pace even with theirs. I heard some hollering behind me, but didn't know what it was about, so I ignored it. I thought it was a little odd that I never saw the nine mile marker, but I was working so hard at that point to stay focused that I just let it go. I hit my watch at the 10 mile mark, while attempting to simultaneously slurp down a gel, drink a cup of water, turn a sharp corner AND listen to what my coach was screaming at me. I never saw my mile split, so I didn't worry that it was telling my that I'd just run 6:15's for the last two miles.
My last three mile splits, for people who care about these things, were 6:43, 6:36 and 6:27. I crossed the finish in 1:25 and high-fived the guy I'd been pacing off of for the last three miles, exhausted, but very happy and satisfied, four minutes faster than my old PR. Our top runner, who won the race with an amazing 1:19, came over me and congratulated me and complimented me on my hard work. I was definitely floating on air and still not convince that I wasn't making this all up.
I was brought quickly back to reality when my other teammate finished and asked me, 'Did you know you made a wrong turn?' Ka-thunk. What?? It was true, that's why there hadn't been a nine-mile-marker. There's nothing to be done about it now, no one has said anything about it being a problem and it apparently didn't affect anyone's finishing place, but that's what all the yelling had been about. I still finished fourth woman and I still had a huge PR, but now I don't know if I ran exactly the 13.1 distance or not. Those two miles were very fast for me, but there was also a long down hill in the middle of them. A long down hill that I guess the other runners didn't get. I don't know. My coach says not to worry about it, but I kind of feel like now there will have to be an asterik by this time. It's a bummer that everything couldn't be perfect, but I refuse to let this technicality take away my fabulous moment.
I finished the day with hardware and war wounds, but my scissored shoes felt okay during the race. The boy that sold them to me ran the thing in 1:13 though. I've got to get the shoes he's wearing!
Oh, and I forgot to mention it before, but lots of thanks and wishes for a 3:10 marathon to Derek who gave me a ride back to Manhattan after the race. A good thing, since I had only the vaguest idea of where I was in Queens!