Saturday, January 17, 2015

First Race of 2015

And it was a doozy.  Last spring I signed up for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon weekend and picking the 'Rebel Challenge' for my race.  The challenge consists of a 10k Saturday and a half marathon Sunday.  I spent the last two and half months getting ready for this race.  I had a goal in mind of a PR for the 10k race.  Realistically, I knew a half marathon PR would take too much out of me this early in the season. But the 10k is manageable this time of year.

I arrived in California Thursday and picked up all my race numbers/shirts. Last night we went to a hockey game in Anaheim to help pass the time. We left the game early (end of the 2nd period) as I had to get up pretty early this morning for my race.

My race clothes were already laid out. I just had to get dressed and walk out the door.  The Wingman accompanied me to the starting corrals, then he bid me good luck and farewell. I was fortunate enough that I was starting in the first wave, which meant I would have to deal with less traffic running in front of me. Disney did a nice job for the racers waiting around. There were clips from the Star Wars movies to watch. Before I knew it, it was time to run.

I knew I had to go out and run hard from the beginning. The hardest part was running in the dark. The course was lit by street lamps, but it was still fairly dark out. I really had a hard time perceiving my pace so I knew this was going to be a hard effort.

What today was all about

The first mile had 3 overpasses we had to climb up which means I get to use the downhills to make up time.  We were out on the streets for the 1st mile, then tucked back into the park. I am not that familiar with the Disneyland grounds so between the darkness and all the turns, I was quickly disoriented. I think it was around 1.25 miles in when I thought "Crap, I have a ways to go still." It was a hard effort and I knew I had to keep it up. Danielle and I reviewed my goals for the race and I knew I had to go for it, otherwise I would regret it.  Around the 5k mark, I just stopped thinking for a while. My brain just couldn't function while my legs were screaming.

 The Truth

I followed the course and was fortunate that there weren't too many runners ahead of me. That makes it easy to get through the aid stations. Only once did I give someone a light shove on his back when he crossed right in front of me without looking. I didn't want anyone getting in my way. I was on a PR mission.

I could feel my Garmin vibrating at every mile, but it was too dark to catch a look. I didn't want to mess with the backlight button. With my luck, I would probably stop the watch and mess up my run. 

I saw the marker for mile 5 and the race clock. I realized I was making great time and then said "If you go all in now, you can shave off more time that you originally thought." I knew I had 1.2 miles left to hang on, so I dug in deep and asked my legs for just a little bit more effort. Thank goodness they complied and didn't revolt. 

Before I knew it, I was coming around the final stretch. I could see the finish line and knew I had to make a run for it. I had 30 seconds to get to the line so I dug just a little deeper. I just had to hurt for another few seconds.  When I crossed the line, I knew I had a great race. I shaved almost 2 minutes off my previous 10k PR.

I laid it all out there this morning. Looking back, I can't imagine where I could have run any faster. Sure, maybe if it was light out and I could have seen the course better I might have shaved a couple more seconds, but it would not have been anything dramatic. I ran as hard as I could today.  Over the last few months I have gotten much better at being uncomfortable when running or biking hard. That's the key. If you want to get faster, you need to learn to not back off when the effort is hard. 

All those workouts Danielle wrote to build my speed worked. I pushed hard hoping for a good result and I got it today. My running has gotten better over the last few months. Early to Mid 2014 it was all about keeping me healthy. Then late 2014 was about getting faster. And the 'getting faster' part isn't over yet.

But for now, I am focusing on recovery for the rest of the day. I have a half marathon to run tomorrow.