I woke up on Sunday morning and thought, nope. Not doing it. No 5K for me today. Not in the mood.
My whole body felt tired and sore. I just wanted to sleep and be lazy on my couch. This race doesn’t start until 12:45 pm so it wasn’t like I didn’t have enough time to wake up and drink a vat of coffee. I figured I show up and warm up. If I wasn’t feeling it I would just go run a loop around Lehigh Parkway. The end goal here is Boston, so if I didn’t think it was the right move I was set on walking away and bagging it.
I just had a protein bar for breakfast (have you tried the RX bars yet? OMG) and my first round of coffee and ran some errands. I grabbed a Starbucks while I was out to keep riding the caffeine train. I came home and ate a sweet potato waffle with some Just Great Stuff chocolate peanut butter. I decided it would be a good time to try out my new breakfast food before a race. I went to church for Palm Sunday, grabbed my gear and headed to the west end of Allentown. The race is only a few miles from my house, and registration started around 11. I got there by 11:30, parked, grabbed my bib and said hello to some friends. I headed out for a quick warm up to assess how I was feeling. I ran three easy miles and thought about my goals for the race as I was warming up:
- Goal A – 18:59 (I just wanted to break 19!)
- Goal B – 19:00 (would be a PR but also aligned with what Hansons predicts a 3:05 marathoner can run)
- Goal C– 19:24 (a PR since my previous PR was 19:25 from 2014)
- Goal D – Finish relatively unscathed (5Ks are bruisers!)
Much to my surprise, my legs felt okay. Not amazing, but certainly not terrible enough to shut it down. I stopped at my car, dropped off my extra layers and took a Gu. I’d eaten my waffle over two hours ago and figured I could use an extra boost – plus, it’s good practice to race with the fuel I plan to use in Boston.
I lined up at the start and noticed a pretty decent field of local runners, including Amy G. She’s super fast and wins the race each year, but she’s also my friend. She recently won the Super Bowl Sunday 10K in something like 39 minutes. I knew that if I ran this race and felt good, I wanted to try to go sub 19. I had been texting with her earlier that week and told her about my goal. I was hoping I could chase her to achieve it.
The weather was predicted to be horrible, but the forecast changed and as we prepared to start running it was gorgeous out. I was overdressed but I didn’t care: it was sunny and cool (low 40s). Perfect. The gun sounded, and we were off. There were a lot of females lined up at the front, and I shot out as quickly as possible to see who followed me. Within the first quarter mile, I was running with all guys but noticed Christina C. next to me, another local speedy runner. My legs felt light so I kicked it up just a little more and dropped her.
I noticed Amy off to the left side of the course starting to make a break for it, and I almost conceded. She wins every year – I can’t beat her. Just keep her in your sights and focus on that sub 19 finish. We were only a half mile into the race at this point. But then, Meg’s words from a comment she made on my Quakertown 10 Mile post resonated in my head: Why NOT me?
So once again, I kicked the pace up just a little bit more and Amy fell back. My Garmin beeped to indicate I’d reached a mile and I glanced down. Oh, fuck. Mile 1: 5:53.
The upside to seeing a sub 6 minute mile on my watch: the only other time I ever logged a full sub 6 minute mile was the first mile of my last 5K PR (it was a 5:59). So I thought I had a shot for a PR. The downside was that I ran a HUGE positive split that day (like barely broke a 7 min pace on the last mile), and I really didn’t want to repeat that. I knew I was going to positive split the race because I’m certainly not familiar with holding sub-6s at this point, but I didn’t want it to be a HUGE difference.
The course is two loops, so after the mile beeped I knew it wasn’t long before we’d be coming past the finish line and I’d be halfway. I was still in first place and even though I was running faster than I ever have, I felt really good. Very controlled, light legs, not out of breath. I was hugging the left side of the course to run the tangents and there were kids with their hands out for high fives. I made a point to slap their hands and smile at the spectators to take the focus off the race. I came past the finish line and my friends were all out cheering and I could tell they were ecstatic to see that I was leading the race. My fast friend, Megan, was on the sidelines screaming, and Mark H. was there cheering with his girlfriend Krissa. It was super exciting, and I felt like I was flying. Mile 2: 6:08.
I was really happy with my second mile. Ultimately, I wanted to keep the pace under 6:10 to get as close (or under) that 19 minute mark. I knew I needed to average 6:06 pace to achieve goal A, and mile 2 was only two seconds off. But I had time in the bank and just one more mile left. I didn’t think I could maintain my pace but I didn’t feel awful.
I was still in first place but had no idea how close Amy was (or any other female). This mile is really more of a blur but I just kept thinking, why NOT me? I focused on trying to run hard, but to save a teeny bit in the event it came down to an all out sprint – like it should have at my last race in Quakertown, where I gave up. I rounded the corner and had .1 left. I was still leading, but still had no clue by how much. Mile 3: 6:17.
You can see the three of us coming to the finish line for the last .1. The people in the background are just getting ready to go for their second loop. It was pretty exciting to run a race like that because as you passed people, they would start cheering.
I saw the finish line and took off. I saw 18:30 on the clock and knew I had it. I was smiling from ear to ear as I crossed. My Garmin said 18:51, but my chip time was 18:48! 11 seconds faster than my A goal, and good enough for first place. Amy was on my tail, crossing 21 seconds after me in 19:09. Holy. Freaking. Crap. I just went sub-19! Final .1: 5:33 pace.
Megan came over to hug me and I literally started jumping up and down like a two year old. I couldn’t even hold it in. I usually try to keep my composure a little better, but I was so surprised and excited that I couldn’t contain it. I waited for a few friends to finish the race, and then I set out for a solo cool down. I wanted to run another four miles. I was worried I would miss the award ceremony so I just did two easy miles. I would have had plenty of time to finish my cool down, but I headed over to the building where the post race foods/award ceremony was held.
This was the first time I ever won cash! It was $50 plus a gift card to a local pub for $15. I was so excited. Amy got 2nd, and the other girl I mentioned – Christina – got 2nd in her age group. So many females ran sub-20 that day. It was really exciting. I walked back to my car on cloud nine. I still really wanted to finish my run (I was just riding that runner’s high) so as I drove home, I passed the entrance for Lehigh Parkway and pulled in. I did my final two miles, making it 10 miles for the day. Whatever, maybe they were junk miles and there was no aerobic benefit at that point, but I just wanted a minute to appreciate running and process what just happened.
I swear I took my bib off for the run. 🙂 I rewarded myself with my favorite: a Latte Macchiato with whole milk from Starbucks before heading home to relax. It still feels so surreal.
Ever wake up on a race morning not feeling it, only to go and reach your goal?