On Tuesday I had planned on running an 8 mile tempo at goal half-marathon pace (5:55-6:00) with one of the MSU distance girls. To not embarrass this young lady, I am going to call her Rachel.
Rachel is a red-shirt sophomore. Her freshman year she ran 19:30 for the 5km after battling a year of injuries and fatigue. For two years, she continued to train hard, hitting all her weekly mileage and work out times. Rachel’s efforts did not go unnoticed, but most of the time her performances were dwarfed by other (faster) runners on the team. Still, Rachel kept plugging away, getting faster in smaller, consistent steps.
This past Spring, Rachel became one of the fittest ladies on the team. Though her race times do not accurately show her current fitness, she recently ran a 17:12 5km at a small meet at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford. Her coach (my husband) is expecting a 16:40 performance later this season. Rachel really fit…Rachel is an underdog.
Tuesday morning at 5:00am, I met Rachel in a poorly lit parking lot beside the Carl Maddox Track, we jogged a couple of miles before heading into 8 moderately painful miles.
Quite honestly, I really underestimated Rachel’s fitness. I knew she was fit, but I did not pay enough attention to the workouts that my husband said she had been posting.
On a typically tempo day, she will start out at about 6:20 and works her way down to goal pace. This time, I figure we could meet somewhere in the middle…6:07…not as conservative as Houston would have liked but about as slow as I wanted to be in mile 1. By mile 2 we were 6:03 and I knew she was laboring just a little. Still, she hung tough even though she was fighting to stay relaxed.Rachel was just a few steps behind me at about 4 miles (which we went through in about 23:20 on the loop marker).
After looking at my Garmin to see a 5:48 on one of the hardest miles, I felt Rachel slipping farther behind me. Her footsteps trailed and thus I decided I would try to get 30 seconds on her in the last 3 miles. If she was running 6:05, I would need to keep a stead 5:50 pace. I could do this.
Heading up the hill by sorority row in the final 2 miles, my legs began aching and I started to feel sorry for myself. I thought about slowing down just slightly to a more relaxing tempo pace…before I heard some heavy breathing behind me.
I turned my head slightly to see Rachel RIGHT on my ass. I was so shocked and impressed with her ability to “grind it out” that all I could thing to say was “wow.” I realized quickly that she had every intention of making me work before we finished it out.
My hip was cramping and my legs were heavy, but I tried my best to kick for home…somewhat expecting to get passed by Rachel in the final straight.I finished the loop in about 46:30, which Houston later told me was about 10-15 seconds shy of the actual course maker. My Garmin clocked me at about a 47:33 for 8 miles, just slightly slower than goal pace for 13.1. Given the hilly loop and the lack of daylight, I figure I was right where I needed to be.
Rachel, on the other hand, finished the loop less than 15 seconds behind me. Probably a PB and a team record (for that course).
My whole reason for writing this post? I was so completely fired up about Rachel’s run this week that I barely even noticed my own tempo. She taught me a very good lesson.
Small successes, daily, this is what we all need to focus on. Setbacks?? They are temporary.
Take it day by day, and in the back of your mind – never let go of the big picture.