On the bus ride to the starting line, I turned to Sue and admitted what I was feeling:
I don’t want to race.
The statement came with a full pout that was both audible and visual in nature. I just wanted to run 8K, not race 8K. Couldn’t I have arranged for that scenario?
Of course how I approached the day was completely up to me. If I wanted to just run the Turkey Trot with no guidelines, that was in my control. If I wanted to go all out and race it, I could do that also.
In retrospect, this pout was actually a good sign. I tend to get a bit obstinate in the hours before a race. I get a bit, well, nutty and either irrational or overwhelmed with the desire that I should have taken on different hobby – like opera singing or fish mongering.
But in reality, this is where I really do want to be. The nuttiness? That’s merely my gremlins forcing their way into my consciousness. And part of what I’m grateful for in this season of gratitude is the presence of friends who both understand my nuttiness and gently ease me away from it.
In all honesty, I don’t remember exactly what Sue said to me, but she quickly acted to shoo away my pouting and reminded me that I wanted to race.
This was my third Turkey Trot and the 115th annual 8K race in Buffalo, N.Y. has become part of my holiday tradition. I lined up with a wonderful group of friends – Sue, Nicole, Bridget and Margaret. The gun sounded and off we went. I kept Nicole and Sue in my sights for about half a mile before I lost them. And for the first time in quite some time, I didn’t care. I wasn’t judging my run based on what others were doing. I was running my own race.
And boy was it fun.
My coach gave me pace parameters. The good news – it was a big range. The bad news – I had a specific goal, something I didn’t to have work with in my past two races.
Since I had pace goals, I adjusted my trusty Garmin to display two bits of information: Pace and Average Pace. My first glance, I was under a 9-minute mile and didn’t think too much about it. It was a good check for me. The pace felt good and I was within the range, and within what I thought was capable for me. In the third mile, my average pace crept up as the route started a long, gradual uphill. I started working a bit harder and felt challenged but still comfortable.
Then came the long, gradual downhill where my average pace dropped again. I smiled. This was now a challenge – to hold this sub-9 pace for about another two miles.
The cruelest part of the Turkey Trot is the final half mile or so, when you see the finish line one block over to your left but instead, you turn around Niagara Square (which is really a circle), continue one block farther, then turn left and back up to the finish line. At this point, people are starting to pass me, kicking in for the final few hundred yards.
I always time this final kick wrong and well before the finish line, I was at the edge of my puke factor. Ah, but I’ve been here before – pretty much once a week every week during my track workout. I know I can push through this.
And I did.
The final result?
A PR in the 8K.
I ran a 43:52 for an average 8:50 pace.
Understand: This is only the third time I’ve run a race with a sub-9 minute mile pace. And it’s now the second straight race in which I’ve hit that mark.
It’s also the third straight race in which I’ve hit a PR. I’ve now set personal bests in the 10K, 5K and 8K this fall.
I’m not sure. That’s for some reflection this weekend.
But what’s amazing the fun you have when you turn off the gremlins, tune into yourself, jump around with your friends and just let go.