"What if you striped away the need to know and the need for "meaning"'- Eric's comment on his blog post Today's Thoughts On Real Performance. Timely conversation. Those words, and comments by others rattled around in my brain yesterday and early this morning as I started to think about the race. I tend to stress out more about the 5k - 10k races than the ultra distances...the farther the race the less "fear" I have. 5k and 10ks are so raw. For me it's a really stripped down way of assessing my speed, strength, endurance, training. No trees or rocks or roots or aid stations or porta potties to hide behind. No excuses of bonking, not drinking enough to explain a less than desirable performance. The shorter races are little "tests" for me. I tend to attach a lot of meaning to them, to every detail. "The finish line is the enemy to a runner" danced around between my ears. I couldn't make those words and phrases make much sense. I got it, but I didn't get it.
Driving to Tulsa, I got more and more nervous. I had pace parameters set...what if I couldn't hold the pace...what would that mean? Then it started to click..."meaning = knowing and knowing is impossible". And then, "What if you striped away the need to know". And the answer came, If I stripped away the need to know, I would run without fear. At that moment all of the fear that had been building just disappeared. I visualized stripping away everything,...well... except my clothes ;) I decided the finish line would not be my enemy, but my friend and my teacher. I wasn't going to let the finish line carry any meaning. I would trust my training, my effort, my internal senses and just run in every moment. So here's how it went down....
I did my warm up just before the race and lined up. I was really excited and pleased to feel comfortable and ready to run. I was nervous, but it was a positive energy. I am absolutely TERRIBLE at going out of the gait too fast and burning up. So I set my watch to alarm at me if I went under a 7min mile pace. The goal for this race was to stay between 7:00 and 7:20, so that's where I set the alarm. Well, sure enough, I shot out of there trying to convince myself I was at a 7:00 pace. Ding ding ding....I slowed a tad...ding ding ding....I slowed a tad...ding ding ding.... it was so difficult to bring myself down. My watch stopped dinging and I settled into around a 7:05-7:09min mi pace for the next 2-3 miles, I didn't realize until after the race that I paced just under a 7 for the first 10 minutes, it seemed like just a few that I was under. This pace felt upper end of moderate, but sustainable. There were 200 entrants. The lead pack of 4 or 5 runners was ahead of me. I was a good minute or more behind them and all by myself. It felt so good to be solo, just inside myself and breezing along. The race goes right alongside the riverparks and is a flat/fast course, out 5k and back 5k.
By the turnaround my average pace was now 7:12. I was still pleased and felt like I was holding well. Tammy West, the lead female I knew well. We live in the same town and I often see her on my am runs. I cheered her when we passed eachother and told her, "go get em!" she was right there just trailing the front 3 guys. It was so cool, When I turned around and started heading back I started getting lots of cheers and "go!". I cheered them as well and yelled, "good job!" and waved. It was a hoot. I was getting quite tired though. By 4 miles I could tell I was struggling a little to keep the pace and knew I was likely slowing a little. I refused to look at my watch and just maintain as strong an effort as possible without blowing up. By 5 miles I was no longer cheering and waving much! The last mile I knew I was fading. I looked at my pace, 7:17...way to close to 7:20, so I picked it up and just gave it what I could to try and bring that number down. I drew into the finish line at 45:46...happy. Totally at peace and happy. It wasn't the time I wanted. I wanted to see 44:__ or even less, but I wasn't at all disappointed as I would normally be and that made me even happier. Of course I go back over the race in my head figuring where I could've done this or that, but there's no meaning attatched to it. This race didn't MEAN anything! It is a measure of my training, speed, endurance, etc...but it doesn't MEAN anything about me. I was fortunate to finish 2nd female, 1st in my age division and 5th overall.