Last week I got the opportunity to attempt to hit some targets at a makeshift shooting range at the coaxing of my brother in law, Scotty, former military police. It was an automatic rifle of sorts...a heavy one with a scope. After getting the basics down I took aim. I had a hard time honing in on the target. The gun was heavy, challenging to find aim and hone in due to the weight and trying to use the scope. It took a lot longer than I thought, but I was determined to keep aiming, I wanted to hit that target! My arms were fatiguing quickly. I could’ve just taken the shot, I was close, and I might have hit it, but I wanted to be as sure as I could. My arm muscles twitching and burning trying to make fine adjustments. Finally I took the shot...I nailed it. We did this several more times. Some shots I got and some I missed, but the aiming was the part that sucked me in...getting as close as I could to get the best shot. And how does this have anything to do with a 5K? Keep reading, we’ll get there.
Founder’s Day 5k. As the week progressed I started getting nervous. This is the first 5k I’ve done in 2 years. My 1 mile test last week was not the least bit impressive, and slower than the previous 2 over the past year. I decided to hit up coach about how to go about this 5k. He sent me some pacing parameters...6:45 the first mile, then 6:40 the second, then 6:35. After I almost passed out, I emailed him back. It was clear I didn’t think I could. I was done before the race started. My response , “I’ve never done a 5k at those paces. My 20 minute tests have not come close to those paces..My one mile test was way slower than the previous/...a 6:35 for 1 mile..1 mile, not 3...the numbers DON’T add up. Now I was fully afraid and dread was starting to set in.
“I’m trying to get you to not fear failing. WHO CARES, if you can't, but can’t never did anything. See how close you can get and love with the challenge of getting as close as you can. Fear will always be there. It will either stop you or you can decide to put the fear right in your water bottle and take it with you”. It clicked. He said that, and I thought…”why just take the fear with me?...I’ll drink it!”. I felt a huge burden lift and excitement settled back in. Then another click…”the challenge of getting as close as you can”. I remembered what I love. And this is where shooting a heavy rifle comes in...
A question, When you were target shooting, did you always aim for the bullseye or the outer ring? We will not always hit the bullseye, but we always aim for it. I could relate...that feeling of trying to hone in on something, and just the sheer pleasure of honing in. The pleasure of the intense focus, second by second while target shooting...minute by minute when racing. Constant awareness and focus, bringing the bullseye into the line of sight, working the muscles to get there and hold it, making small corrections left and right, up and down... (faster/slower...working these muscle fibers, those muscle fibers, heart rate/breathing) Things getting out of focus briefly and then pulling it back in, refocusing, refining, bringing the target back in the line of site, sharpening it. I didn’t understand why I liked shooting so much...then it clicked...it’s the same feeling. Aiming. The race is aiming.. When you say , “ready..aim..shoot” and correlate that to running...I would have thought “shoot” is the part where you run..”shoot” is the finish line..it’s the bullet hitting the target, It’s the runner crossing the tape, “aim” is the run.
I was ready for today’s 5k. The result didn’t matter anymore, the burden lifted. I wanted 20:58 or less. I wanted those paces and I was going to keep aiming at them, honing in, minute by minute. So we lined up and the race director yelled “go”. I started out at a 6:03. Back off, back off I told myself. I felt good, too good. I made myself back off in that first minute to a 6:45. It was difficult to let others go but I did. I went above my target (pace) on the first incline, refocused, thinking..”aim, aim” visualizing that target..6:45min/mi. My effort was very high, higher than those around me which made me a little nervous to increase my effort more. I held steady effort going up, not wanting to explode and fade fast. Hit the first little downhill and increased my speed trying to maintain similar effort. Quads were still a little quivery from my repeat descents down Cavanall hill earlier in the week. My pace would drop down to 6:30 or even 6:20 on those early downhills, but it was not the way I had hoped the downhills would feel...refocus, aim, steady those legs, relax, go.
Back up a little steeper short up and then just a very slight incline. My uphlll pace was again above which kept me refocusing, refining, aiming. I felt good. I was working this to the best of my ability and I knew it. The down I would get under again. At about 2-2.5 mi some side stitches added to the challenge...refocus, refine, aim...just a half mi left. Rounded the last corner and the last little incline. I heard people yelling for another girl behind me. “oh no way!” I thought, “I am NOT getting passed this close to the finish!” I kicked it in high gear through the finish..not much increase in actual pace likely, but definitely effort! 21:45 was my time. It was a 5k PR for me, not what I was aiming for, but I was aiming every second of the way..and loving it. I drank that fear right in and used it. Here you see my good friend Brian Hoover of TATUR- Tulsa Area Trail and Ultrarunners, he timed the event today.