When you’re a runner, there are good days and there are great days (runners know that bad days are eradicated by simply lacing up), and Saturday was a great day.
After many races big and small in the past two years, I know how to prepare myself for a race: physically, mentally, and emotionally. It takes practice to get it right for y-o-u. Me, I need: coffee, some carb action, and feel good tunes. Sunshine helps. In preparation Friday night, I thoughtfully laid out my race wear: Oiselle on top, Nike (skirt!) on bottom, Pearl Izumi & Swiftwicks on the feet, and yes, that was an overall endorsement (sponsor me?!). I set my alarm with an Allman Brothers song to wake me up. No end-of-the-week beer, and a 9:30pm bedtime kept me in line. Delayed gratification.
SATURDAY – The Tom King Half Marathon, Nashville
I woke up refreshed and maybe a little too excited to toe the line at 6:30am. I mean, I know I’m not the only one who gets psyched to race 13.1 miles, but I know it’s not a widespread, uh, sentiment. For fuel, I ate a peanut butter, honey, cinnamon tortilla and a HoneyStinger vanilla waffle (Psst: Endorsement. Sponsor me?!), drank some coffee and water and thanked the good Lord for such a beautiful race day.
Parking was a breeze and without the wonder of technology or pre-planning, I happened to find my running buddies so we could wish exchange high fives and talk some smack before the gun went off.
Although there were over 1,200 runners for the race, there weren’t waves, so being in the middle of the pack took around 50 seconds to actually cross the starting line. Once past it, though, I zigged and zagged and found my sweet spot. I’ve resolved not to listen to music during races because it blocks out the community that the race itself inspires. I was hesitant to go in without music but I did. I realized one of my favorite parts to a race is at the beginning when other runners are nervously chatting to each other about pace, early morning mishaps, or just an audible expression of gratitude.
After the first mile, I ran 7:52. Visions of stardom and sponsorships ran though my mind, but then remembered my goal race pace should have been around 8:15-8:20. Woops. I chalked up my fast feet to being anxious and resolved to keep my pace in check, because bonking sucks and is a rookie move. I am no rookie, and I will not bonk. Well, it turns out I never ended up slowing down and kept a sub-8 minute mile pace throughout the race because I just felt that good. Throughout the race I was encouraged by others, namely a guy in a wheelchair with a partner running by his side. Also, a girl had some tunes blasting from her iPhone locked in an armband, and I appreciated that, too. I tried not to worry too much that I neglected to swipe on some Bodyglide…
As we came down to the last mile coming into LP Field, I went all out. After running down into the tunnel and out onto the field, I had enough left in my tank to sprint to the finish. I heard cheers and “Go Taylor!”, and I saw the time on the screen (below) and my watch: 1:41:22. (Official chip time: 1:41:57). Boom.
I was elated, and somewhat alarmed myself with how good I felt. I kept thinking: Shouldn’t something ache? Am I gonna fall down soon? Should I go run some more? Where was Ryan Gosling to give me my medal? My Runner’s High should’ve gotten its own dang medal. Mine was pretty cool, though.
Here’s the takeaway: Being prideful in a race can hurt you. Ignoring what your body needs is stupid and shouldn’t come at the cost of shaving seconds off your finish time for PR. I’ve learned this. BUT NOT THIS TIME. With appropriate pride, I tuned into myself and truly didn’t need to slow down, catch a water break or down any energy gel. I surprisingly did awesome for not having music to dictate my quicker cadence. Because of all that, this race felt perfect. It proved my training has been paying off more than I was ready to give myself credit for. I underestimated myself, and that’s a pretty gratifying feeling to have once its realized.
And, as it turns out, I won 3rd place for my age group! I was second behind a girl who finished in 1:27:something, so no qualms here!
After this amazing race, I have to negotiate my goals for the Country Music Marathon in a little over six weeks. After this week of training, I’ll make some adjustments.