“A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.” - Walt Disney

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Not-So-Lean and Kinda-Mean Fifteen (K)

Saturday morning started with an almost "Disney early" wake-up at 4:15 am, and then my friends Lindsey and Jennifer and I headed down to Fair Park for the Dallas Hot Chocolate 15K at 5:15am.  Lindsey really wanted to run this race, and since she and I are running the Princess Half together in two weeks, the 15K fit perfectly into our taper plan of 8-10 miles this weekend.  Jennifer is a fairly new runner who had never gone as far as 15K before, but Lindsey convinced her to run with us, so together we were quite the motley crew.

The race had a 15 min/mi maximum pace requirement, which, to be truthful, I was kinda nervous about.  I've been concentrating so much the last 18 months on distance and endurance for my marathon training that my speed has suffered.  Even on our most recent "long" runs (fewer than 10 miles) we've only been averaging 14:30-15 min/miles.  Because of that I already had some pre-race jitters going, it turns out that we were in the LAST corral, and it certainly didn't help that we had to wait about 2.5 hours before our race started to add to the freak-out factor.

I had quite a few other friends that were running the 5K, and another friend running the 15K.  Somehow we missed meeting up with ALL of them!!!  Craziness.  Finally at 8:30 we were in our corral and taking off.  I wanted to start us off with a good pace to build in a bit of a buffer, knowing that we'd have to walk up a couple of the hills that Lindsey said she saw on the elevation plan (I really had not been paying attention to the race - I just signed up and showed up), and that we'd probably slow down towards the end of the race.

Our first few miles we averaged a 13:20 pace, and were feeling good - and then the hills hit.  I still don't think of Dallas as being particularly hilly, but man oh man, I think they found every one in the vicinity of Fair Park and made us run up it.  Fortunately they were in the middle miles of the race, and Lindsey knew that once we finally finished with the hills it was mostly either flat or downhill the rest of the way.  So we slogged on through those hard hilly miles, and at the end of the hills I did some quick math, and amazingly we were still well under a 14 min/mi pace!  Wow!  It was a great feeling to know that even if we slowed down significantly we still should be under the 15 min pace requirement.

And after that 6 mile mark, every step took Jennifer further than she'd ever gone before, so that was a huge motivator for all three of us.  After pushing ourselves at that pace for the early miles, we were all getting tired, but just kept going.  We just kept up the intervals and ticked off the miles.

As we hit the 8 mile marker and had Fair Park in sight, we were ... not struggling ... but flagging, definitely.  I just kept pushing us, though, and if looks could kill I'm pretty sure the ones I was getting from Lindsey's direction would've had me falling dead right there on the course, lol.  The 9 mile marker we'd seen earlier that morning while walking from the car was a very welcome sight - just 0.3 miles to go, which meant only 4 or 5 more run intervals - wuhoo!  And then we saw the 3 mile marker for the 5K - just 0.1 miles!  We came up with our game plan for crossing the finish line - hands clasped together and raised over our heads.  Right after we crossed, I checked my Garmin - and it showed a 13:43 average pace!!!  AWESOME!!!

Our official time was 2:08:08, for an average pace of 13:45.  I was so excited that we did that great and Lindsey and Jennifer were equally as happy!

Post-race euphoria!
So after a quick pic it was time for the post-race goodies.  I'm not a big chocolate fan, but I did enjoy dipping the pretzels and marshmallows in the chocolate fondue (unfortunately they'd run out of bananas), and since it was cool and windy the cup of hot chocolate was wonderfully warm and pleasantly yummy!  

Post-race goodies.

We got home, and after Lindsey and Jennifer left and I showered, I was still feeling so great.  It felt a little silly to be proud of a time that was "normal" for me just a couple years ago, but still - I felt GREAT!  And, as an added bonus, it turns out that my finish time was a default PR because (who'd've guessed) I'd never run a 15K before!  YAY!

I feel like this shines a giant ray of hope on my secondary goal for the year - which is to get faster as a result of "finding the fun" and concentrating on shorter distances.  I'm loving that old feeling of working hard and pushing myself for this kind of breakthrough, and as a result I am looking even more forward to running Princess in a couple weeks than I already was!

Q4U:  What was your most recent fitness breakthrough/revelation?  Have you had a great success recently? Is there a "moment"/goal that you're still trying to reach?