My original spring plan was to race Boston and 5 weeks later race Traverse City marathon. Unfortunately I didn't check the calendar very closely when I signed up for Bayshore, and a week or two before Boston had the realization that Bayshore was Memorial Day weekend which is also Blossom weekend for Chagrin Falls, aka big deal to the in laws who live there. AKA better not race around 13 hours away that Saturday and risk missing Blossom Sunday if I wanted to stay out of the dog house. So since Boston went relatively close to my goal I decided to pass on Bayshore and save my sub 3:20 effort for another day (more on that in another post).
All of this ended with me not training very hard the past few weeks and just trying to recover from Boston and get in a few of the fun local races. The Blossom run is 5.25 hilly miles around Chagrin Falls. I have done the race twice and managed to place in my age group both times. The race draws a huge crowd and quite a few local studs for both the men's and women's races. I checked out times from the past two years and got it in my head that perhaps I could place top 5 this year and win some money rather than the regular age group trophy. Because of the hills I figured my pace would be similar to what I ran at the Martian 10k two weeks before Boston. So I had hopes of holding about 6:30 pace and coming in top 5 going into the race.
The week got a bit out of hand with 3 unplanned days off in a row M,T,W, so as I warmed up with Solar and TKins and my legs were still feeling groggy I wasn't sure what kind of day I was going to have. Did a few strides before lining up about 3 back from the start with some of my SERC guys. Blossom is a no chip race with about 1000 runners so as you can imagine aiming for top 5 I didn't want to waste any seconds lining up too far back. Still had to dodge a few eager youngsters who were lined up at the front as the gun went off (as the anthem was finishing, talk about no real warning!). I just tried to run based on perceived effort, it had worked at the Martian 10k and I didn't want to run too fast at the start like I did at Mom's day 5k. It was hard to tell how many women were ahead of me as it was really crowded but I saw two and figured there were probably one or 2 more that I couldn't see.
I kept behind JT, knowing that he and Frank were in better shape than me I knew I shouldn't go out with them like I did at the 5k a few weeks ago. Commented to Hawthorne that I better beat the chick with headphones or I would be pissed. He assured me I'd take her down by mile 2 and thankfully I didn't have to wait that long passing her well before the mile marker.
Last time Frank would be behind me on Sunday!
Blossom starts uphill then you go down a steep hill by the roller rink and head back up again. Frank pulled ahead of me at the bottom of the hill as I waved to my hubby taking pictures and I just tried to keep my effort even. First mile was right about where I wanted to be at 6:34 and I had hopes of holding that pace the rest of the race. I wasn't comfortable and I couldn't see any girls in front of me but knew I had to hold pace if I wanted to stay in contention for top 5. Unfortunately the spectators weren't really helpful in that I didn't get any snippets of what place I was in through the course. I knew I must look bad because I felt bad and so I wasn't quite as cheerful of a runner as usual. The crowds definitely respond better to happy runners than run down ones!
My second mile was 6:40 and I was a little upset that I was slowing but I thought that I remembered my 2nd and 3rd miles being slow here last year and being able to pick it back up again the final miles so I held onto that to keep me going. I could see Frank up ahead, slowly getting further and further from me but I could not see a single female runner. Not giving me much hope for passing anyone I held onto my effort as best as I could knowing that I was likely some females bait and didn't want anyone to take advantage of me faltering.
As the effort gets harder in races or track workouts I tend to dissociate. I start to look down at the ground in front of me and just push, often letting my thoughts take over. I tried really hard to focus on the path ahead of me but was having a hard time staying "in" the race. Thankfully for me this dissociation at fast paces doesn't seem to slow me down too much, but I am sure if I could just find the energy to hold my head high and focus on the horizon rather than the ground it would result in better performances.
Mile 3 (6:47) was slower than mile 2 and I was starting to get a bit hard on myself. Trying to convince myself that 2.25 miles was not that far and this pace was not that hard. But every fiber in my being was telling me that I was full of s^&t and that this was incredibly hard and 2.25 miles was still a helluva a long way to keep this pace up. Grabbed a water and pushed on as best I could. I was still holding out for the last two miles to be faster and was grateful that at least this year it wasn't hot like last year.
Mile 4 I got back to 6:40 but for some reason I wasn't happy with that. I don't know why during a race a totally reasonable split can feel like a lackluster performance. I guess I just had really high expectations of myself and couldn't see at the time that I wasn't really that far off of them. During that moment it felt like I was just falling short. I tried to take advantage of the few small downhills here before heading up the hill past the cemetery and towards the finish.
Then to add to my self doubt around 4.25 I got caught by a fellow SERC gal CG. Thankfully she had supportive words for me and I managed to get out of my dark cloud and suck it up to stick with her. I still wasn't sure what place we were in but I knew if I let her pass me or anyone else catch me I was likely risking the top 5 goal. So I tucked my head and upped the effort as best as I could. The whole time just thinking about how hard this felt and how insane I must be.
I am a thinker. I've constantly got something racing through my head. I guess that's one of the reasons I like Ultras, it gives me time to just go out and think about anything all day. Well at this point during this race my competitive thinker was going full speed. I was thinking how I had to out kick CG because she is a masters runner and if I let her pass me I might be risking top 5 but if I beat her, she would still get top Masters. As competitive as I am I still don't want to see a friend do poorly and I certainly don't want to be the chick that cost them an award or placement they were looking for.
As we upped the hill near the cemetery I felt that it was a lost cause as I was pushing as hard as I could but CG looked so much stronger than me. I thanked her for pulling me and she urged me to stay with her. I fell back a little but as we crested the hill I pulled back even with her. I knew my husband would be on the right near the finish but that the women had to go through the chute on the left. I moved to the middle of the street so that I wouldn't have to race from one side of the street to the other and pounded my way through mile 5 in 6:38.
I saw my husband and heard him yell that I needed to finish strong and I could hear Elizabeth screaming that I was in fourth and I needed to push hard. With a quarter mile to go I tried my best to hammer in. CG had fallen back a few strides but I have never seen her finish so I wasn't sure if she was a late kicker and as the crowds were all yelling "go girls" and not "go girl" I knew I did not have any room for error if I wanted to hold my place. I had absolutely no kick left in me and if she had sprinted past me I would have been done. I pumped my arms furiously as that was about the only part of my body that I felt had any strength left in it. I somehow managed to finish the last quarter mile under 6 minute pace in 1:25.
I crossed the finish line and was just grateful that I managed to hold on. CG hugged me at the line and we both congratulated each other. We both had great days and we thought we placed 4th and 5th, but the headphones girl finished after us and informed us she was 7th so we were actually 5th and 6th girls. Man was I glad I sucked it up and hammered it in! I know I would have been upset with myself working that hard and missing my goal by one place.
I had asked Salty on Thursday what she would do if she was me having missed M-W running and needing to get in a long trail run as well as wanting to race well on Sunday and she gave me a mini plan of attack. I thought I had understood the whole thing and in that plan I was supposed to do an hour cool down and then 3-4 easy last night to loosen up for my 2 hour trail run today. Last night after the 3 miles easy I realized that I was actually just supposed to get in 10 miles in the morning, not close to 14. Ooops! But at the time I thought I was doing what I was supposed to so after congratulatory hugs and kisses for the hubby I headed out with Hawthorne to run the course backwards super easy. Got lots of funny looks and lots of "you're going the wrong way" comments. But we sloughed our way through 5 miles and I added another 10 minutes with Daisy and Salty to get to an hour.
Rewarded myself with some vinegar fries and headed over to the awards still sweaty and salty and covered in dead bugs that clung to my sweaty sun screened skin. Gross! Got there just in time to get my 5th place award and cheer on all my SERC buddies who placed in their age groups. Not sure what it looked like my priorities were as I was one of the only ones still in their race outfits and I was carrying around a Pepsi and vinegar fries :) At first they accidentally gave me the 1st place prize so I was shocked to receive a $50 gift certificate. But they got it sorted out and I actually received a $25 gift card, which was still super awesome! Also realized that once again I got beat by a gal that in the past few years has placed one above me in age group at this race. All I know is she must have had a fantastic race because I never saw her. The first gal ran a 32 something. I just can't fathom running that fast on that course. I can't even run a flat 5k at that pace yet!
Mmm Pepsi! Note the lucky bib number 277. I am a firm believer that I will do well if there are multiple 7s in my bib number. Yeah it's my only running superstition :)
I must say while I have no need for plaques I did feel pretty silly walking around with a gift card instead on an official looking award. Note those were actually the first place winners goods I had at this point.
So I guess as I keep getting faster my expectations will not always be met so easily. Races are starting to hurt a bit more and as I keep setting more aggressive goals I am coming up short a bit more than I am used to. But the awesome thing is that I am so far ahead of where I have ever been and I am just glad that I am in a position to make such aggressive goals for myself. I need to remember that at the end of the day I am not training to be a 5k or 5.25 mile runner, I am training to do well in the marathon and at ultras and that any gained speed I get in the short distances on the way to my loftier goals are really just bonus. Given the toughness of this course I think I really did a great job this weekend and I am proud of how hard I worked out there.
Super impressed by all my friends and SERC pals. Solar just keeps getting faster and faster! Glad that Salty and Daisy were able to come out and get in a good run. Congrats to everyone that raced this weekend! Official results will probably be up in a few days but here are my watch splits.
Mile 1- 6:34
Mile 2- 6:40
Mile 3- 6:47
Mile 4- 6:40
Mile 5- 6:38
Last .25- 1:25