When we got to the mile mark (which I was later assured was measured pretty darn accurately), my watch only said 0.91 and the time was 5:23. My coach told me to go out around 5:50 or even as slow as 6:00. I assumed the marker was wrong, not my watch, so when my watch beeped at "5:49" I felt like I was in a pretty good place. I didn't realize the error until a bit later.
I felt like I was working harder than I should be, but I shrugged it off because I thought I should be able to handle the pace. On the downhill 3rd mile, I dropped down to 5:43 pace and was starting to feel a little better. An unknown, clearly talented, woman was pretty far ahead of me, but I was in a solid 2nd place. It wasn't where I obviously wanted to be, but I knew that on that day I just wasn't going to be able to catch the leader.
And then we turned onto a long uphill. And things fell apart in a big way. My energy level had started out pretty low, but it plummeted very quickly and it was all I could do to keep moving forward. That 5:43 mile was followed up with a 6:22. Ouch. I just focused on putting one front in front of the other, but it felt like I was going nowhere. 2 women blew past me sometime in the 5th mile, quickly opened up a gap of about 15-20 seconds and I found myself in 4th, wondering how many more would pass by before we hit the finish.
I was in a pretty dark place, mentally and physically. I will not deny that a had a few thoughts of just stopping and jogging it in. But, I didn't want to be the girl who came from Colorado to drop out of the race. I try really hard to avoid dropping out of a race unless I'm seriously injured and risking damage if I continue.
So, I set my mind to not slowing further and just getting to that finish line. With about a kilometer to go, the first man caught me and I realized that the 3rd place woman was coming back. I tried to turn my legs over faster, and I closed the gap a little bit. I didn't think I was going to be able to catch her and I momentarily resigned myself to 4th place. But, that thought made me angry. If I want to be a competitive runner, I can't just give up on myself. So, when we hit the 6mile mark and started rounding the hangar, I turned off my brain and just went. I poured everything I had into that finishing stretch. I'm sure it didn't look pretty, but I kicked. And I crossed the line in 3rd, less than a second ahead of the 4th place woman.
In summary: my time of 37:11 was pretty far off what I think I can run, and of course I wanted to win again, but I did the one thing my coach told me not to do... I ran stupid. I should've trusted my legs telling me the pace was too fast, rather than listening to my silly Garmin. But, I had a nice visit with my dad and made some new friends on a long run in Omaha the next day, so the trip wasn't all bad. Now I'm back in Boulder and back to marathon training. My next race is another St. Patrick's Day race, this one a 5k in Fort Collins this Saturday, where I'd like to improve upon the 18:17 I ran in Denver last month.
All photos courtesy of Gary Dougherty.