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Defining a PR (Or, running math)

May 1, 2011
tags: , ,

(A little Bruins race-day pride.)

I spent some time yesterday wondering what makes a PR, especially when you’re faced with a tough course, but you place higher than you’ve placed before, yet are minute slower overall. This is what happened yesterday.

I’m not going to lie: I’m medal chasing. And I love it. I signed up for the Healthy Melrose 5K, and really wanted first place. Looking at last year’s results, I was dubious that would happen. I am slower than last year’s female winner, but faster than the 2nd place woman.

I emailed the course director, but they couldn’t provide me with a course map. All I knew was, it was labeled “challenging”. I have no idea if it’s the same course as last year. Based on finisher times, I’m guessing it wasn’t.

I decided to go for it.

The race was at noon, which gave me ample time to freak out in the morning. My poor husband. At 11am, I was rearing to go, so we drove 5 minutes away (convenient, no?) and picked up my bib. I also like to do some strides, and stalk the starting line. Yes, I needed an hour for that.

(There I am, laughing while Michael takes pics. #81? Amazing lady.)

Healthy Melrose was actually a great event with a huge turnout. A body pump class was being held on the middle school’s lawn, and nearby, a children’s martial arts class was in full swing. Inside the school, representatives from my local yoga studio and running store were there, among so many more. I was actually really excited about that!

So, here’s the story:

Horn goes off and my adrenaline is soaring. I am in the zone and I can’t even feel my arms or legs. I am very unaware I even have a body. My legs are turning over without me even asking, and I look down at my Garmin and I’m running a 6:19 pace and we’re .64 in. This is where the hills begin, in earnest.

In Melrose, there is one neighborhood which is incredibly hilly. On this unclosed course, there are police officers directing us to the correct streets (nauseatingly hilly streets). It’s worth noting that at this point, I’m aware of about 12-15 men and one woman who are in this first group with me. The woman (#81) is VERY fast. She is smoking the men on these hills. I am bowing to her in my head, and I know I’m taking 2nd. I am absolutely ok with that. I am more than ok. She is a running goddess! I have more work to do, and I know it.

Moreover, while I am fast on a flat course, I cannot climb hills in the 6 minute range yet. I can, however, climb in the 7 range. Again, more homework for me.

At the 1.7 mark, me and a couple men are neck and neck (and neck). We run the next mile together. One slows down, leaving two of us. At the last very tough hill, a police officer instructs us to run up. I actually cuss at that point, and I try not to, in general (it doesn’t really add much to your speech). The officer tells me “Honey, you’re top ten, keep going!”, so up I go. I am incredibly grateful for his encouragement.

However. My running companion yells “Wrong way!” and I panic and run back down the hill. Then, he yells to me he’s just kidding. I am feeling kind of defeated and panicked. I have actually gone the wrong way on a trail race in the past, and I …don’t even know. I guess I thought maybe he was right. Back up I go.

After this hill that won’t end, I’m back down and suddenly realize where I am – and I’m nearly finished. I see my male companion up ahead, and he clears the chute. The crowd is screaming at this point. I am thinking, “Wow! This is great!”. I give a wave to my husband, and then I’m in the chute, and my name is announced.

And then. A fifteen year old girl gets in the narrow chute with me, gives me what I can only describe as a mild hockey check, and gets directly in front of me, taking 2nd.

Not only did I not see her during the race, I didn’t expect it – at all. It seemed so un-sportsman-like to me. I realized after that the crowd was screaming because we were so close together. I’d already slowed down as I was in the chute, so you can imagine my surprise.

I ended up technically in 3rd place for all females and was 2nd in my age group. My Garmin clocked my splits at 7:31, 8:06, 7:47, and 7:17. The race results had me with an 8:03 average. Math fail.

What did I learn?

  • More hill work is needed.
  • I have a bit more speed on flat land than I thought. Hard work has been paying off.
  • Nursing your hurt pride is ok, but you gotta get back up again.
  • There will always be someone faster, better and (sometimes) younger. I just need to be the best I can be.
  • Recognizing accomplishments is a good idea. Not very deep I know, but trust me, after yesterday’s full on pity party, it’s probably a good thing to just acknowledge.
And if all else fails, you, too, can go over and read Kara Goucher’s post “Not my day, and that’s ok”. It made me cry when I read it after Boston. I’ll never be Kara-like, but I can strive. And admire, and read and relate, in my own little way.
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2011 10:17 pm

    Kara is someone we can all strive to be like but you’re a more realistic role model. 🙂

    PS – The 15 year old. Was she rogue? Could she have just jumped in towards the end or cheated somehow? Seems shady and super immature.

    • May 2, 2011 1:36 pm

      You know, Kim, I wondered that. I didn’t even hear or see her (even when I turned back down that hill, which was .30 from the finish line). Maybe she was holding back and sprinted the last .25 mile or something? Based on my times, I can’t really see that I slowed down too much (and finished with fastest pace), so I’m guessing she might have started slow and finished very fast? Very strange for sure!

  2. May 2, 2011 1:10 pm

    You did great Nicole! 🙂 Loved reading the story, and hearing about your “lessons”. You have such an inspiring competitive spirit. (Also, cringed at the 15-year-old shoving you WTF?!)

    • May 2, 2011 1:39 pm

      Thanks so much, Natalie! (My husband came running up to me after saying “She ran into you! I saw it!”…I was like Um, I felt it. Really strange. Maybe it’s like anything goes at track meets now, or something.)

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