The Lowell Good Times Series competition for the overall age group winners is seriously heating up and I’m not sure I can handle how intense it’s getting.
As I mentioned in my post on Monday, going into this week, I was ONE POINT out of first. That meant I just had to beat the girl ahead of me in the standings (who I had beaten the past 3-4 weeks). There’s one race left in the series, but beating her this past Tuesday would have meant that I would have a lead going into the final race next Tuesday. Going into the race, I was a little sore from a strength training workout on Monday that threw a few more squats at me than I probably should have done with a 5k the next day. I was psyched though and mentally ready to push myself (there’s seriously nothing like a little friendly competition to motivate me!)
Despite my excitement, I didn’t plan my start well. I started too far back in the pack of runners and got a little held up trying to get around people in the mad dash at the start line. This made me panic a little that I had to run faster to make up for lost time. In reality, I probably didn’t, and this made me go out faster on that first mile than I should have. Split- 7:17/mile.
Just after the first mile marker, I caught up to the girl I was competing with for first place (not the woman I’m next to in the above photo.). Just as I saw her, she turned her head, checking behind her and saw me. She definitely knew that I was the runner one point away from taking first place in our age group, because she immediately started running faster. It was clear that this was not just your standard 5k for her or for me; we were racing each other. I made it my goal to just keep her in my sights and to be patient on making a move.
I tried to settle in, catching my breath on the downhill sections, but I was feeling the effects of that overly ambitious first mile. Just after we passed the second mile (split: 7:33/mi.), I decided to make a move when I noticed she was having trouble getting around a couple of runners on the sidewalk. I was on the other side of the guardrail, so I made my move, but in hindsight, it was too soon and I wasn’t aggressive enough with it. I took the lead, but not by much, and then a few minutes later, she passed me again. Again, I tried to keep my eye on her, but I was truly exhausted by this point and every time I seemed to check my pace on my Garmin, it was reading 7:45. Not good.
With about half a mile to go in the race, I kind of accepted that I wasn’t going to catch her unless she completely fell apart. She was probably only 15-20 seconds ahead of me, but by that time, I just didn’t have it in me to close the gap, no matter how much I wanted to. Looking back, I really wish I had gone slower in the first mile, because in the past, that has made a HUGE difference in leaving me enough juice for a fast final mile. Nevertheless, I pushed myself hard at the end (final split – 7:39/mi.), knowing that I might at least snag myself a new PR even if I wasn’t going to beat her.
And that I did, with a chip time of 23:21, just about a 12-second PR, which is insane given that most of my 5k PRs have been on the order of 1-2 seconds.
Still, it was hard for me to feel happy about the time when I knew she had beat me and that I wouldn’t be moving up in the standings. Nevertheless, I tried my best to stay positive, enjoying some post-race cake (this was the 250th race in its history!) and celebrating with my running club.
Or at least, I thought she had beat me... Yesterday around noon time, the official results were published- AND I WAS TIED FOR FIRST! I had beaten the girl by 2 seconds on chip time (the time a runner records when they cross the starting mats in a race) – so even though she had crossed the finish line before me, I had been faster because I started behind her in the beginning. Those 2 seconds were good for 1 point- enough for me to close the gap.
So it’s all going to come down to the last race. I haven’t felt this nervous about running since track meets in high school! My running club friends were all offering me advice on strategy after the race, and I think I have an idea of what I have to do next week. It’s going to be close though. If you have any tips or advice on either 5k strategy or how to handle race pressure, I’d love to hear it! I seriously need all the help I can get. For the record, my mom is still holding steady atop the leader board of her age group! So Tuesday should be a very exciting night when the awards are announced. WISH ME LUCK!