I can honestly say that last night was probably the most epic race of my life.
I had a pretty big case of nerves going into Tuesday – I couldn’t help remembering all the big track meets from my high school days (and how I never seemed to handle the pressure well). Those thoughts were swirling in my mind all weekend, even while I tried to remain calm and focused on my strategy.
My first panic attack came Monday afternoon when I saw that a late evening meeting at work had been scheduled for Tuesday – smack dab in the middle of race time. Luckily, my coworkers are awesome and have been rooting for me in this series all summer long, so it all got sorted out so that I could leave early to be on time for my race. Although my boss did end up telling me not to bother coming in the next day if I didn’t win. 😉 So the pressure was definitely on.
If you remember from my last post, I was TIED for first place going into this final race. So, both me and the other girl (let’s call her “Jane”), knew that we only had one other person to beat in order to get first place in the female 20-29 age group. I kept an eye out for her throughout my warm-up, but didn’t see her. I fantasized for a second that maybe she wouldn’t be there, but no such luck. I spotted her stretching on the side of the starting corral during the pre-race announcements and I swear, it was like something out of a movie the way we locked eyes, both of us realizing there was going to be no easy running this night. I refused to let it intimidate me though. I was happy I had seen her because I knew she was in front of me – all I had to do was run my race and I would catch up to her. It also gave me a few seconds advantage on chip time since I would be crossing the starting mats a few seconds after her.
The national anthem finally finished… And then we were off. I ran hard but controlled, focusing on my own pacing and not worrying about when I would catch up to Jane. About a quarter of a mile into the race, I suddenly heard cheers- it was my dad and our family friends who are big fans of the blog waving a sign and cheering for me!
First mile: 7:07. Faster than I had planned on, but it was a cooler evening and I felt solid.
Just after passing the first mile, I spotted Jane not too far ahead of me. Rather than risk over-exerting myself trying to catch up to her, I decided to hang back and let her set the pace. I was hoping she wouldn’t know I had caught up so soon, but again -just like in the last race- she turned around and spotted me, and I knew the race was on.
I let her stay roughly 25 meters or so ahead of me and worked on just keeping her in my sight. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I had made the week before where I had passed her too soon, only to have her pass me again and gain a mental edge. Mile 2 – 7:34. Solid.
By the last mile I was hurting for sure. But I was also thinking about all the people I had rooting for me – all my family members, my blog friends, and my coworkers – and how I didn’t want to let them down. Usually, I would be more than happy with a second place finish, but in this case, with first place being SO FREAKING CLOSE, I knew I had to dig deep and go for it. The last mile is thankfully mostly flat, and I slowly started reeling in Jane.
Running past my dad and family friends again, she was probably only 15 feet or so in front of me, but she also wasn’t letting up. Finally, we reached the last twisting walkway and then the last 100 meter straightaway with the sharp left turn into the finish. And I POURED it on like I was running for a gold medal in the Olympics. (Not trying to be dramatic here, but that’s honestly what it felt like!). Bit by bit, I could see myself gaining on her – 8 feet away, then 5 feet, then 3… And then we were crossing the finish line, Jane probably one second ahead of me. She collapsed on the grass on the side of the finish to catch her breath, and I shook her hand, telling her that it had been a good race. 3rd Mile: 7:23.
I didn’t know for sure whether I had won or lost- I remembered from last week that I had beat her on chip time, and in that race, there had been a bigger gap between us crossing the finish line. In that race, I had ended up beating her by 2 seconds, so I thought my chances were good. After catching up with my mom and brother, we headed back to the bar that hosts the runners and I was able to check the results… AND I HAD DONE IT. My time was 23:01, another big PR for me, even from the week before. The unofficial results posted that evening had me winning by 5 seconds, but when the official results came out the next day around noon, I found out it had been even closer- I beat her by 2 seconds, good for a 1 point victory. 10 weeks of races and it all came down to 1 POINT. You couldn’t script this to be anymore dramatic!!
Needless to say, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face, when I found out. When my name was announced as the first place winner for my age group, my running club started cheering and hollering for me. It was a seriously awesome moment.
What made it even better, was that my mom DID get first in her age group too!!! It was another huge victory for 2 Generations Running. 🙂
My family celebrated by getting ice cream for dinner on the way home from the race and rehashing all the details and excitement of the night.
This race totally exceeded my wildest expectations and I’m still just basking in the glow from it. I’ve also never treasured a silly little plaque the way I do this one.
It’s going up on the wall for sure. 🙂
Finally, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who wished my mom and I luck before this race, offered us advice on 5k strategy, and supported us through the series. We are just the luckiest.