Just when you think about taking a few weeks off... an opportunity to race pops up.
After coming back from Leah's wedding, my 2007 tri season officially ended. With no races in the near future... I could finally do it: train for fun, cut a workout short if I felt like it, run longer if the weather was nice, avoid the pool for a week, not worry about pace/intervals/speed... Just enjoy and have fun.
Really, this is why I started running in the first place - a release. Some people like to meditate, others clear their mind with soothing music, I have friends that cook as a way to relax... Well, while in college, I learned to run from stress. I've always enjoyed being outside, and sometimes you need peace and quiet. College is great, but it's packed full of people, parties, exams, studying, group projects, papers, lectures, football games... granted, all fun things... but I loved my hour alone. An hour in which I didn't have to study, talk, think. Or, maybe I wanted to think. It was my time.
I wasn't fast when I started running. Athens is hilly, but I forced myself to keep going. I enjoyed seeing my pace drop - noting that I could push myself by adding distance. I ran on trails by the intramural fields. My favorite route became a 1.2 mile loop that went around a small lake... at first, because of the hilly terrain, I could only make it around a few times. But, during my Senior year, I did that loop 6 to 8 times 6 days a week. I wasn't a "runner," I wasn't on a training schedule, I wasn't aiming for any particular race; I ran because I loved it. I did that 1.2 mile loop so many times, to this day, I can close my eyes and picture every little turn, hill, rock, tree, root... It was fun to watch the seasons change, leaves fall, winter set in, then spring in bloom.
I got caught up in the regimen. Maybe this is why I've taken so well to triathlon training? Every morning, I first put on running clothes. Over my running attire, I'd dress for class. After sitting through a few lectures, I'd rush over to the intramural fields... strip down and take off. It helped not going back to my apartment before I ran. Less of a chance that I'd get distracted or sidetracked by the 1001 things college life has to offer.
Only after college did I realize my training had turned me into a decent runner. I entered a few 5K's, 10K's, even a half marathon. Placing well, even winning my age group sometimes, fueled my competitive fire. I wasn't going to be a cheerleader forever, but this I could get into.
**** fast forward to present day:
Today I PR'ed in a half marathon! 1:27:12. The Greenville Spinx Half Marathon was a last minute addition to my 2007 race plan. My friend, Sarah, got injured during her training... and suggested I take her spot. To make things legal, I went with her to packet pick up and we changed the registration name.
I had not really been training for a half marathon, but coming off tri season - I figured I could do alright. It's been a goal of mine to break 1:30 in the half... however, an unplanned race on a hilly course? Hey, bring it on!
How nice to go to a race without packing a transition bag, lugging your bike, struggling to get a wetsuit on! So, about 15 minutes before the start we found ourselves moving with the crowd to the start line. "We" included me & my bodyguards: Peter & G (who I made wear matching shirts and gloves, btw). They're both training for IM Florida and wanted to get in a 10 mile run. With a bodyguard on either side, they shot the gun and we were off.
Suddenly, I realized how different it is to run a road race. Usually, when you get off your bike during a tri, it's your race to run. Here, it was hard to find my own pace; resisting temptation to push and hang with the leaders. But, alas, I'm no ex-collegiate CC star... I know what I'm capable of maintaining.
We left downtown Greenville and ran toward the Furman University campus. I saw my pace, worried that I might have taken it out too quick, but felt good and kept running. Peter and G broke off at mile 5, leaving me to run through Furman without my posse protection (and don't you think I didn't worry about this... see my "lost in FU" post). Luckily, the route was well marked. At mile 8, Peter and G retook my sides. Keeping the same pace I'd started out running, I was able to pass some girls in the last 3 miles.
Returning to the downtown streets, I realized that I was going to break 1:30! Yippee! This motivated me through the last mile, up the final hill, and over the finish line. I'm not sure yet, but I think it was good enough for a top 10 OA placing. I smoked my goal, had fun running with Peter and G, enjoyed a gorgeous morning outside, and... hey, the start/finish was less than a mile from my house ;)