"Finishing that 5k was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I ate more fettuccine Alfredo and drank less water than I have in my entire life. People always talk about triumphs of the human spirit, today I had a triumph of the human body. My guts. My heart. While I eventually puked my guts out, I never puked my heart out. And I am very, very proud of that."
Michael Scott from The Office
Steady. Determined. Relentless.
2012 was going to be the year of the tiger for me. The year where I would coach myself through many triumphant moments and be an unstoppable force taking on the streets of my town. And it was, for a quick minute. In early March my mind was steady and there was nothing that could shake me. I felt stronger and faster than ever where I was in complete control of my running. Mileage seemed to flow effortlessly from my legs and my heart grew that much more determined to become the athlete many thought I could never be, including myself. Nothing could shake me; not the flu, not another bogus job, not even the demons that once stirred inside me whispering that I would never be good enough. My spirit was relentless and my soul free as I cruised across the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle with an 82 second PR running with the big dogs.
Then it happened.
My body begun to turn on me and demand rest. It screamed for me to halt as I was tangled up in the strongest paced 5k my life had ever seen and laughed at me when I expected it to just be a minor hiccup. The wheels started slowly falling off the bus and my once unshakable confidence begun to waver. Progress was out of the question from April through early June as every road I attempted to venture down just made the waters a bit muddier and my body that much more beat up. Training switched over to maintenance mode as I found myself having to let go of any and all expectations for the spring racing season that danced through my dreams in the months prior.
2 less than stellar 13.1 performances and 1 mentally devastating 10 miler later I was done. My already tiny frame begun to whither away, exhaustion was dictating how most of my days were spent, and the year of the tiger seemed so far from my mindset.
Over trained. Heartbroken. Skeptical.
The worst part about being your own coach is that it gives you tunnel vision. You see only what you want from the only perspective you choose. There is no external intervention of a reasonable human with logical concerns, because this is you and it's easy to hush. I'm a pro at this. It's easy for me to be that sound voice of reason for the runners I coach, but for myself it's nearly impossible. And I proved that when I hit my max fast and hard. I am my greatest believer and my greatest critic where the two are still ironing out the kinks of harmoniously existing at the same time.
8 days is what I gave myself. 8 days to rest, recover, and decide if I really wanted to pick up the pieces from the side of the road and do this. It only took 3 before I had an unexpected and somewhat awkward moment of silent stillness in my garage where my heart was flooded with euphoric feelings about the possibilities ahead as I unloaded groceries from my car. This time I was going to do it right, and just like that it all came back.
Once again I found myself.
Steady. Determined. Relentless.
After the pickle I had myself in for several months, I knew it had to all be different. The theme of my comeback would have to be "less" of everything where I would somehow try to do more. Possible? Who knows, but I was going to try it anyways. I wanted that 5k PR bad, and nothing hurt my heart more this year then having to forfeit it when I knew I had it. Pure heartache. Again, I was going to chase it down but this time in 24 days with conservative mileage and lighter cross training...the complete opposite of every race I've ever done before.
Thursday night was go time and I toed the line of the Bastille's Day 5k with butterflies in my stomach that made me really question if I was ready to get back in the game so soon. 33 days prior my body was beat to the pulp, and there I was ready to saddle up again. I was more nervous and unsure then I had been since my catastrophic Chicago Marathon of 2010 experience but this time it felt strangely assuring to have those nerves there. To me this was confirmation that I wanted to be there and was finally in a place to do something crazy enough to scare the pants off me this year. This was the moment I had been craving all year.
24 days from burn-out to sub 19 finish is a pretty crazy goal.
But I wanted to hunt it down anyways. Make the impossible possible.
5k's are more challenging for me then any other race. They require a deep mental focus from step one as the body has to get to maximum pace as quick as possible. There is little room for error and by the time the race is over is usually when I'm feeling ready to hit it. My mind runs about a mile a minute where it's hard for me to get my head in the game as my breath quickly deepens and sweat begins to glisten off of my brow. As I charged out with the front pack of runners I had a hard time collecting my head. Am I going too fast? Should I try for a sub 6 mile 1? Where are the fast woman and why aren't they out in front of me yet? Can I handle this today if I don't break 19 minutes?
My Garmin seemed to be on the fritz, which is really no surprise as lately it is very temperamental. I kept glancing down at the dang thing where it was telling me my pace was sitting in the 6:15-20 range and I couldn't figure out why it felt so dang hard. Weeks ago I was clocking workout after workout of sub 6 pace, and this only made my mind stir that much more. Should I just back off if I know that I'm not going to break 19? Should I pull out? Am I playing all or nothing today? I hate this Garmin, why the heck do I even run with it anymore? It's not even clocking accurate time. Seriously where are all the fast woman?
It wasn't until about 2.75 miles into the race that my mind decided to join the party. By then I had already let my pace slip away a bit with each mile and knew that if I wanted to win this thing I was really going to have to get myself in check and kick it into high gear. Chicago has such a great depth of quick female runners that I knew if I begun to surrender at this point I would be out kicked and lose the race that in the last .1 that I led for 3 miles. Never thought I had a kick, but it was like a caged animal waiting to be unleashed and poured from my legs like never before. All engines were running where I was picking off the few men ahead of me that were slowly fading their way into the finish like it was no big deal. It all seemed like a blur in my mind where my head finally found peace and a bit of focus on the chute.
Last .1 was 38 seconds, 5:05 pace.
Finish Time: 18:56
Average Pace: 6:07
Overall Place: 12th out of 1232
Gender Place: 1st
That's a 30 second PR.
This was my very 1st 1st place finish
|I'm the short one on the right|
Took me awhile to realize the reason all that fast chicks weren't dashing out in front of me is because I've slowly wiggled my way to the back of that pack. Sure there are a ton of women who regularly spank me in nearly every single race I run, but I can hang with the best of them where I just have to start believing this a bit more.
The year of the tiger isn't over yet, it's only just beginning and may make for one pretty sweet comeback story.