Tuesday, November 19, 2013

San Francisco Mermaid Series 5k Race Report

Pretty much the last smile on course before it got painful

Between the Oregon/Stanford game and impending attempt at a sub 30 minute 5k, I spent the entire first full week of November sick to my stomach. I was a bundle of nerves and Oregon losing to Stanford only made me sick to my stomach and sad.

I had a couple of goals this year in terms of athletic accomplishments. One of them was to continue in the sport of triathlon and hopefully earn some PR's. I've realized that's pretty hard to evaluate in terms of triathlon since every course is different. Some sprint races are 400 meter swims, some are 400 yard some swims, some are open water and some are pool swims. While that goal was a little more difficult to judge, the one steadfast goal I had for 2013 was to earn a sub 30 minute 5k. I found my self frustrated most of the year, since tri training didn't allow me much time to work on run speed. After my last tri in October I vowed to work on running and getting faster.

The Mermaid Run was my target race to accomplish this goal. The course is flat, I have run it several times and if I wasn't able to achieve it there, I would still have couple of more opportunities before the end of the year. 11 seconds, that's what I needed to shave off of my best 5k time in order to go sub 30. 11 seconds doesn't sound like a lot, but it feel like an insurmountable amount of time when you look at the average pace difference per mile. I knew the pace I would need to maintain over the 3.1 miles to shave off those seconds and I also knew it would hurt.

Come race morning I showed up early to get my bib, say hi to friends and get a warm-up in prior to the 5k start. I spotted Heidi of Mermaid Series and went over to say hello before she got too busy announcing. This is the first year in about 3 years that I have run this race without a group of girls from Mini-Mermaid Running Club, so it was weird to be here with my own personal goals. I told Heidi my goal and when she asked how I felt about it my response was full of self doubt. To which Heidi gave me this look and asked me the question again. This time I responded "Yes, I'm going to do it".

I got in line for the race early. I know that there were thousands of mermaids racing today as well as a bunch of mini mermaids, I wanted to run my own race and not get frustrated dodging other runners. I wasn't that jerk who lined up right at the front but I was the jerk who lined up a couple of rows behind the start line. While I'm trying to stay warm Heidi announces over the loud speaker that my goal for the day is to go sub 30. I look at her and start shaking my head "Nooooo, don't tell everyone!" She laughs, she knows  she is holding me accountable for my goals by telling everyone what they are. Shortly after that, she sent us off to earn our goals.

The first mile felt great. I was very conscious of my pace and running my own race. I needed to be focused on me and not worry about others around me. I had lined myself up well and was able to pretty much run my own line without interference. The first mile went great. After the one mile marker I started to think about trying to run the most direct line I could so that I would not over the run the course and miss my goal because of that. I did my best, but they had us on the street, on the path, back into the parking lot, I was trying to be really careful.

I blasted past the aid station, I didn't need water and slowing down to take some could also cost me my goal. I know it sounds crazy, but we are talking seconds and I didn't want to be short of my goal by 2 seconds. I was ecstatic to see the turn around. Halfway there! My pace was good but I could tell that I was running the course slightly long. There was a lot of motivational self talk going on. I knew I couldn't slow down, I had to maintain my pace, I kept telling myself that. I didn't need to run faster but I did need to maintain. Around mile two was when the pain really started to kick in. "You knew it was going to hurt" I told myself. "Heidi told everyone your goal, you can't not achieve it!" What I really kept repeating over and over was "Do it for Sydney and Kylie." Sydney would later ask me why I said this to myself and I tried to explain to the best of my ability that I never ask them to do anything that I myself would not do. So when I tell them to work hard at practice if they want to pop their times, I have to do the same thing.

 With about half a mile to go my form was terrible, I sounded liked I was dying (yes I could hear myself over my music and it was that bad) but my pace stayed on track. As we approached the finish line chute (which wraps all around the expo and seems unbearably long) I started to sprint. This was it, it was all or nothing, I knew that if I didn't sprint here I would not make my goal. I must have passed 7 or 8 people in the chute who misjudged my determination. As I crossed the finish line and tried not to puke on the nice volunteers I glanced at my watch and saw 29:54. I wanted to cry but I was desperate to find out my official time. It was my official time that counted and I refused to celebrate until I was certain I had reached my goal. Thankfully my prayers were answered when I received a text message with my official race time of 29:54!

I wanted to cry, I wanted to jump from the rooftops and sing, I wanted to curl up in the grass and catch my breath. It's hard to put into words how badly I wanted this and how scared I was to try and go after it. I know I have said it before but I feel like most of us don't set hard goals for fear of failure. I don't think I was ever more afraid of failure as I was in the days coming up to this race. Part of me is still in awe that I got out of my head long enough to just do it and not listen to the doubts.

I guess that means I'll have to come up with new goals for next year, gasp!

Official stats

3.14 miles in 29:54 (I did run it long)
15/111 AG

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