It started on Wednesday. I was a little nervous about the upcoming race. Energy was starting to build up. I wasn’t sure what to do. I sat down at the computer and started to make a playlist. There are people who love the music when they run and those that love the silence. I like both, but for this particular race I wanted music. I had just seen a clip from one of the Prefontaine movies with Joe Walsh’s County Fair playing (see below). It was inspirational. So I built the list. I checked the time. 43 minutes.
That was my goal. Under 43 minutes. If I took any longer the music was going to stop. On Friday I started to listen to the playlist as I drove about town running my errands. As I would hit certain songs, I would visualize where I would be on the course. Years ago, when I was teaching at a small ski academy up north, we were privileged to have a visit from then big ski star Picabo Street. She talked to our kids about preparation before a ski run and part of that preparation was visualizing the run itself. I always thought that was a little hokey, but starting Friday and up until Sunday morning as I drove to the race, I kept visualizing where I would be and how my body would react at certain points. I kept saying to myself, “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid”. Eventually that mantra morphed into “No Fear.” As I drove to the race site I kept saying it over and over again, “No Fear, No Fear…” I tried to channel my inner Prefontaine.
It was cold, but after going through the normal warm up routine I decided to strip off the pants and go with shorts and one layer on top, a long sleeved shirt. I slipped on the VFF Treks, pulled down the skull-cap and slipped my mp3 sunglasses on. As we waited for the starting gun I kept repeating my mantra, trying to ignore the cold. The starter started the countdown…
No Fear – I pressed start on the Runkeeper App
No Fear – I slipped my glove back on as the music started.
And we were off. The beginning of County Fair is very slow. The first two and a half minutes are not what you would typically call running music. However, it then kicks into a groove that, when combined with the memory of the clip of Prefontaine, gets you going. I started fast but when the groove hit, I heard myself say, “No Fear” and I stuck it in overdrive. I had tried to start as close to the front as I felt I could without being out of place. For the first 1/2 mile I weaved in and out of traffic. I took every hole I could find, occasionally slowing down to then zip past a dead end of bodies.
When Runkeeper told me I had run a half mile, I took a quick glance at my watch.
6:40 pace. Okay! I did a self check. Everything functioning normal. The pace was a touch faster than I planned but I was feeling good.
At the mile marker my watch read 6:36. I was speeding up! It was early, but I was picking off groups of people at a time. As I hit the first turnaround at about a mile and a half, I cut hard and turned it up a bit. Mile 2 read 6:16.
Finishing the loop I saw that I was way ahead of where I had planned to be at 3.1 miles. My plan had been to run about 21 – 22 minutes for the first loop. As I went back onto the course my watch read 19:55, mile 3 had been a 6:20. I hadn’t known I could run that fast, especially with another 3.1 to go. For a moment there doubt crept in. What am I doing? I can’t run this fast twice. I’ve never been here. I started doing some quick math in my head. If I could just run a 23 on the second loop I’d still come in around my goal.
I repeated my mantra.
Mile 4 arrived quickly. 6:18. At this point I said to myself, “it’s only 2 miles”. At about 4 1/2 miles we hit the turn to head back to the start. About 50 yards ahead of me was some young kid, and 50 yards ahead of him was a young woman. I quickly reeled him in, looked over and said, “Come on. Let’s go catch that girl. Help me reel her in.” He looked at me like I was crazy, but he followed.
About 100 feet from the 5 mile marker we caught her. I eased just a little as the guy took off. After a moment, I looked at her and said, “Come on Let’s go catch that guy. Let’s reel him in.” We passed the 5 mile marker and she said, “I just PR’d for 8k!” I looked at my watch. Mile 5 – 6:23, 31:55 so far. “Me too,” I said, “Let’s get him!” We pushed on, caught him and passed him. Mile 6 arrived in 6:22. I was still flying, but now I was in the closing stretch. Less than a quarter mile to go and I knew I was within the realm of a sub 40. I went into an all out sprint.
Roger Daltrey was screaming in my ears. I covered the last 0.2 miles in a 5:55 pace finishing the race in 39:29, 7 1/2 minutes better than last year and 3 1/2 minutes faster than my stated goal.
My final results were 6.2 miles in 39:29 with a 19:55 first half and a 19:34 second half. I finished 39th overall out of 791 finishers and 4th out of 60 for my age division. I missed placing in my age division by 2 seconds! Not bad for a guy who just started running a little over a year ago.
I like to think that I learn something from every race. This race taught me that visualization can be a real part of training. I plan on trying it in other parts of my life as well, whether it’s parenting or housekeeping (I think the wife would be down with that part!). I also learned that we are stronger when we run together. Johnny and the young lady helped me push myself harder than I would have had I been alone on that stretch. For that I am thankful. I think that is something that I can take into other aspects of my life as well. I actually found Johnny afterward in the chowder tent and thanked him for pushing me along. He turned it right around and did the same.
I am still processing the race. Trying to figure out how this affects my long term goal. According to some websites, a 39:29 10k translates into a 3:02 marathon. Um, yeah, I’m not so sure about that. That being said though, I may have to rethink the training paces over the next several months. I’ve stepped up a level in my running, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to step back.
Boston? I have you in my sights!
Below is the Prefontaine movie clip that inspired the playlist and the mantra: