"OMG, this was so much fun. Seriously! I loved it. Racing is fun."
Yeah, what she said. This was the most satisfying and heck, flat out fun race I have done in awhile. Things fell into place like layers of hair after a really expensive cut at a salon (or so I've heard). In the days leading up to the meet, the coach of the club I now run for told me I had the choice of being the slowest in the fast heat or the fastest in the slow heat and he would adjust my seed time accordingly depending on what I wanted. The fastest seed time was 9.55, the slowest 14.00. I figured if the stars lined up I could just barely avoid being lapped in the fast heat but would definitely do some lapping in the slow heat so I opted for being the turtle in the fast heat. So he obligingly adjusted my seed time from a conservative 10.50 to a still realistic 10.44 thus leap frogging me over the 5 girls seeded at 10.45 and ensuring me a spot in the faster heat. I really did not know what I was capable of having not run anything shorter than 5 km since this race. I had been having trouble running even 600 m repeats at 10.45 pace so I thought that 10.45 was at the improbable edge of possible.
Ahead of time I memorized all 15 of the splits I would need to run 10.45. I told myself that the two biggest mistakes I could make would be to go out too fast or to waste energy elbowing for space out in lane 2 or 3 especially given that there were 10 girls seeded between 10.30 and 10.45 in the heat (plus another two girls at 9.55). So, when the gun sounded, I hesitated a split second to allow everyone to get ahead of me and positioned myself at the very back of the pack right on the rail. I reminded myself that inevitably people go out too aggressively in track and bided my time at the back. It was a full 600 m before I passed anyone. After that, it seemed I was slowly and steadily passing runners throughout but honestly I barely noticed. All I was thinking about was the next split I needed to hit and how the gap between splits I was actually running and the split I needed to run was steadily increasing (i.e. I was running under 10.45 pace). I have never felt so a) focussed and b) free of physical distress before in a race. I was completely in the zone. (Ok, I did spend a bit of mntal energy whining about paste-mouth that comes with running at an indoor track...so dry!). But really, this race was an absolute blast and it was so empowering to move slowly and steadily through the pack.
With a km to go, I was essentially deciding when to kick. Finally, I realized if I could run a sub-80 last 400 m, I would break 10.30... at that point I heard the one-lap-to-go bell ring for the first place woman (who was trying to break 10.00). I decided I did not want to be lapped and took off. I managed a 77 second last 400 m good for a 10.28 final time. Just missed getting second place by 0.04 seconds. So here, as best I recall, are my splits:
3.34 (1 km)
5.41 (1 mile)
7.05 (2 km, second km run in 3:31)
10.28 (last km in 3:23)
Honestly, I would not have thought I could run a 3.23 km period right now, let alone at the end of a 3 km race. Amazing what the adrenaline of a race and rested legs can produce. Makes me want more!
Oh... and Mmmonyka, this part is for you - except for one other woman born in 1980 (who finished 0.04 seconds ahead of me) I was the oldest athlete by 14 years!! Almost everyone else was born in the 1990s. I was a whopping 24 years older than the youngest runners in the race. Quite a different scene that road racing!!