Yesterday was quite the day of running for me. First, I was up at 6:25 am for my RF501 group training run; my scheduled distance this week was 18 miles, my longest run ever. When we set out it was already 67 degrees with over 95% humidity. I took it easy for the first 9 miles of the run, keeping my splits between 8:55-9:11 and averaging 9:01/mile for the half. After I reached the out-and-back route's turnaround point I decided to pick it up for the final 9 miles. Miles 10-15 I did in 8:53, 8:51, 8:34, 8:23, 8:29 and 8:32. I was feeling good. Then...mile 16. 8:57. Mile 17: 9:29. Mile 18, last mile: 9:39. I think I got my first taste of "The Wall." It happened so fast. One minute I was tooling along at a comfortable pace, the next I felt like someone had dropped a load of bricks on my shoulders and tied cannonballs to my ankles. I had taken my last Gu packet at mile 12 and took in water and Ultima at mile 14, so I thought I would have enough spring in my step and fuel in the tank to maintain a sub-9:00/mile pace for the remainder of the run, but it was not to be. I could feel myself slowing down with every step once I passed the 16 mile mark. I thought, Just put one foot in front of the other. Don't stop. Whatever you do, do not stop to walk because it will be impossible to get going again. I slogged onward, and at one point right around the 17 mile mark with only a mile left to go I almost stopped. I actually slowed to a walk for one stride and then spoke sharply out loud to myself: "NO!" I kept going, and ran all the way to the end. By the time I finished just after 10:00 the humidity had dropped to 70% but the temperature had risen to 78 degrees. It was very uncomfortable. Despite hitting the wall I successfully achieved my goal of a negative split, averaging 8:52/mile for the second 9 miles. Back at our meeting spot I downed some watermelon and chocolate-covered pretzel balls and then walked home.
My day was not yet finished, however, for at 12:30 pm I was toeing the line at the start of the second annual Run for the Rolls 1-mile road race. We did this race last year and had remarkable success as a family. This year I was determined to improve over my age group-winning time of 7:52. I knew that on a normal day I would have no trouble managing at least 7:00 flat if not a sub-7:00 time. This was not a normal day. I had already run 18 miles that morning. I did the best I could for recovery in the two and a half hours between runs, sitting in a cold water bath, popping an ibuprofen pill, drinking lots of water, downing an apple fritter from Pierce's Pastries, smearing pain relief gel all over my legs, stretching, lying down for a little while. Ready or not, the race was at 12:30 and there I was, trying to shake out the soreness as I lined up with my competitors.
When the horn sounded I took off as fast as I dared. The shirtless high school cross country runner trio sprinted off to the front and I gamely followed. We turned the corner and headed down the long straight stretch of Main St. Spectators were out in force because the Chelsea Community Fair parade was scheduled to start at 1:00, so crowd support was awesome (even if they were really there to watch the parade). I saw two adolescent girls in front of me but I could already tell they had gone out too fast and I would have no trouble reeling them in. Indeed, I passed the first one before we had gone a quarter of a mile and the second around the half mile mark. There were no other women in front of me. This was a novel experience. I knew if I could hang on I had a very good shot at winning the female race. If I hadn't been so exhausted yet focused I would have waved at the people shouting, "Hey, first girl! Go, go, go! You rock!" and other such stuff. The second and last corner came about 200 meters before the finish and I rounded that curve and poured everything I had into finishing strong. I didn't dare look over my shoulder. When I crossed the finish line I had nothing left.
I had done it, though: 6:48, my fastest mile split ever, and good enough for first place in the women's race! I got a certificate for a dozen rolls from the Common Grill--an improvement over last year's half-dozen-- and an awesome tile with a stand. James finished second in his age group (out of 19) with a 7:06 time and got a certificate for one of the ice cream stores in town.
Just before dinner James and I walked up to the Common Grill and I redeemed my certificate for 12 rolls fresh from the oven. Nothing like the spoils of victory!