When a Race is Really a Race

If you’ve been following my running lately, you may have noticed something.  I’ve been running races, but I haven’t been racing.

I’ve been half-assing them.

With my ego bruised from my DNF last fall, my only goal for my last marathon was to finish well and not fall apart.  I couldn’t afford to race with guts and risk falling apart again.  I just needed a happy race and I got it.

Then during my first 5K of the season a couple weeks ago, I just felt completely out of my element and dropped back into familiar marathon pace for the last half of the race.  It was good enough at the time.

But today was different.

I actually RACED!

I’ve run the Chilly Challenge 8K once before two years ago and haven’t run another 8K since, so I had no idea what to expect as far as pace.  Before I left the house, I entered my marathon time into a pace calculator to get a sense of what I should be able to accomplish.  It said 32:05.

This course is very hilly so I suspected I wouldn’t quite get that time.  There’s a hill at the start, two in the middle and a steep one at the finish.  But there is a nice, straight rolling section in the last mile and a half.

I wasn’t supposed to win. Katie is much faster than I am, so I had no problem letting her go up the first hill.

Mile 1: 6:33  I stuck to the race plan, not going out too fast.  I kept Katie in my sight, but the gap widened to 100-200 meters.  There was no way I would close that, so I just focused on making myself proud of the effort.

Mile 2: 6:49  Yes, there was an uphill here, but there was also a downhill.  I was settling back into a familiar rhythm of slowing down when the effort level went up.  Not again.  Not this time. 

Mile 3: 6:42  The middle section has a big loop for a turn around so you can see everyone’s position.  I couldn’t tell if I was closing the gap or not, but Katie did not seem to be getting farther away.  It was at the end of this mile that I decided that I would catch her.  No matter what.  She became my prey and I was going to hunt her down.

(It sounds so serious and mean when I type it out!  But this is honestly the mental game that I play racing that gets me to focus.)

Mile 4: 6:25   I dropped the hammer. That’s more like it!  I was closing in on her.  But I didn’t want to surge to early only to get passed again. I wanted to sneak up on her.

Final 9/10 mile: 6:34 pace Miraculously, I actually caught her about 3/4 of a mile from the finish. She had no clue I was there and couldn’t respond.  Katie is a powerful trail runner and I thought for sure she’d catch me on the last big hill so I gave it everything I had and kicked, gasping to the finish. She was nowhere in sight.

First place female, 32:28, 6:37/mile pace.  That calculator wasn’t so far off after all!

I raced so hard at the end that I had to lie in the grass for a minute at the finish.

More than the win or the PR, I am so happy with this race because I truly gave it my all.  Finally.

And on an unrelated note, I am really looking forward to celebrating tonight with my sister-in-law for her birthday.  Her favorite cake is chocolate with mint frosting so I made her one.  Vegan, of course!  Just have to show you this one.

Yum!

Oh, and next week is my week to start hosting the Run to the Top Extra Kick Podcast!  We answer one running-related question per day in a short daily episode.  Perfect to listen to during your warm up.  Click here to check it out on iTunes.  Or click here if you use Stitcher.

Look!  There I am with elite Tina Muir, head coach and running guru Jeff Gaudette, and the always amazing Coach Danny Fisher.  I am humbled.

Take a listen and let me know what you think!

9 Replies to “When a Race is Really a Race”

  1. Patrick Heflin says: Reply
    Nice work Claire! Always great to read your race commentary. Inspiring racing stories - love them. Getting me mentally prepped for my last marathon (potentially) in Nov.
    1. Thanks, Pat! Which one are you doing? I'm tempted to do Milwaukee.
  2. Laurie Householder says: Reply
    Despite you being way faster than me, we have led parallel racing lives! Your past year almost mirrors my 2015- early 2016 exactly. The real truth in running is that we can't lie to ourselves and feel good about it... A half-assed effort, a race that you know doesn't reflect your abilities (even if you win!), and a fight to come back from that with a willingness to give it your all, even if it hurts big time and is so HARD! Because anything less than that is just not satisfying...
    1. I don't mind if it hurts if it means something! Glad you are listening to the podcast. It was super fun to do.
  3. Laurie Householder says: Reply
    And I have been listening to the Kick this week! Looking forward to hearing your voice! :)
  4. As a mediocre runner at best and even more so by Asheville standards it's interesting to read how you talk of your competitors. It's unfortunate that in our tight knit running community we have such insecurity among some competitors. Given the numerous races going on the same weekend of this race this result would have hardly been relevant had the real runners showed. In addition honesty in your poor results (i.e. DNF last fall post) would yield more benefit to you as recreational runner. You do not DNF a 26.2 mile race at mile 16 because of not having a toaster, traffic, a caffeine pill and a forgotten banana. That list of excuses is that of a true amateur but then again maybe your blog is targeted more on the "finisher" crowd than the "racing" crown either way that DNF was lack of preparation…..blog away!
    1. Hi Jodi. I have to admit, I didn't want to reply to your comment at first, but you took the time to read and reach out with your opinions, so it's only fair to respond. If you were brave enough to express your criticism, there are undoubtedly others that feel the same way as you do about me. And that's okay. I am well aware that there are at least a dozen women in Asheville that could have easily beaten me that day and perhaps you are one of them. I am a 41-year-old mom who just started running a few years ago and I have no illusions that I am a professional runner. I'm just out there trying my best. I enjoy competition and I am trying to be completely honest with the thoughts that go through my head on race day, even if they might seem negative. My "competitors" are usually friends and trying to compete with them makes me a better runner. If I happen to win, of course I'll be happy! But as you pointed out, that only happens when the "real runners" are somewhere else (which is actually true of every runner on the planet except the person who can't be beat). Does that make it any less "relevant"? It's relevant to me, so I wrote about it. But I do have to take issue with your diagnosis of my DNF. It was my sixth marathon, I ran 70-85 miles per week for over three months (for a total of nearly 3000 miles last year), and hit every major workout before the race. To say that I was unprepared is an unfounded assumption, but that is my shortcoming as a writer if that was not made more clear. I am wholeheartedly an amateur runner and am not pretending to be anything but. I don't know what it takes to become a "real runner" by your definition and I don't know if we'd have much of a running community if the bar to be a "real runner" is set so high. I'm not sure your comments to me do anything to foster community, but in all honesty I'm glad you shared. You wrote my first negative comment. It had to happen some time!
    2. Jodi, you're comments are that of a troll only trying to pick an argument or take the fun out of someone else's exciting day. Sorry for you.
      1. Thank you, Andy.

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