After my parents got to St. Paul on Friday, we made a stop at the expo to pick up my race packet (and some awesome orange socks from VitalSox that match my Oiselle uniform!) and then off to some Italian restaurant my dad had found. I hadn't eaten since breakfast because things were kind of complicated with needing Erin or her roommates to let me into their dorm every time I came back from somewhere, so I was starving by this point. And, as luck would have it, we had to wait AN HOUR AND A HALF for our table. I was not the least bit happy about this. It also messed up my plan of being in bed by 9. I will say that the food was delicious. But from now on, I'm not letting my dad drag me off to nice Italian restaurants with good reputations the night before a race. From now on, we'll be cooking our own pasta or eating at dumpy little places. Deal? Deal. One other problem (or what I thought was a problem) was that I had to get up at 4:30 AM to eat and let my food digest before the 7:30 AM race start. Obviously, it's impossible to find coffee at 4:30 in the morning, and I couldn't just get it the night before and save it because my hotel room didn't have a microwave. Since I've developed my coffee addiction, I've had it before every hard workout or race. I didn't have any idea how I'd manage to get through the race without it, but I didn't have any choice.
The final reason that I thought my race was screwed was the weather. Normally, I'm not a wimp about weather but normally I'm prepared. When I packed for this trip 2 weeks earlier, it looked like every day would be warm and sunny, so that was the weather I packed for. When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was 37 degrees. Lovely. I bundled up as best I could and walked across the street to the capitol building in the dark to warm up. With my hair still wet from my shower. Great planning, Amanda. After my sleep, eating, and coffee were all messed up, I started having even more doubts about the race when my legs felt dead on my warm up. Crap. But, I was already there and couldn't back out. I kept my extra clothes on as long as possible, but eventually had to hand them over to my parents and head to the starting line. The only warmth I kept with me was my thin pair of gloves. I did a few strides and then it was time for the national anthem. They sounded lovely, but I'm sure I speak for everyone standing there shivering when I say that we wouldn't have complained if they'd skipped it.
After a minor malfunction with the starter's air horn, we were off. As we ran away from the capitol, I heard the commentators say something about how "you have to take care off an air horn, keep it warm, and avoid shaking it." I remember turning to the girl next to me and saying "Funny, the same is true for me!"
I really didn't want to take the lead from the beginning, so I settled into a pack of about 6 women. I also didn't want to be an obsessive Garmin-checker, but I did really want to average under 6:00/mile pace, so when I looked down at about the half-mile mark and saw we were already only averaging 6:07, I just thought "that won't do" and decided to pick up the pace a bit. My move must have been stronger than I realized, because only one woman came with me. At that point there were only 5 men in front of us and I made up my mind that I didn't want to let any more than 3 men beat me. So, we kept up a strong pace, passed two of them, and went through the 2-mile in 12:00. Perfect. And it felt way more comfortable than I expected it to. It was around that time that I started talking to the other woman and we started running side-by-side, working together, and having a great time. The course was all rolling hills, but nothing too steep or long, and we handled them really well, going through the 5k in 18:36 -- still right on 6:00 pace.
On the way back, we got to see all the runners who were still on the way out and they were so supportive and excited to cheer on the first two women. It really gave me an energy boost and put a smile on my face to hear so many people screaming for us. One guy even yelled out "nice legs!" I realized that since I'd been running with and talking to this woman for so long that I should probably ask her name. It turns out that Greta was a former DIII All-American in steeple from St. Catherine's University and I'd seen her name on the NCAA performance list my junior year. What a crazy small world it is!
I kept talking to Greta to keep her with me and we stayed together through the 5-mile mark in 30:00 (still perfectly on pace). After keeping the pace conversational for 5 miles, I felt fantastically fresh and felt like I should pick it up. I passed the 6-mile banner in 35:42. I turned the corner onto John Ireland Blvd and kicked down the final hill to the finish line, breaking the tape in 36:48 -- a PR by 1:32 and well under my goal time. My secondary goal, decided during the race, of only being beaten by 3 men was also achieved. That man in blue behind me in the finish line picture was #4.
After I finished, I was quickly pulled aside and interviewed about the race. I'm sure I sounded like a complete moron. I mean, I wasn't breathing very heavily (one sign that I can definitely run a faster 10k) but who really has a clear enough head after a race to give a decent interview? If they ever put the video up online, I'll post it here, but I'm cringing at the thought. I REALLY liked the 10k. I still need to sit down with Shayla to figure out the plan for the next few months, but I hope it includes at least one more 10k.
I was happy with my time at Twin Cities, but I still treated the first 5 miles like a tempo run and I'd really like to see how much faster I could run in a race with challenging competition where I'm actually in a racing mindset from the start.
What's next up for me? We'll just have to wait and see!