Saturday morning Jason and I ventured to John Rudy county park to run the 5 mile race that is part of the York Winter Series. Last year I stunned myself breaking 40 minutes on the course particularly since it occurred only a few days after a nasty stomach virus. Going into the race this year I felt stronger than I had the first 3 winter series races, but definitely not as in shape as I had last year. I felt breaking 43 minutes was a good goal.
The weather was rather mild for this time of year, enough so that I chose to race in shorts. If you had told me several years ago I would be racing in January let alone wearing shorts I would’ve laughed at you and said I’ll see you in the spring. I chose not to wear my gloves figuring my hands would warm up within the first mile, a decision I might weigh more carefully as it was closer to two miles before my fingers felt fully functional.
I joined the pack at the start, staying farther back than my dad or Jason. There were so many people that I didn’t even realize the race had started until everyone started moving. I made a guess as to when to start my watch and proceeded to start weaving in and out of people. The rail trail path is a bit narrow, but last year didn’t seem too bad. This year, however, it took me nearly a mile into the race before I felt that I had finally “broke free” of the crowd and was running with people at my pace.
Despite the somewhat slow start I clocked the first mile in a 7:59 much to my surprise. I didn’t feel half bad and wondered if I could push breaking 40 minutes again. The second mile was a 8:04 and I thought well ok, if it’s close to 40 that’ll still be pretty decent. As I neared the halfway point I saw my dad and Jason running together on the way back and cheered them on.
Once more I began to feel a tad crowded as I kept coming upon people I wanted to pass, but I didn’t want to go out and around them and risk interfering with the runners who were already returning. I kept my impatience at bay figuring I could always just push harder at the end if needed. Heading back the trail I caught up with Leigh, the girl I met and chatted with during the Wildcat 10k a few weeks ago. She was pushing the slight downhill grade and I paced with her until I began to want to push harder and started to pull away.
The last two miles I was finally free of any restricting crowds and really worked. There is something about a relatively flat, but not 100% flat course, that gives me reassurance that I can continue to keep pushing and won’t burn out. I caught and passed my one track girl and offered encouragement before catching another one with a quarter mile until the finish. I spurred her on and she pushed right alongside me. I saw the clock ahead counting upward towards the 40 minute mark and I pushed, but had nothing left to fully sprint. My final time was 40 minutes exactly with an age group finish of 4th.
I felt so good finishing that race knowing I pushed nearly the entire course just like I did last year. Although my hamstring injury last spring didn’t keep me fully down and out for long, it certainly killed the speed and strength I had built up. My performances at the first 3 races reinforced my mindset that I wasn’t as strong as last year, and that I was still needing to get back to where I wanted to be. My race on Saturday gave me confidence back that while I’m not quite at where I was at this point last year, I’m a lot closer than I thought I was and I’m strong enough to keep pushing hard in races.
Have you ever lost confidence in your ability to push hard in a race? Did you regain it and if so, how?