This morning was the fourth year in a row that I've run the Jim Click Run'n'Roll 8k race around the UA. I love this race - the course is twisty and fun, the frat boys at mile 2 never fail to cheer and give high-fives, and the weather is usually warm but not too bad. This year did not disappoint!
Yesterday was windy and last night was very rainy. That made this morning absolutely perfect. Breezy and cool with puffy clouds. Ash and I headed to the U with our friend Chris and got there early enough to meet up with my friend Melissa. We danced around to great music, listened to the national anthem, then we were off!
I haven't run farther than 3 miles since April. And the running I've been doing lately includes lots of walk breaks and an average of 12:30-minute miles. Very slow. So I anticipated my personal worst for this course, but I didn't care. I was just happy to be headed out for a run!
Of course, I took off too fast. So I tried to temper the (relative) speed and aim for and 11:30 pace. I figured that would probably be too fast overall, but at the time it felt slow. After the initial crush of people spread out, I slipped into a great groove with Michael Franti & Spearhead's newest single bouncing in my ears. The ease at which I stayed between 11:30 and 12:15 surprised me, but I took it in stride and just kept going. I got my high-fives at mile 2 from the frat guys, tackled the only "steep" section heading down and back up the Speedway underpass at mile 3, skipped both water stations since I brought a handheld with gatorade - which allowed me both times to drop most of the annoying leap-froggers, had slowed down by this point but was in an awesome zone by mile 4 (there's a long slight uphill that I just kept jogging up; it felt so good).
In the last mile, a woman in blue I had been leapfrogging with - she would run really fast to pass me, cut in front of me, then walk slowly again and again and again for the entire length of the race - tried to catch me. Sneaker Pimps's song Six Underground started on my iPod and I kept cadence to it's beat. It was perfect - suddenly I was consistently running a low-11s pace. She tried her darnedest to keep up with me, but I could hear her grunting. I decided there was no way I was going to let her stay with me. I mean, if she could, that'd been great - we could have helped each other reach the finish line. But all she did was run right up to my side, then stay there, trying to hold on. Nope, I decided. Not after how annoying she had been earlier in the race. I'm going to keep going and I'm not going to let you pass me again. And so I kept going. And it felt so good. This was the fastest pace I had maintained for the course of the race - and it was at the end - and it just kept feeling better and better and better. Nirvana came on next and listening to the wall of guitars helped keep me going till I turned the corner and there was the finish line. I stepped it up a notch, then began my kick in earnest. And then Ash was there yelling that he wanted to cross the finish line with me, and of course I said yes, but I really had to put the brakes on in order to allow him to run with me :) I squeaked in just under an hour, totally faster than I thought I'd be.
And the best part? How incredibly GOOD the run felt. The longer I went, the faster I got, the better I felt. I got in a zone and that carried me through to the end. Pure bliss.
Bonus: El Charro was giving away free bean burritos afterwards. My favorite food by my favorite local restaurant! I contemplated the possible folly of chowing down on a bean-and-cheese burrito right after a race, but then decided it was worth it :)