|Me and Mike Rush|
The course is a grass trail...it is the home course for the University of Arkansas cross country teams. People tell me it is a fast course but I never believed them until today! I began the race near most of the Rush team but knew not to bolt out at the start because of how clogged up it gets. My strategy for the race was to run a progression run. I had hoped to start at a 10:15 per mile pace and work my way down to 9:30 per mile (hoping to break 60 minutes.) I ended up near my Rush teammate Cord for the first mile and asked what his goal was. He was aiming for 9:30 per mile pace and we hit the first mile at 9:30 exactly. I was a little nervous with this but I decided to try and hang on for as long as I could and scrap my race plan. As we were nearing the 2 mile mark, we caught up to Heather who runs at our track workouts. I joined up with her and we stayed together until around mile 3.6. It was nice to have her company as we tackled the course hill for the second time.
I tried to avoid looking at my watch during the race, especially avoiding my mile splits. I knew I was going to have a good cushion around mile 4 and thought just hang on. By mile 5, I knew that I had to start moving into that really uncomfortable area of pushing the limit. It was time to tackle the course hill for the 3rd and final time. I just told myself that I could get a little recovery in once I made it to the top. One of the saving graces for the hill was that it was in the shade so I didn't overheat which would have made sustaining pace much harder. After I made it up the hill, I knew that I was getting close to the finish village and was just trying to slowly pick up my pace on this flatter section of the course.
The finish village adds a fun element to the race because you get to see people from mile 5.85 to the finish at 6.2. There were Rush teammates and friends all along the way and that really helped me pick up the pace. As I made the final turn into the finish chute I finally saw the race clock. I was overjoyed to see that it read 57 minutes and that if I hustled I could break 58 minutes. Hustle I did and my final time was 57:37...a new PR by 5 minutes.
Here are my splits: mile 1- 9:30, mile 2 - 9:10, mile 3 - 9:44, mile 4 - 9:21, mile 5 - 9:23, mile 6 - 9:11, .2 - 8:09. I'm so proud of myself for hitting the paces that I did over the last 5K of the race...especially managing to get down to an 8 minute pace for the last quarter mile! This is the first race where I have felt like I didn't have negative self talk leading me to slow down or take walk breaks. My brain and my body just clicked and worked together for once! Outside of trying to break 60 minutes my other goal for the race was to only walk during the water stops. I'm proud that I was able to accomplish both of my goals!
I owe a huge thanks to Mike Rush and the rest of the Rush Running team. Mike is an awesome coach and he has been giving us workouts over the last month to prepare us for this race. The workouts helped build my confidence and plant the seed that I had the fitness to break 60 minutes. Mike works so hard to help all of us accomplish great things and does it free of charge. I am truly honored to be a part of the Rush team and have found so many great friends and training partners though this group.
Next up is the Route 66 Half Marathon in Tulsa...I've got about 5 weeks to work through my race goals for this race. Yikes!