“Just smell the grass, the dirt, just like I dreamed they’d be

Just feel the summer breeze, the way it’s calling me…

For like the first time ever, I am completely free…

I go could running

And racing

And dancing

And chasing

And leaping

And bounding

Hair flying

Heart pounding…”

From Disney’s TANGLED, “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise)”

By 5:00 AM we were bundled in the car, in our racing clothes, headed down for a day of road racing in Vista at the annual Strawberry Festival. I had the 10K, my mom and dad raced the 5K, Katie ran the mile, and Eric raced his first ever race, a quarter mile.

We arrived early to pick up our race packets. I could quickly ascertain that some extremely experienced runners showed up for the 10K, not a surprise since there was a cash purse for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for each gender and the race was chip timed by a legit company. Some of us took our strides to warm up our legs (I never stretch—I want to be tight), and the sheer elegance of some of the runners gave me the shivers for such a thing of beauty. I have run enough races now to pinpoint my biggest competitors before even starting, and I was not wrong today. The 20-something-year-old with the long red hair standing in line to pick up her packet: you could tell by the way she carried herself. The guy in the red jersey with the 70s hair and the stride of a gazelle. Yup. (He would go on to win BOTH the 10K and the 5K today, handily). The late 20-year-old in blue who was talking with the red jersey guy, who demurred, “I haven’t raced in 6 months, so this is going to be horrible.” Right again: she would go on to win it for us ladies, and she is a seasoned runner from UCLA who has half-marathoned in about 1 hour 16. The girl striding around with her track team. Yes. We would duke it out for miles for third place (she has a 5-something mile time and will be running for her college next fall, and she is excellent). These runners were on my mind before we even started, and it turned out, my instincts were dead on.

IMG_5057-1

 

Right at the start of the race: the lady in blue would go 1st place, the lady in the greenish yellow socks would take #2, and I (in red and pink—strawberries!) would grab 3rd.

IMG_20140525_070708

 

That man in red at the front? Won both the 10K and 5K. Amazing.

As we waited at the starting line to Pharrell’s “Happy,” I put on my game face. I have an intense game face, and it was amusing to hear my mom and Bill talking about it on videos I watched later. I had tapered all week, stored up that glycogen, and more importantly, I have seen my pace improve drastically over the past few weeks since the Carlsbad 5000, and even since the Run Through the Vineyards. As usual lately, I ran without my music. I am finding myself to be incompatible with music lately, when it comes to running. I might access it again at some point, but even when I start training with it, I have had to remove my earbuds on most runs lately. I need to be able to hear myself right now. Sometimes the music fights with that. I don’t know what I will do for Long Beach: 13.1 is a long way to be so exclusively in your head and focused on breathing and footfalls, but I think by then I might be ready to run it without music. We will see!

The pack separated fairly quickly by Mile 1. My first split was a bit fast at 6:23. I had set my Garmin to 6:45, but I was also racing. I did not know my actual pace until the marker, and so at first I thought I was just feeling crummy for no reason…turned out my body was feeling the work of that pace. I willed myself to slow a bit and Mile 2 was 6:46, and I targeted the varsity track girl. We kept changing places for the next few miles, and boy oh boy does she know how to run a course! She knew exactly where to hit. Mile 3 was weird at 7:04, but we started getting a bit of a hill. Mile 4 killed me: 7:35 up a hill through the park that literally went BWOOSH twice. But it killed everyone (slowed us by a minute or so), so I was still with my little group there. After the hill, we hit a trail, and I made the decision I was going to pass the varsity girl once and for-freakin’-all and make it a done deal this time. It was a bit intense, because she was so, so, so good and I knew she might have a kick in her toward the end. I could feel her eyes on my back for the next 2-something miles. But it turned out that I had quite a bit left in me after that hill, and I ran Mile 5 in at 6:27, and Mile 6 in at 6:35. The final .20 was 1:09.

My average pace was 6:46, and I PR-d at 42:02.2! I am on top of the world. I was the third woman in, the first woman in my age group, and the 21st person in. I won some moola, too! More than I remembered it would be from the website, so that was awesome! For the first place in my age group, I won additional cash to the Running Center. Payday, yes! I have won gift certificates before, but this time I am really a paid runner. Ha ha. Crazy. Who would have guessed this two years ago? Not me…but dare to dream, right?

With half a mile left to go, the varsity girl was about 50 yards behind me. I tried to kick it with everything left. “Run it home, run it home, run it home,” I kept thinking. Fortunately, I still had kick!

IMG_5069

This race compelled me to dig deep. In Mile 5 something really clicked. I had been driving it, but I had this moment of insight as I assessed my bodily systems: Hey, wait a minute, I thought. I don’t have much further left, and I know from all those intervals Bill has me do that my body can stand a LOT more pain than what it is feeling right now. Get going, get going right now. Your body isn’t feeling it yet, so take it as far as the pain of the track. Now fight. 

And that is the precise moment in my running career, officially,  that I realized that intervals during training are not just about gaining physical speed; intervals during training prepare you mentally to face more pain and accept every ounce of it mentally and with confidence. They are mental training, in disguise. I felt so grateful to my coach-husband in that moment. I get it now, I thought. I get it.

 

IMG_5071

About to cross the finish line!

So I have now run two 10Ks within a month of each other. Which one was more satisfying?

Last month I placed first among women and fifth overall with a time of 44:47.84 on an extremely hilly, muddy, washboardy course. If it were just about placement or how things appear to be on the surface level, I should love the Run Through the Vineyards more.

But I don’t. Today gave me the kind of runner’s high that only comes from knowing that your body did exactly what you have been training it to execute. I would rather take 3rd place in this field of tremendous women and make my PR, with legs and mind that felt so in sync with each other and ready to spring…than to take 1st and feel like I ran mentally sloppily. Today, my mind and body were mutually invested, and I know without a single doubt that I did the best I could do today. I could feel myself doing the best I could do, and I left it 100% there. I never quite got into that zen moment of flow with the Run Through the Vineyards. Today, though? This pace, this harmony of my mind and body, this run is more exciting to me—by far—than a first place win when I feel I didn’t quite earn it hard enough. I earned it today, and I was in the flow. Those other ladies made me earn it. I made myself earn it. This was a true race, to the last 50 yards, with ladies who have decorated running careers. I’ll take it. Third place in this field means it is time to want more of myself, and that it is reasonable to want more.

IMG_0316

Cash prize! Not bad for 42:02.2 minutes worth of work this morning. Er, not counting all the training hours that have to go into this!

 

20140525_065220_155-1

 

After I finished my striding this morning as warm-up, Katie gave me a good luck kiss and hug.

IMG_0325

My one and only, my husband, my everlasting best friend, my phenomenal coach…thank you! Today’s performance belongs as much to Bill as it does to me. He is such an intelligent and thoughtful coach. He knows this stuff. I could absolutely not keep accomplishing these goals of mine without his perfect coaching. Sometimes I cannot believe how well he knows me, and how well he knows the math of my body. He had me so excellently tapered for this. Trusting him—in life, and with this little pursuit of ours—is one of the wisest choices I have ever made. It’s crazy how much I have improved under his guidance. What a way to kick off our anniversary weekend and week! Eight years coming up here…

IMG_5050-1

Strawberry Festival 10K! This was a great day, one of the most personally fulfilling races I’ve ever run at this point.

 

IMG_20140525_061148-1

Chipping up! These were shoelace chips this time…

And the day only got better from there!

My mom raced her first official race, too, and guess what? She took it for her division, out of 21 in the age-gender field! First place, baby! I am so, so proud of her, and it is awesome that we are a family of runners. This is a wicked-crazy-wild pastime for all of us to have converged upon here, and it is so fun! Mom killed it, going sub-10:00s with a pace even better than training. She gave it her all, and that is excellence.

IMG_0328

My dad earned fourth place, too, for his division, and even more significantly, is very much making a full recovery. He looked tired coming in at the Carlsbad 5000 (his first race back from time off), but today he looked super strong at the finish. He had his kick on, and was working the race. I love to see my parents running in the same 5Kand supporting each other, but still running their own race. I am loving this family hobby!

And the kids also ran!

IMG_0337

 

How much do I love this look of exuberance on her face? How much do I love sharing this with her? How much do I love that she is part of the running culture at such an early age?

IMG_5092

 

Go, Katie! She had kick at the end, too. I didn’t get to see it in person (thankfully, Bill recorded it) because I was getting Eric in position, but boy, she drove it home and didn’t let up! So proud of her!

IMG_0352

Go, Eric!

IMG_0359

 

My runner girl! Lightning McKatie!

IMG_0364

 

Team Matics-McGaugh. Hey, we need our other members! Word on the street: Matics-McGaugh has eyes on the Big Sur relay next year. Yes, indeed. The full adult team. Now THAT will be epic.

IMG_0383

I love this quote about “enlightenment” (and the banishing of darkness) from the Yellow Deli, where we ate lunch to celebrate our family run. My cousin Kd introduced me to Yellow Deli, which serves mainly vegetarian and vegan food with some options for carnivores, almost exactly one year ago today. It was just down the street from the race, and so we had to go. I chowed down on a vegetarian burger, green yerba mate tea, and a banana and almond milk smoothie. And a small bowl of lentil soup. Yep—way, way too much fuel, considering my protein bar-banana-strawberry intake before and after racing! But I will get back on track and have a lighter dinner. By design I do not acquire calories from restaurants very often, but Yellow Deli is so fresh and delicious, and I love the vibe so very much that I am willing to be a bit indulgent! I figure if I am going to do it, do it on a day when I raced my heart out and need a few more cals, right?

IMG_5093

And one more for the road: Katie with her Amie after Katie’s race.

What a beautiful day!

Oh, and a bit of family trivia? Right where we were sitting on the track…was nearly the SAME spot where Bill won the 1966 Vista Relays in the triple jump! That is pretty awesome! Who would have ever guessed we’d all be right there?

Advertisements