Many of you know that a small piece of my heart and life lives in Muskogee. This opens up an entirely new willingness and radar for additional races.
Chap watched me struggle to break my long-standing 5k PR for nearly a year when he suggested this Spring Fling for a Cause 5k in Fort Gibson. It’s flat, it’s an out an back (my favorite for short runs) and it’s during the time of year when temperatures are likely tolerable. I put it on the calendar thinking it could be a backup race in case the St Patrick’s 5k wasn’t a PR.
This race rolled around and I so wasn’t into it. I worked late the night before, had to drive out to Muskogee and got in around 11pm only to wake up to 16 mph winds and rain (thanks Michelle for teaching me to read the windometers). And I lost my running partner. A broken nose injury benched Chap so I was facing the out and back on my own.
Even as we sat in the car at the start line and I watched maybe 100 people scurry about, I didn’t want to go. The rain had just picked up, it was in the low 50s and the winds were crazy. But Chap said, “You won’t regret it.”
With 2 minutes to start I scurried to the start line, turned on my watch and Strava app and bounced around to stay warm. Then we were off. I had a goal to try for sub 7s the whole time which would get me my sub 22 target. It was raining and windy but I couldn’t really tell which way the wind was blowing. We were running down a paved, flat road that would eventually wind us around a corner before we turned around. I had about ten people in front of me, mostly males and one female, before I just zoned out. I tried to keep my pace around my track workout pace and as close to the 7 minute mark as I could. For this I use my Garmin and keep the display on the elapsed time and pace screen.
I remember beginning to slowly pass the tail end of the pack in front of me. The lead pack is normally far out of my reach but small town races are a different story. I started ticking past them one at a time. First the gal, then two fellas running together and then one guy on his own. The first mile marker went off on my app and I checked my watch – mile 1 was under 7.
I was banking time as my dad would say. I kept my pace as close as I could to that until the turn around. That’s where I met the wind and realized that before when I didn’t know what direction it was coming from, it definitely wasn’t blowing against me. But now, when I’m halfway in and pretty tired, I can feel it. I fought through it the best I could to mile 2, also under 7 minutes. A guy pushing a baby in a stroller motivated me to stay on pace. I just kept chasing him, we caught the same pace for a little bit and then I pulled on past.
The last mile was the toughest. I was feeling similar fatigue in my arms that I felt in the St. Patrick’s Day 5k. (Which Chap later attributed to me moving my arms too much in my stride. True statement, and good observation.) I wanted to walk. So much. But I just kept refocusing my mind on my breath, on the strength I knew I had from weeks and months of consistent track and circuit work, and on the finish line which was just a flat road ahead (ok, and maybe on the donuts and fella at the finish).
When that third mile time went off on my app, I checked my watch and the distance to the finish line and pushed it. I thought for sure I could beat the 22 minute mark. I was running as fast as I thought I could to the finish and just as I’m about to cross the line, the guy with the stroller comes blazing past me. Talk about a strong finish.
I was just relieved to be done and so happy to have another PR even though I was only 4 seconds off that 22. They handed me a water bottle instead of a medal at the finish and my arms were so weak I threw it right at Chap’s broken nose (on accident!) so I didn’t have to hold it. There’s more work to be done, and I am thrilled with the progress made this season!
We stuck around for the awards ceremony which gave me plenty of time to eat a few donuts ;). Chap knew some people so he was chatty and I just tried to stay warm. For the first time ever I placed as the first female in a race. I still can’t really believe it. And fourth overall. Sure, it’s a smaller race but come on, me? The girl who had to be bribed in to running over 10 years ago. I’m not sure I’ll ever place first in that division or top 5 overall again so I tried to soak it in. I’ve got some pretty cool hardware to show for it, and a lot of motivation and inspiration to set up the next training cycle (time to drag out the distance by 10-23 miles!)
If you don’t mind making the drive from Tulsa to Ft. Gibson the morning of a run, I’d highly recommend this race. Flat course, reasonable registration fee, excellent cause (Special Olympics), well organized, small, great food after and great trophies!
It’s easy to get caught up in missed goals. At the end of each race, PR or not, I try to reflect on the “fun” of the training, the will to race and the spirit of the sport. I like how strong being fast makes me feel, and the reward for the work put in. It doesn’t come easy, and it certainly hasn’t come quickly but with consistency, I’m chipping off those seconds of my PRs.