Moving Mountains with your Mind
This season, I've had to take a step back from my usual routine of racing in local races practically every weekend, to focusing on getting solid training runs in with my teammates. We’re tuning up for the Indy Marathon in early November and I have high goals that I want to achieve. Although I wouldn't consider the Virginia 10 Miler ideal for me to get a solid 10 Mile PR, it does line up perfectly with marathon training and provides a type of satisfaction one can only achieve from mountain running.
I tend to forget bad experiences in my life; I set aside feelings of loathe, pain, and stress. I like to remember experiences by the friendships, laughs, good conversations...so as is the usual, I 100% forgot about the hills at this race. I forgot how I swore off this exact race last year after crossing the finish line feeling so defeated by the numerous hills and pure exhaustion. (I'm seeing a trend here now that I'm thinking about it-I typically swear off the marathon once I cross the line because it's so challenging, like nothing else I've done before. But here we are again, training for Indy :)) Anyways, somehow the notion of running up hills for 10 miles left my mind until I was browsing through last years race photos and saw the pain on my expression.
I came to Lynchburg with a totally new outlook on the 10 miler this year- my training and racing mentality has changed, my teammates push me to be a better runner, and my love for running has morphed over the course of this past year. Plus, anytime I get to road trip with RDP, I’m always down!
Coach Steve pulled me aside before our warmup to make sure I was very focused on finishing that last 1.5 mile uphill STRONG. He told me to not worry about the rest of the race but to make sure I finish strong. It worked. Typically, I go out way too hard and die a slow painful death on the race course. Not this time! I went out easy down the first hill and hit the mile marker at 5:40, which felt conservative compared to the rest of the speedsters in the distance. The only time I really thought about slowing up on a hill was the first one, around mile 2 or 3. Erin was with me until that point and I know she's a natural hill climber, so her passing me with ease up the steep climb was no surprise while I struggled to maintain pace. By mile 4 I was wishing I was as smart as Sammy since she got to stop at 4 miles! Little did I know, she had already won the 4 Miler race and was already cooling down! I saw Coach on the course and he said I looked “strong” so that was a confidence boost that helped me muscle my way through mile 5-8 following a new friend, Jeff.
Jeff is one of those guys that knows no strangers-as the local FedEx man, he has met almost every person in town. And yes, he loves the movie Cast Away. So when everyone cheered for Jeff on the race course, I might have inserted my name in his instead :) A very effective technique I would add!
Mile 8.5 was when the real race began-THE FINISHING HILL! I could tell that I wasn't going to hit my A+ goal of 62 minutes at this point, but still needed to push myself and see if I could make up for lost time. I caught up to another female who looked around my age to motivate me to kick up this climb. She pushed me and I pushed her. She ended up taking the lead because I surged way too early but I snagged 10th American female which was a solid effort for the day. I was reunited with my teammates at the finish line and so proud of everyone!
I finished over 3 minutes faster than the year before with what feels like less training, but more workouts geared towards my goal pace. I think when you race smart, enjoy what you are doing, and aren't concerned with pleasing others, you'll do your best!
But I think the most important takeaway from this race is-the only barriers are the ones you set up for yourself. I always tell myself that I'm bad at running up hills but I'm not really bad at them-I just need some technique changes and a little motivation to climb to the top. It's all in my head!! I can actually feel myself jolt back when I take the first step up the hill. It's like my body is instantly telling me “Whoa Rita, slow down, where do you think you're going so fast?” But for this race, I didn't count the steps, didn't count the hills, didn't dread the finishing hill either. I embraced it all and I can't wait to do it all over again!
Meeting Olympian, Anne Audain!