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Ready, Set, Race (Pace)

A not so frosty morning in the park set a lovely scene to start today's affairs. We got to the bib pickup early enough to have some water, stretch and make a few friends. It's a good thing we gave ourselves ample time too, since we lost the start line. Not so much lost it as it, well, didn't exist. The race organizers told us it was quarter mile ahead of where the check in/finish line was but alas, it was not. We were able to find a kind race volunteer actively constructing the starting line and corral. We took our places. Got our headphones ready. Started our watches and - Horn!

We were off - at a good clip might I add. My legs were feeling good, my water bottle was full and my tunes were rocking. Today's race was a half and 5K (we opted for the latter) which means it had pacers. I have never taken advantage of what these folks have to offer so I thought that I might try it out today. If I want to run my best race in May, it makes sense to me to test our every conceivable tool one might have in their toolbelt well in advance of race day.

I spotted the 9:55min/mile pacer about 50 yards in front of me. I closed the gap and fell in about 10 feet behind her. I felt strong and was really enjoying the playlist I picked out for the day (at that moment, I am unashamed to admit I was bumping to Wellerman - don't knock it until you try it!).

The course today was not remarkably hilly, nor terribly flat. There were 5 or so climbs. I did not even register the first as an ascent. I was too busy trying to stay the same distant from the pacer. Cresting the first hill, we hit mile one. We were ahead of pace at 9:38. Everything felt good.

Then we rounded the corner and hit a descent. I truly thought I was floating. I took the downslope as an excuse to floor it and it was only after I had blown a good 30 seconds ahead of the pacer did I realize I passed her at all. I pulled back a bit, caught my breath and let her pace me, clearly better than I could pace myself.

The next half mile was nothing remarkable but I do feel compelled to mention the field of dogs. On the weekends, it is my understanding that this park allows off leash hours in the morning and it. is. glorious. A field as far as the eye can see full of good boys and good girls. There are balls flying, frisbees whirring and nothing but smiles and slobber abound. I digress.

We hit mile two right around pace (9:57) and I was motivated to not let up - or at least my brain was, my legs were out to lunch. We started another section uphill and the pacer pulled well ahead of me. I thought, momentarily annoyed, that she was picking up the pace for no good reason. With apologies, she had not sped up; I was slowing down against my will.

As we got back to level ground, I saw the pacer and the two other runners I had been with through the race about a quarter mile ahead of me. Overzealous, I tried closing the gap. To my credit, I did. I got closer and closer - and in record time may I add. I ignored my watch yelling at me to slow down, but I could not ignore the aching, then tingling, then stabbing pain in my side. I yelped as I was forced to walk out whatever the heck was happening on the right side of my waist. I bid farewell to my companions as they turned out of site.

I saw the sign for mile three just ahead. I could not let myself walk/hobble into that good night. I started at a trot, then jog, then at pace again for the last 200 or so meters. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and a pep in my step. A fleeting thought occurred to go 'round again, but the promise of a shiny new medal and free food beckoned.

Though this race didn't go exactly as I had hoped, it is but a chapter in my running story. Remember, every step you take is a victory, and every finish line is a triumph. Whether it's a 5k or a marathon, the journey is yours to conquer. So lace up, embrace the road, and let the rhythm of your footsteps carry you to places you never thought possible.

It's your race, your pace!

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