Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Vicki's 3000 Race Report
The Vicki's 3000 is yet another special Santa Barbara race. In the spirit of true and pure competition and fund raising for something more worthwhile than collecting a trophy, Vicki's was all about the cause. All proceeds benefited the Special Olympics, a beneficiary rooted deep in the history of the race.
The race location couldn't have been better. The Westmont College track is one of the best in the area and is nestled in the Santa Barbara/Montecito foothills, in a quiet, secluded, peaceful nook. The overcast sky and low lying clouds muted the setting even more, and but for the jovial chatter from the folks who came out to run the track, a subdued hush rested over us.
It was a sweet day, Saturday June 9th, and the moist air registered a perfect temperature and little air movement. The race went off in 3 waves, so between warming up and stretching, I was able to watch the first two waves go round and round. Seven and a half laps isn't all that much unless you're red lining it the whole way. In that case 7 1/2 laps is forever. As I watched my fellow runners suffer around the oval, that old familiar intimidation rose within me. It's interesting that a race can intimidate me. It's not so much about the competitors I will face, but my own limitations that I will challenge. There's no way to get around the fact that a 3000 hurts ... the whole way. There really isn't a time of comfort or relaxation though the want for that increases with every passing lap.
I try to set a realistic goal when I approach a race. At this point, it is difficult to really know what I realistically can do as I am still fighting back from injury and striving for ideal fitness, but I have to have some goal for pacing purposes. My goal for this race had a broad range and I based it, as I often do, on recent races and the McMillan Running Calculator. For me the McMillan calculator is spooky accurate. According to McMillan, if I look at my most recent strong efforts, I might be capable of around a 10:20 to 10:30 3000. So I set my pacing goal firmly within this range. The best way to ruin a race is to set too high of a goal and try to hold onto too fast of a pace until finally you break and trickle in like a wilted piece of lettuce. Been there, done that ... many times. This race needed to be paced properly.
So the goal pace was to be approximately in the 82 - 83 seconds per lap range. Ouch! This is why a race can intimidate me. I knew it was going to hurt.
There was an excellent turn out of fast runners toeing the starting line in the third wave. The field was mostly men, but there were four of us braves girls ready to keep up with the big boys. I am proud of my fellow female runners. All of them work hard every day and are being rewarded by the joy that comes from strong running. I was honored to race with them knowing that we would push one another toward our best. That day a proverb reverberated in my mind during and after the race: "Like iron sharpens iron, so one man (woman) sharpens another."
So off we went in light hearted competition but each one with a goal and a determination to fight through the pain long enough to cross the finish line with dignity. The first lap was just a bit on the fast side in 78 but I expected this. The adjustment often comes naturally as I settle into a pace. The next lap was better in 81, and then the next several laps stayed consistent at around 82 (approximately - my Garmin was beeping a bit inaccurately). A race on the oval is so vulnerable. Spectators can see everything and knowing this I found it hard to let go mentally. Also, we were responsible for counting our laps and I needed to keep my head in it so as to always to be aware of what's been done, and what's left to be done. As the laps went on, I came across the mile in 5:31 and I noted that this is really right on ... but can I hold onto it. Only 3 1/2 laps to go, but in perspective, that was a long way. With 800 to go, I finally came to a point where I mentally decided to slow the pace. I was in that desperate place and I just needed a reprieve. That was my slowest lap in 83, and then with one lap to go I focused fully on the finish line. Oh, that last lap. This is where you push yourself beyond yourself. You cannot will that much pain upon your body. It's like something else takes hold and wills you on. It wasn't so much about catching the person in front of me, or staying ahead of the person behind me. It was more about just wanting to stop running and suck in ample oxygen. I wanted the oxygen. With 200 to go I was somewhat aware that my friend Joy was approaching me from behind. Joy is amazing, really amazing. She is one of those really fast and talented runners who began running later in life. She has been improving by mighty leaps and bounds over the past two years, and she has such a sweet and humble attitude. I have loved seeing her achieve so many personal records. It's funny. I am a fierce competitor but I also have this inner battle as I approach a finish line in close proximity to a fellow runner. Although I hate to be beat at the line, I also hate to beat another female at the line (unless I am unacquainted with her). Today was no different. But my greatest desire today was to hold on it. I wanted to be able to respond instead of letting it go. The end result was that Joy and I both ran seconds faster than we otherwise would have. Precious seconds. My final time was 10:25 (10:24 on my watch). After enough oxygen entered my body to begin thinking again, I realized that I met the goal. Yes, there's always that hope that I could have smashed my goal and ran a 10:15, but it was yet confirmation that I am on the upswing and I was grateful.
I'm thankful for a race that offers no award other than knowing you are running for something bigger than yourself. I'm thankful for the strong tradition of races in this area. I'm thankful for strong competition, for a perfect day, and for the ability to just do it. I'm thankful for the encouragement from others and for those who cheered us on lap after lap. I'm thankful to God for putting the capacity in my lungs, the length in my legs, the strength in my heart, and the race in my soul.