Race Report: The Tale of Two St. Patty's Races

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LEPRECHAUN Chase 10k Awards

LEPRECHAUN Chase 10k Awards

Since I've returned from my achilles injury, I've done a lot of racing. Juggling work, school, and training can make fitting two workouts into my week a challenge, so local races have provided a great way for me to build fitness and get back into a competitive mindset. However, as my marathon is approaching, I'm going to have to trade the shorter races in for loooong, marathon-specific workouts, so I wanted to squeeze in two St. Patrick's Day races before it was time to buckle down. I had two very different experiences with these races, and I think the combination was exactly what I needed right now.

For the first race, I headed back to Nebraska to visit my dad and try to defend my 2014 win at the Leprechaun Chase 10k. This race is neat because the women get a 5:30 head-start and then the men try to catch up. Whoever the first person is across the finish line wins free beer for every participant of their gender. Last year, I only won by 6 seconds, so this year I was determined to not let it get so close. It turns out I didn't have to worry about that, because I was an overconfident headcase. In short, I trust my Garmin waaaay too much and listened to the faulty information it was giving me, rather than trusting my legs. I went out way harder in the first mile than was appropriate for my fitness level and then fell into a pit of despair after about 4k. I was only able to snap out of it in the final 200 meters to kick it in for 3rd. It was humbling, and I needed it.

I'm well aware that I place too much pressure on myself, and it's helping me to look back and remember advice Brad gave me a while back: "You're the only person who cares if you run fast." When he first told me that, I took offense to it, but over time I've found it actually to be very freeing. My race in Nebraska reminded me of that and helped me relax a lot more heading into the Sharin' O' The Green 5k in Fort Collins, CO last weekend. Brad's only pre-race instructions? Have fun and don't be stupid.

Okay. That may sound simple but, if you're anything like me, you know that it's really not. I just made a commitment to myself to trust Brad, trust my legs, and trust my heart. The race started and the pace felt hot, so I backed off a bit and went through the mile in 5:45 - 4th woman. There were several turns in Mile 2, and I enjoyed letting my legs sort of sling-shot me around the bends. 5:40, and I'd moved up to 3rd, about 10 seconds behind my friend Heather. I could feel that the gap between us was narrowing, but I didn't want to go too soon. I thought about the workout I was supposed to do after the race and made the split-second decision not to kick. I finished 3 seconds behind her in 17:52, which is a huge improvement from when I first came back from my Achilles injury, and one of the best races I've ever run at altitude.

I felt great, I didn't do anything really stupid, and I had a blast. Mission accomplished! But I honestly don't think it could have happened without the disappointment a week earlier. I know many of my teammates will agree with me when I say that, as much as we hate to have bad races, they help us appreciate the good ones. And now, I can carry that lesson with me as I head into the home stretch of training for my marathon debut!