I needed an accurate 10K time - captain's orders.
And since I always follow directions, I put the New Haven 10K on my calendar. I was hopeful for a strong showing, averaging an 8:20 pace - the 10K pace I've been using in my Fort4Fitness training.
But when I showed up to the starting line, I wasn't so sure I could run that pace. My legs were heavy, coming off a heavy training week and having run 10 miles the day before. My body was tired, as there was commotion outside our house the night before that had prompted Mark to call the police. My planned warm-up of 2 miles was more like a half-mile, and it did nothing to loosen me up. To boot, the normally enthusiastic runners from the group were talking about taking it slow and just getting it done.
But I needed to try. I lined up a bit behind the people with whom I know I cannot hang, and my goal for the first mile was to not run like an asshole and stay behind them.
The gun went off and, as I crossed the timing mat, I pressed start on my Garmin. I fell into a pace that seemed as strong as I was going to get that morning. I tried not to worry about my watch, rather staying behind the people in the group, but every time I glanced down, I saw a current pace in the 9's. A 9-minute average for a 10K was not what I wanted that day but I decided if that's what I had in me, that's what I had.
So I ran.
As I did so, approaching the first mile marker, I noticed something disconcerting. My watch was not reading one mile. Not really close, either. I was in the 0.75 to 0.85 mile range. Either the course was wrong or le Garmin was being finnicky, both things I could not control. I hit lap on le Garmin and decided to not pay it much mind.
It was nearly a blessing that my watch wasn't working as I could feel the fatigue in my legs with each step. I am not sure there was ever a time that I was all, like, "Yay! I'm running a race! I'm doing awesome!" Rather, it was all, "Let's get it done. Let's do it strong. Don't be an asshole."
I ran the entire race not looking at my pace, simply hitting lap at the mile markers. I would look down at my overall time as I passed each sign, trying to do mental math to see if I was on target, but remained calm if the numbers seemed to require too many brain cells.
As I rounded a residential corner and passed the six-mile marker, I knew that despite the things I had against me - heavy legs, tired body, wonky watch - that I had unknowingly hit my goal. If I could run the last 0.2 in 1:45, I would have an 8:20 10K average ... and beat Mark's prediction of 51:44.
I dug deep and tried to pick up the cadence. As I approached the finish, the run clubbers were lining the chute. It seems the perk of being one of the slower members is that everyone is there to cheer you on, giving you the edge to dig and kick.
And kick I did. I finished in 51:29 - a PR by 1 minute and 11 seconds!
Though I am reluctant to trust any le Garmin stats from that day (it read the 10K as 5.84, the only watch among my friends' to read short) ... Shit. I was going to type that my best pace at the end was in the 6's but Garmin Connect said my best pace of the day was 1:33. So I'm an ultra elite on steroids.
But the moral of the story, or the thought I wanted to share, is that we often run races but qualify our times by saying that we could have done better if "x" hadn't happened of if we had done "x." Had we been able to run under the best case scenario, we would have been so much faster.
Let me tell you, the best case scenario doesn't exist. If you stop waiting for the best day and race for now, you are in for a world of fun and surprise.