Monday, May 20, 2013

Cow confidence

With Hospital Hill less than 2 weeks away, I've had an epiphany. Here goes: I can do it. I can do what I set my mind to. This might seem like a "duh" statement, especially considering I am 32 years old and should have learned that long ago. But, I've never been one to have a whole lot of confidence in myself. At least insofar as reaching out of my comfort zone. But, last week, well, I discovered that maybe I should have that confidence in myself.

Last week I ran in the Running with the Cows race. It was the last of the three half marathons in the Heartland 39.3 series. I ran it last year, and really loved it. It is a smaller race and run in the country. You literally run right along fields on an out-and-back course. And, yes, cows are hanging out right beside you chomping on their grass as you run by.

Now, even though I loved it, the thing that actually made me fill out the registration form and do it again this year was this:

How cute is that medal? Yes, as we all know, I'm a medal-aholic, and this one got me. Adorable.

With Kelli and Anne before the race. Ready to earn those cute medals.

Anyway, I hadn't truly been planning to "race" this race, but ... well, the PR that I set at Rock the Parkway was 1:50:13. I mean, 13 seconds. Really? So close to getting that under 1:50 time. So, it wasn't at the forefront of my mind, but there was maybe a hint of a thought that maybe I could maybe try to maybe beat that.

Did you catch how many maybes were in there? Yeah, that wasn't just bad writing. I was so unsure of my ability. I truly didn't know if I could do it. It's like I was scared to even put it out there as a goal because I didn't think there was any way I could hit it.

In Rock the Parkway, I started with the 1:55 pacers, then moved ahead after a couple miles. At Running with the Cows, I truly hadn't thought about it. Then, Kelli said she was thinking of starting with the 1:50 pacers. I was pretty nervous, but I decided, "What the heck? Let's do it."

Lining up with Kelli and Bill behind the 1:50 pacers.

I figured, if I was struggling, I could always slow up. But, I was left with some in the tank at Rock the Parkway, and it was pretty beautiful weather, so maybe there was a chance. And, there's that maybe again.

I started off pretty strong and felt pretty good. It was a true out-and-back course, so 6.55 miles out, then turn around, and 6.55 miles back. It really was scenic (as long as we're counting rolling green hills and pastures as scenic) along the course, and I chatted with Kelli for a while. I tend to people-watch as I'm racing. I check out outfits and watch other people's running strides. Yeah, that's my head while I'm running. Just so you know. Super exciting stuff going on in there.

After a while, one of the 1:50 pacers moved a little ahead, so I ran up to join him. I'm going to call him George, because I cannot remember his name, and I feel really bad about that. So, we're going to go with George, ok? Cause he was awesome, and he deserves a name, even if it's not his real one. I started talking to George and told him my goal of breaking 1:50. We were about at mile 5, and George said that I seemed to be doing absolutely fine, and he was confident I could do it. I began to think that maybe I could.

We hit the turnaround point, and the wind that had recently started picking up, was suddenly at our back. While it was great at helping push us along, it also made it very hot. For some reason, running in the sun with the wind doesn't cool you down. I'm sure there's something very scientific behind that, but I just call it weird running phenomenon. Another weird running phenomenon? Not noticing downhills until you have turned around and are heading back up them.

Anyway, I kept chatting with George, and I got to say hi to all of my friends as we crossed paths. That is one thing I love about out-and-backs. George and I started talking to another guy runner. His goal was under 1:48. He was asking George when he should start picking up the pace in order to hit it. So, George and this other guy started figuring at which mile he would have to start shaving seconds off. All I heard was 20, 7, 9, 15, long division, 10, 11, 5, algebra ...

Seriously, I have no idea how people do math while they run. My mind could not even start to fathom trying to calculate the amount of seconds needed to shave off each mile starting at what mile. I think I went cross-eyed even thinking about it. And, I told them this. But, they figured it out, and this guy took off.

Around mile 7, George told me that he was running a little fast for his pace group, so he was going to slow down. "Ok," I said, slowing my pace as well. At this point, George said, "You need to go ahead. You're talking and doing fine at mile 7. You need to go. Really. Go."

While I was enjoying having someone to talk to, I did listen to his urging. And, I listened to my body. I was fine. I felt good. Maybe I just needed someone else to tell me that I could do it. So, I turned it on. And, I spent the next 6 miles cruisin. I passed the 1:48-guy who had left George and me earlier. In fact, I just kept passing people. There was a chance this could happen.

Headed to the last .1 miles.

Waving to Cory and the girls.

Here we go, literally running right next to a cow.

And, there it is. I didn't just squeak by under 1:50, I beat it by 2 minutes , 30 seconds.

I started the day not even thinking I could do it, but I did. I did it. I felt great doing it. That smile was true and honest. I was so happy. Apparently, what I was lacking all along was simply the confidence to go for it. It took George almost quite literally kicking me down the road before I pushed away those maybes and actually believed that I could meet my secret goal.

Oh, yeah, and the wind at my back.

After Anne and I finished. She PR'd, too!
With our medals and our belt buckles from the Heartland 39.3 series.

Molly with a cow.

After we all finished, we headed inside for the amazing spread of food. I ate. The girls ate. Then, we headed back to our car. But, before we could really leave, we had to stop to see the real cow:

Charlotte and I making the cow sign we learned at music class.

I did it. Posing with my medal and belt buckle and acres and acres of green grass. Another weird running phenomenon? The overwhelming compulsion to pose with every medal I've ever earned. Or ... maybe that's just a weird Amy phenomenon.
So, maybe this lesson will sink in. Maybe I'll have the confidence to believe in myself and push myself farther than I thought I could go. Maybe, this will change my whole attitude about myself as a runner. Maybe, maybe, maybe ... Whoops. There I go again. Maybe I'll just be proud of this race, go into Hospital Hill strong and excited, and just keep smiling. That, I know I can do.

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