Melissa is gone to Ohio for dance nationals, but Hillary rode out to Loch Haven Park in Orlando with me for the race. Mom and Dave were there, too--I had mentioned the race to them the other day, so they came out to watch, too.
Hill and I got there around 5:20 and picked up my number just in time for the rain to start. Fortunately, though, the cloud cover meant that the temperature was a bit lower than I had feared--only in the mid-80s, while I had feared mid-90s.
And fortunately, the rain let up just as I started my warm-up run: two miles easy from the park down to Mills, then down Virginia a bit. Felt good on the warm up, legs felt strong and even.
I was worried a bit at the start because there was a crowd gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the start--I'd skipped the ceremony so that I could get a good warm up. So there were something like 700 people between me and the start, and it was clear that most of them weren't going to be aiming for a sub-20 pace.
Anyway, it worked out, because they walked us down maybe a half a mile to where the actual starting line was, so I was able to move up while we were walking, and then the starting line was in the street, which was about three times as wide as the trail, so by the time we were getting ready for the gun (air horn, actually), I was in the third row from the start.
You know how the start goes: the gun (air horn, actually), and the race starts, and things feel easy. A quarter of a mile, and you think you can hold this pace forever. Half a mile, and you think you can hold this pace forever. A mile, and you think you are going to die.
During that first mile, I tried to fall in with what I thought was the 20-minute group. But it quickly became apparent that these were the folks who went out on 20-minute pace but then died. So by the time we passed the one-mile marker, there were just two other guys nearby, just ahead of me. The pace started to feel like it was lagging a little, so I moved up and around, and as I did, I heard one of the guys clap his hands and say to the other one, "Come on, let's go!" But they never caught back up with me.
The second and third miles were lonely. Just pain and keeping the shoulders relaxed and the hips forward and the chest up and trying to ignore those questions about why in the hell are you doing this.
But really, when I got to a point where I could see the course near the finish line, I was almost a little surprised that I was there already. One minute, it seems like forever, and the next, it seems like a flash.
So I was 19:42 and change at the finish, breaking the 20-minute barrier with a 26-second PR, and 10th overall in a field of somewhere around 700.
Just after the finish, right after I said my prayers to the finish-line, one of those two guys who I'd passed just after the one-mile marker came up to me and paid me what was perhaps the greatest compliment I could imagine receiving--as we shook hands, he looked at me and said, "Great second mile."
MTA: Changed the effort rating for this race from 9 to 10, based entirely on the blood in my urine the next morning.
MTA: Eight ball.