This past weekend I ran the Cowtown 10K as a part of the 2 days, 2 races Cowtown Challenge. I mentioned before that in 2011 Cowtown was the very first 10K that I ever ran and it was actually a pretty terrible day (it makes me laugh now, so many newbie mistakes!) I also mentioned that I was really excited to see what I had in me on race day and I was not only hoping to PR but also try and break the 60 minute mark.
Saturday morning came bright (well not really bright, it was still dark out) and early at the great hour of 4:00 am. I live about an hour from Fort Worth and the race started at 7:00 am. I also had to pick up my packets for myself and my sister. It’s really nice that they offer race day pick-up on Saturday because since I’m already driving out there 2 days having to go on Friday would have been way too many times out and back.
Alex and I arrived right at 6 and found FREE parking (another thing I love about Cowtown is free parking. Have I told you how much I hate having to pay to park at races?) I had no trouble at all getting my race packets for both days as well as my sister's for the next day. I was able to use inside bathrooms and even bought some gloves at one of the booths since it was freezing out! Then Alex and I sat around until 6:50, I wanted to stay warm as long as possible. It was about 38 degrees out and while I like running in those temps I do not like standing around in them. As we were leaving the exhibit hall I took a super speedy port-o-potty break one last time, took a photo and made my way into the starting corral. I told Alex I’d be back in 60 minutes and I truly meant it.
I really had no idea how the next 6 miles would pan out but I felt great, I felt really confident and I knew that I was going to give it my best shot without over-doing it for the day. I got fairly close to the front and right at 7 we took off. The course was exactly the same as I remembered it before. We start on 2 small uphill climbs and then after the first half mile we spend the next mile and a half going mostly downhill through old neighborhoods. I spent a good portion of the first mile dodging people and trying to find a comfortable spot, I forget just how many people walk a 10K! I’m glad to see them out there but it’s a bit annoying in the first few miles when every other person is walking. My first mile was pretty slow at 10:18 but in hind sight I think it worked out well.
My second mile was much faster at 9:25 and I told myself I really had to slow down, however, most of that was downhill so I tried not to freak out too much. At mile 2 I was still feeling really strong and I was breathing great and warmed up by then. About mile 2.5 we turned out of the neighborhood we were in onto a pathway that goes around a park area. I remembered from 2 years ago not really liking this portion and it was pretty much the same thing this time. Its pathway wasn’t well kept so there was lots of uneven parts and it was kind of narrow in parts. At the 3 mile marker there was a guy yelling out the time and I looked down and my Garmin only said 2.8 on it. I kind of freaked out thinking that the course must be short or my Garmin was freaking out and how was I supposed to know how close I was too my goal?! I actually then told myself that if the course was short then that would make my goal time easier to reach (I felt guilty for thinking such things but when you are out there running it comes to mind!)
We were only on that pathway for a little over a mile and I passed quite a few people along the way; the half way point really dropped a few people and I’m not going to lie, it was very motivating to start passing walkers half way in. I actually don’t remember what my splits were for the next 4 miles I tried to download my Garmin data last night and something went wrong with it so I don’t have them currently. I do know that at this point I was sitting at about a 9:44 average (I needed a 9:39 for 59:59).
Right before mile 4 there was another guy out yelling times to people but no mile marker flag, I was still confused thinking that the course was measuring short but then I saw the 4 flag and my Garmin as it turns out was spot on. Miles 4 through 5 were fairly quick miles running through some back areas of town and then eventually ending up by Montgomery Plaza to head back to the Will Rogers Coliseum. At mile 5 I looked down and realized that I was sitting at a 9:42 average pace and I was still feeling good so I pushed just a tad bit harder. Up to this point I was feeling great and breathing strong, I could still talk, although there was no one to talk to and my legs felt good.
At mile 5.5 I looked down and saw my average pace was now sitting at 9:40 and there was no way I was going to let a sub-60 minute finish slip away from me at this point. I wasn’t winded and I felt strong so I gave it just a bit more push. With half a mile left we were running by the park where we had run El Scorcho and that brought back some fun memories but there was also 2 inclines right here that I thought were super rude! I would say that the last 3 tenths of the race were definitely the hardest, I wanted to stop so bad but I just could not make myself stop no matter what. I had told myself I wouldn’t push too hard but I decided that it was all or nothing and that if pushing for half a mile was the worst of it then so be it.
My Garmin beeped the 6 mile mark and I could see the turn ahead of me I actually thought that was the final turn but there was one more up ahead, I just wanted to be done. My Garmin was at 58 minutes and about to switch to 59 minutes. I gave it everything I had and then I saw Alex waiting there and that was all I needed to give it one final push to the finish. I finished in 59:49!
It’s hard to describe just how I felt at the finish line; I’m not sure I would say elated, although I was excited. I think a much better way to describe how I felt would to say I felt fulfilled. Running has taken me so many places and it hasn’t always been easy for me. I’m not a natural runner, I don’t have a family background in running and speed does not come easily. But I have worked hard and I’ve put in a lot of time. I wasn’t necessarily training to run a sub-60 minute 10K but it was a goal of mine. I think in that moment I just felt like I was satisfied with my training and my efforts. I always knew that deep down inside of me I had the ability to reach my goals and dreams when it came to running, it was just a matter of letting myself believe it and embrace it, and that’s what Saturday was for me; it was embracing the fact that I CAN be good at something I set my mind to.
When I started running 2 years ago I sometimes wouldn’t make it out of a 13 minute mile pace and running anything sub 12 seemed impossible. I’ve always said that if I could find a happy spot at a 10 average pace then I would be good. Well let me tell you those 10’s only made me hungry for more. I honestly never in my wildest imagination thought I could see 9’s come across my pace average, never! But to be even more honest, those 9’s feel so much better than any 10, 11 or 12 minute mile did. I would also be lying if I didn’t tell you that those 9’s make me even more determined than those 10’s did. It’s a vicious cycle but I think I’m better acquainted with that beast now and know what I’m up against.
But for now I’m going to let that PR sit and just let it bask in all the glory that comes with it. I’m not sure when I’ll run a 10K again but I do know that I have bragging rights and I am super proud of them!