4th of July Weekend

4th of July Weekend

This weekend in particular seems to be worthy of its own blog post for many different reasons.  I spent the weekend surrounded by plenty of friends, runners, and family members which always makes me so happy because these are three things I value in my life the most.  I guess I should start from the beginning.

I’ll start the weekend at Thursday because this day was a particularly good day in my opinion.  I would like to thank my best friend, Brianna, for being my go-to girl for life chats and gossip.  She may not realize how important her friendship means to me even though we acknowledge its importance regularly.  Without her I would go insane.  We make sense of each other’s highs and lows.  After a stressful week between losing electric for a few days, preparing for my brother’s graduation party, and balancing work, running, and a social life, I was in much need of a few hours with her.  So thanks for making me realize that life will be okay because our chat refreshed me for the weekend ahead.  I LOVE YOU! ❤

Me and a few other new members of the running club :]

On Thursday I also became an official member of a local running club which I am extremely grateful for.  All the people are so friendly and it makes me love the running community even more than I ever thought I could.  Everyone is just so supportive of each other.  Runners have a way of bonding with each other no matter the age, gender, or speed.  We’re all runners.  We understand each other and that’s what makes the running community so perfect.  Through this club I know that my love for running and the running community will continue to grow beyond what it’s already been so far.

On Friday (as it is our tradition), my dad and I went to pick up our race bibs for our traditional 4th of July race.  We did our pre-race run, had pasta for dinner, and set out our racing shoes and race-day outfits.  Before falling asleep I remember going over every mile of the race in my head to visualize the race course and mentally prepare for the race.  I felt ready and I knew I was ready.

Saturday morning I woke up a little before 7 oclock, ate my usual pre-race meal (toast with peanut butter and banana) and put on my “galaxy” spandex and a purple shirt (I would later change into a blue-ish tank top for the race).  We got to the race and met up with a few friends and did a 2 mile warm–up.  During this 2-mile warm-up we also found a few other friends we knew which was exciting!

starting line
Runner friends. Runner family.

The race started at 8:45 so we got to the starting line around 8:35 and claimed our spot.  This year I decided to sneak a little closer to the front so I wouldn’t have to weave through baby strollers or kids that had sprinted the first 100m of the race.  I stood about 5 rows back and could see my dad and former coach in the very front of the running field.  A four mile race was ahead of us with uphills, downhills, sprinklers, and plenty of local spectators.  And then the race official counted down “3-2-1-GO!”

The field of runners took off.  I settled in with my friend, Catherine, who also decided she was going to pace me during the race. (THANK YOU, CATHERINE, FOR BEING THE BEST RACE PACER EVER! – I LOVE YOU!)  Since the first mile is mostly flat (and maybe even slightly downhill) we went out a tad bit faster than we probably should have.  We crossed the mile marker at 6:29 and a huge hill was waiting for us a half-mile down the road.  We both knew the first mile was extremely fast but we didn’t say anything to each other.  In our heads, we just pretended we didn’t even see 6:29.

Then the hill came. This isn’t some miniature hill that only takes a total of 6 second to climb.  This is a quarter-mile hill to nowhere.  Luckily, thanks to former cross country speed workouts I was used to this hill.  This is the hill we did 800m repeats on.  This is where we all became stronger hill runners.  So I felt mentally prepared for this hill and knew that at the top I would have a 200m downhill to recover.  At the top, I took a deep breath and used the downhill to catch my breath.

Mile 2 we ran a 7:05.  This is proof that we went out too hard.  But I knew that if I could hold this pace I would still PR by a lot.  Mile 2 to mile 3 is also a slight uphill.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, this is the hill I always forget about because the only hill I “worry” about is the big hill.  This is where I really started feeling that 6:29 first mile.  I complained every so often to Catherine that I felt horrible.  But she got me to the top of the hill and got me refocused to finish the race strong.

Mile 3 was even slower than mile 2.  7:35.  Well, shoot.  I made some noise of recognition that I was dissatisfied with a 7:35 mile split.  But we had a mile to go.  A mile left to break my time from two years ago.  A mile of people lined up along the race course to cheer on runners they knew and runners they didn’t know.  And that’s what got me to the finish line.  That finally turns onto Broadway sends a rush of adrenaline.  Yes, there’s still three-quarters of a mile left when you make that final turn but you also know that the finish line is closer than it was 2 miles ago.  So Catherine and I picked it up a bit.  And then maybe some more – I don’t really remember.  We crossed over the railroad tracks which is when you have a direct view of the finish line 200m in front of you.  The end was near!

Something in my head, or in my legs, or maybe even in my heart told me to give it all I got.  To sprint.  To push beyond what I thought were my limits.  But limits don’t really exist.  Because I told myself that I wasn’t going to let the guy beside me beat me.  And he was telling himself that he wasn’t going to let me beat him.  So we sprinted.  And I pushed beyond the limits that I thought were in my head.  And I out-sprinted him.  And THANK GOODNESS I sprinted.  Because by out-sprinting that guy by miliseconds, I achieved my goal of being in the top 70.  I finished exactly 70th.

The finishing stretch!

I don’t remember seeing the finishing clock.  I forgot to stop my watch.  I was just excited I out-sprinted someone for once in my life.  I was handed a water bottle which I think I took rather drunkenly because I couldn’t catch my breath.  I finally looked at my watch and saw 28:12.  That’s a PR!  I thanked Catherine for pacing me and being awesome as usual. Teammates look out for each other and I wouldn’t have ran so well if she wasn’t by my side the whole time pushing me beyond the limits in my head.

yay running
Post-race happiness with Angela :]

I found my mom and mommom who had been anxiously waiting at the finish line.  And we cheered in all the runners we knew.  Even my five-year old “cousin” finished.  And he was smiling the whole time!  Overall, the race was an awesome experience.  My official time (since I had forgotten to stop my watch) was 28:08 which is officially a minute and 27 seconds faster than my previous best time.  This is a goal I had control over because this goal depended on my ability to push myself beyond what I thought was possible.  And I was able to do just that by focusing on the goal and believing in my strength.  Two of my other goals were to improve my 12th overall female placing from last year and be in the top 70.  Both of these goals were completely out of my control because there was no possible way for me to count 69 people ahead of me or how many females were ahead of me.  But I knew that if I ran a PR, I would have a chance of achieving both these goals.  I finished as the 7th overall female and 70th overall (out of 831 finishers).  Therefore, I achieved all my goals which is the best feeling in the world!

I ran another 2 mile cool down discussing the race and life with Angela.  This was a perfect way to end the morning and celebrate our running success for the day!  That night we had family and friends over for our traditional 4th of July BBQ. So too much food.  Lots of fun.  And some illegal fireworks.

Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays and every year brings something new.  Whether it’s new friends, old friends, family inside jokes, or just plain ‘ol new memories this weekend always makes me appreciate everything that I have in my life.  I’m extremely grateful for all my friends for always being there for me.  I love the running community that I am a part of and will continue to be a part of as it continues to expand.  I love my family more than anything and without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  And I have a love for this country and my freedom to make all these memories.

I hope everyone had a safe and memorable 4th of July weekend!  Until next year, folks!

Throwback Thursday – Traditional 4th of July Race

Throwback Thursday – Traditional 4th of July Race

Since 4th of July is a mere two days away, I decided I should make a post about the traditional 4 mile 4th of July race that I have raced a total of six times.  My dad has been running this race since it started 34 years ago.  He has ran every race except for a few due to either extreme heat (the race went on but he opted to not race) and crazy summer storms. My uncle on the other hand, has indeed ran every race since it started – I think that’s quite an accomplishment and I applaud him for it!  I actually raced in this local premier running race in 1997 (if not before then) – when I was a mere 3 years old.  No, I didn’t run.  My dad pushed me in the running stroller.  And we have pictures to prove it! (see below)

This isn’t a walk-in-the-park 4 mile race.  Mile 2 is basically one giant hill.  And if you go out too hard on the first mile, this hill will destroy every ounce of energy you have in the tank.  And mile 3 is just a continuous gradual incline.  I always picture mile 3 as relatively flat because I usually only mentally prepare myself for mile 2’s huge hill.  But every year, (it never fails), I get to mile 3 and instantly remember that, yes, this straight road is a gradual incline to the next turn.  What’s great about this race is that local residents set up sprinklers and water tables for us runners to cool off with. And 4th of July never fails to be a scorcher so I’m always running through the sprinklers to cool off and dumping cups of water on my head to refocus.  I believe these little qualities make this race special and that’s why I look forward to it every year.

I also love this race because a lot of family and friends also participate in it.  Every year the amount of people I know in this race continues to grow.  It also has become somewhat of a social event because of this.  I absolutely love 4th of July morning because of this race and it gives me something to look forward to to start my day off right!

I found all my previous finishing times and places which have shown significant improvement since I started running this race in 2008.  Let’s take a walk run down memory lane.

2008 – time: 41:24, 178th overall female, 510th overall runner (10:21/mile pace) (yes, I was as slow as a turtle back in the day)

2009 – time: 35:24, 86th overall female, 348th overall runner (average 8:51/mile pace) (that was a 6 minute PR!)

pitman 2009
2009 – my neighbor (Brooke), my brother (Michael) and I at the starting line…I think we planned to all match

2010 – I didn’t race this year because the race was moved to July 5th and I had to complete my Behind-the-Wheel driving lessons to get my permit on the same day…I was disappointed!

2011 – time: 32:30, 39th overall female, 204th overall runner (average 8:07/mile pace) (2 minute, 54 second PR)

pitman 2011
2011- Post-race picture of me, my brother, my dad, my uncle (his 30th straight year running the race) and my aunt.

2012 – time: 30:07, 14th overall female, 103rd overall runner (average 7:31/mile pace) (2 minute and 23 second PR) (side story: this is the year that I almost threw-up my breakfast in the finishing corral…oops)

2013 – time: 29:35, 13th overall female, 97th overall runner (average 7:23/mile pace) (32 second PR)

(side story: this is the year that I almost passed out after the race; I think I was on the verge of heat exhaustion because I was shaky, light-headed, and I felt cold even though it was 90 degrees out…thanks to Angela’s mom (who also happens to be a nurse) I was properly taken care of and I am forever grateful for that!…I ended up throwing up about 45 minutes after I finished the race…but racing hard was sooo worth the aftermath!)

pitman 2013
2013 – starting line picture of my coach (Angela), me, and my lovely teammate (Catherine)..surrounded by greatness!

2014 – the course was slightly altered due to construction so the race ended up being 4.3 miles instead of 4 miles.

time: 30:42, 12th overall female, 83rd overall runner (average 7:08/mile pace) (mathematically speaking, if the course was the accurate 4 mile course I had ran so many time before, I would’ve ran a 28:33 and PR’d by 1 minute and 2 seconds…BUT the course was different so it doesn’t count!)

pitman 2014
2014 pre-race picture with my dad on the left and a finish line picture of us in 1997 on the right

So in conclusion, if you couldn’t keep up with all my number-crunching, I finished my first 4 mile 4th of July race in 2008 in 41:24.  Two years ago, in 2013, I finished the same course in 29:35.  That’s an 11 minute and 49 second difference. That shows that hard work truly does pay off and I encourage everyone to believe in their abilities to be faster, to work towards that PR, and have lots of fun along the way!

This year, I haven’t done much except for endurance runs so I’m not expecting a huge PR but I do hope to run faster than the 29:35 I ran 2 years ago.  The course is back to it’s traditional route so it will be a fair playing field for an attempt at a PR.  A few days ago on a training run, my dad and I ran our 3rd mile in 6:54 so I’m confident that I have some kind of speed left in me.  I also hope to improve my 12th overall female finish from last year. It would be awesome to be in the top 70 of the race.

I’m confident in my ability to push harder, longer, and faster this year.

I’m focused on the race & I know what the course has to offer.

And I can’t wait to see old and new friends at the race participating in yet another traditional 4th of July race!

Happy 4th of July, runners!  May you celebrate with a race, run, or some refreshing drinks and tasty food – or all of the above!