By the time the actual evening rolled around, we'd managed to drag both Allison and Emily into our evening, and without even a little bit of planning, showed up looking like this:
Those sparkly hats say, "Happy New Year" and we managed to run at least .05 miles of the race before they blew away. I warmed up by doing the following: having the worst run of my entire life the day before, swimming 10,060 yards earlier that afternoon with Emily, eating a bagel an hour before the race started, oh, and then forgetting to leave/leaving things in the car enough times to actually warm up the legs a bit. The weather was brilliant, far better than the 28º and sleeting that were the conditions the last time I ran this race (2009).
Not-even-close-to-brief side note that will surprise no one: it didn't occur to me until the night before that my PR for the 4 miler was a) set at this race in 2008 and b) incredibly soft, only 3 seconds faster than the "planned duration" my coach put in TP when she laid out my week (35:57). I tried to break it earlier this year on completely untrained legs and failed miserably, mostly due to my complete inability to
listen to Amy when she says she's going to run easy adjust my expectations reasonably on a 100º+ evening. My tempo PR for this distance is in the high 30:xx range, but that was back in the spring before my back ripped my season apart and doesn't count anyway. A few quick texts had almost everyone on board for starting out easy and trying to PR by exactly and only one second, combining my desire to do exactly what I'm told with my desire to PR one more time AND have a great time with my they-are-all-faster-than-me-anyway friends.
So that went well.
We started out easy and chatting, and it was awesome. Everywhere I turned, there was a CAR logo to hang with. I've never run a race with a pack this big, and the feeling I had was pretty similar to when I ran Philly back in September - explosively happy to just be out in the night air, to be surrounded with my girls, to be running for the love of it. It just doesn't get any better than that.
And then we hit some sweet downhill at the front of the second mile, so I let my legs carry me down, and then that pace didn't feel bad at all, it actually felt kind of amazing, and when one of the girls said, "Wait a second, this isn't running easy!" and someone else said, "Ummmm, my watch has an 8 on it," I just said, "We're banking time, bitches! This is how you do it!" (George is probably going to disown me for linking to that.) And everyone laughed and we just kept going. When we turned a corner somewhere near the end of the second mile, we could see a big tall hilly out-and-back, and I groaned and those jerks tried to drop my ass, but they forget that while they may be fast, I have something they don't, and I caught them on the downhill and we kept going.
When we could see the 3 mile marker, I told Liz, who was taking real mile splits on her non-GPS watch, "I'm going to need you to do some math here." Because if I had to run a 6-minute mile to PR, I was just going to enjoy it, but for the love of God, I wasn't going to miss it by 15 seconds. We passed it, she lapped, and then told us all that we just needed to run another 8:40 mile to sneak in by one second.
It's so hard to explain why I love running with my friends, why I love the teamwork that I've discovered in running with CAR, but they are my village. We rode past the 3-mile marker and I could just feel it, I could feel everyone around me tuck in and push, and we got quiet and I just kept thinking about keeping my stupid ass under me and leaning into good form and trying to ignore the fact that this felt a fuck of a lot harder than an 8:40, but it wasn't me, I didn't do it, they all carried me up the last hill and then down into the finish and if it wasn't for the idiot with the stroller, we probably would have finished together and under 35, but none of that mattered.
Sometimes there are things more important than numbers on a watch, or what my heart is supposed to doing or what shoes I'm wearing. I didn't realize how desperately I needed a reminder of what really matters in my life, but this was it. My happy roots are in running, they are in a place where it's about protecting fiercely the things and people you love, and being joyful to feel my blood pumping and my legs moving and who cares about how far off of someone's PR it was or how easy it was for someone else or that the first mile was stupid slow or how much my coach was going to strangle me for running a mile that started with a 7 or whatever. This is why I run, this is why it's worth it.
I love you guys. Happy New Year.