Returning to the Scene of Last Year’s DNF

Today’s race took me to the site of last year’s DNF.

I ran the National Race to End Women’s Cancer 8K this morning after spending an embarrassing amount of time deciding whether to wear shorts or tights. My tights threshold is usually 45˚F, but when I woke up this morning, it was 50˚F, overcast, and blustery, all of which tipped the needle towards tights. 

Apparently it was “overcast” because of a partial solar eclipse.
After realizing that celestial mechanics – and not the weather – were at work, I switched into shorts and jogged a mile to the start line.
Urrgh. My ankles were tight and cranky. Both sides. And it was noticeable. This would be an interesting ~5 miles.
Also, an interesting swag bag.
I went into this race with a few thoughts. 
First, I wondered what charity race organizers thought of people like me: middle of the packers who had at most empathy for the charitable cause but didn’t fundraise. Then I lined up at the start next to a woman who was clearly (1) fast and (2) a bandit. I figured that even though I bought my race bib at over a 50% discount through Living Social (and basically made up that value in the contents of my race bag full of swag I’ll actually use) and didn’t fundraise, I was doing the charity more favors than a bandit. Plus, I’m blogging about it. So there.
Second, I really wanted to finish in under 47 minutes. I’m the queen of arbitrary race time goals, especially when I’ve been having as haphazard a season as this fall. But 47 minutes made some sense. When I plugged last week’s 10K time into the McMillan Calculator, it spat out 47:29 for an 8K. And when I took my splits from last week’s race, they added up to ~47:39 at mile 5. Adding in that the crowds from last week probably slowed me down, sub 47 for an 8K seemed possible. 
So here’s what happened: I lined up way too close to the front for someone hoping for a 9:30 per mile base pace. My first half mile was close to an 8:30 per mile pace, and I spent the next 2 miles panicking and telling myself to slow down. I think I ultimately got it closer to a 9:20 pace for the second mile, and finally, for miles 3 and 4, I was just over 9:30s. The last not-quite-a-mile-unless-you’re-zig-zagging-along-Pennsylvania-Avenue was just above a 9 minute mile pace. 
Cobble all that together, and it was a somewhat discombuluated, positive split run that came in at under 47 minutes. Whew.
My biggest takeaway is that while I loved not having to dodge slower runners right off the start, I spent a lot of mental energy telling myself to run my own race and not to care about the bodies moving past me. Sure, I wish I could have started in a more appropriate place, but who knows. Maybe the speed demons around me pushed me to my time goal today, and sometimes that works, too.