For the third year in a row – and second time racing ‘live and in person’ as opposed to running remotely – I toed the line at the San Jose 408K, a race that has grown in importance for me every year. The first year, I ran remotely. Last year, I ran with my parents while quietly pregnant. This year, I was honored to run with my tall, speedy cousin. South Bay born and raised the 408K is becoming a ‘family’ event for me — and this year was quite memorable.
While I was bummed I couldn’t get out to San Jose early enough to pick up my Represent Running ambassador gear. Under Armour hooked us up big time with shorts, shoes (yes shoes!) and a great “Represent Running” screened tee, I was still excited to be part of the crew. I kitted up in my long sleeved Oiselle Volée top thinking that if I couldn’t rep RR, I’d at least shout out to my fellow flockstars. (Sadly, I didn’t see another bird on the course. Bummer.) I even made good on my threat of bringing a teeny flat version of East Coast RR team member Dani so she could be part of the action too!
I carpooled in with fellow ambassador Elizabeth and her friend Jennifer, which made the ride more fun overall. What runner doesn’t love talking about running and running events while heading to a running event? Before the first wave went out, the ambassador crew got together for a meet and greet photo op. While I feel like I stood out like a colorful thumb in a sea of black and white, at least my Pavey face is getting better.
Thereafter I was chatting with my cousin when Paula sauntered up! It was so great to see her and squeeze her in person (because runners love sweaty hugs.) If you’ve never met or ‘met’ Paula, definitely saunter over to their family site. She’s a serious mother runner of four boys and master of the ‘runner switch’ as well as quiet, modest bad-ass. She had won the women’s group and her age group for a race the day prior.
Thankfully all the excitement kept me from getting too nervous. My cousin Dan is a head taller than me and an 8 minute per mile pace comes to him a bit more (a lot more) naturally than it does for me. He said we’d have fun and that I was going to set pace. Okay. Right. Pace. What pace was I going to set? I figured I’d let my legs tell me. I had run eight miles three days prior and took a good break after, so I was feeling pretty fresh and well fueled. After some words from some speakers, including a childhood hero, Brandi Chastain, we were counting down and hitting the road!
Pre-race I had thought “Okay, maybe I’ll hit 9:30s or so.” In about five miles I was about to prove myself very, very wrong.
As Dan and I struck out with the first wave, everyone clearly eager to get moving, we agreed that it felt like we had gone out fast. I chatted with him a bit and tried to stop looking at my Garmin too much because all the alarms in my head said “TOO FAST! TOO FAST! IS THAT AN 8:XX? WAY TOO FAST!”
We cruised along and hopefully I didn’t weird Dan out with my frequent wrist checking. We talked about family, about running, about people on the course and other things. About two miles in, we agreed that our long sleeves were overkill as the sun broke through, but spirits were good. As the miles slowly ticked by, I felt my end of the conversation slowly fading, but I was very thankful to have a buddy. With every Garmin chime that signaled another mile gone, I checked the time but wasn’t truly internalizing our pace. Instead I coached myself out loud. “Okay. I’ve got this. I’m holding on!” Dan was ever encouraging and positive, which in retrospect, I think helped more than I may have said. Thanks again, Dan.
We made our way to the Memorial Mile where we both made sure to thank veterans on the course. While I did not see a set-up at Joe Bell’s home this year, I did have a moment of mental thanks for his years of service. Just when I thought I was going to start wavering, when I might find an excuse to slow down or, heaven forbid, walk… we saw it. The Mariachi Mile arch denotes the final mile of the course. When we passed it was down (an inflation error) but my heart sang. One. More. Mile. I let out a rallying cry as we passed the first mariachi group.
Something in me locked on to the idea that there was no going back now: it was time to put in work. We passed one mariachi group, another, watched a little speedster age seven or so start booking it about half a mile from the finish. I’m sure Dan could feel my tension as we ran down Stevens Creek Road, the final road stretch before the straightaway into Santana Row. He offered more encouragement. “I’m holding on” seemed to be my mantra at that point.
As we turned off the street, I tried to let my stride out a little. I knew my finish line photo would probably include a pain face, but that is earned, not given. In my ear I heard him say something like “Good kick!” as we pushed towards the finish, but I was so focused on breathing (and not getting into barfy territory) that I didn’t reply. Next thing I knew, we were crossing over the timing mats. I stopped my Garmin and tried to slow my breathing. We had done it!
Not only had we done it… we ran about 5 miles in about 43 minutes. My mind was blown. I was exhausted and excited and amazed all at once. Never in my life can I say I’ve run sub 9 minute miles for any sort of duration and not in my wildest dreams did I expect to run so fast at the race. According to Dan’s Runkeeper, we hit negative splits the whole way through. My Garmin data was a bit different, but mostly close. All I can think when I look at these numbers is “Those splits are bananas!” B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
Since when am I sub-nine minute mile fast? Is that whole “postpartum strength and endurance” thing true? Who knows, but days later, I’m still reeling at the surprise race results. Having faith in my endurance training on the course was key, and continually keeping myself from going all out till the end was also key. I’m glad my mental training lead me to play the brakes to Dan’s gas.
We hung out at the finish line for a bit, took some pictures, picked up my RR ambassador gear then headed to the ambassador meet-up. Rosie McCann’s was a madhouse, so we made a dash for a bakery around the corner. It was nice to stand in the sun and relax with folks who I was excited to finally meet in person. Before long, Dan, Elizabeth, Jennifer and I were walking back to the car and it was time to head back to the East Bay with newly earned bling.
Represent Running, you’ve done it again. I can’t wait to see what next year holds… but till then, I’m already excited for part two of the Run the Bay Challenge: the Across the Bay 12K and 415K! Use my code REPRESENT2016CD to save 10% on your registration for either distance.
Did you run the San Jose 408K? What was your favorite part? Will you be running Across the Bay in person or as a remote runner? Tell me about it!
Time: 42:42 (chip time)
Age Group Women: 27/447
As part of the Represent Running ambassador team, I was given free entry to the race. This post is solely reflective of my personal opinions and experiences at the San Jose 408K.