*warning: this post is long. 10k long, to be exact!*
I ran the Pilgrim Pacer 10k race.
I did NOT sleep well Friday night. I was full of nervous energy, and just could not get to sleep. I lay in bed visualizing the race, mentally reminding myself that I could finish it. I woke up with a start around 3 or 4 am and thought it was time to get up for the race. Then I had a really vivid dream that I was not able to finish the race. When my alarm finally went off, I was still tired and just wishing for more sleep!
But, I dragged myself out of bed and into the kitchen for breakfast. I made a “calculated risk” choice- I had a different breakfast. For quite some time, I’ve just grabbed a couple of Pop Tarts for breakfast most days. Some days I would grab a donut. These included my pre-run breakfasts. Yesterday, for a variety of reasons, I was able to acquire several bagels and strawberry cream cheese. That sounded delicious and like it would provide minimal risk of intestinal upset (besides it’s not THAT long of a race). So today’s breakfast: a bagel with strawberry cream cheese. Yum!
While I ate I watched the morning news. I was increasingly irritated at the weather report! Today was COLD- one of the coldest days of the season so far. I have minimal experience with running in the cold, including minimal cold running gear. I was planning to wear a long sleeved tshirt, shorts, and gloves (plus appropriate undergarments), with a pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a jacket to keep me warm prior to the race. Like every prior race, I have kept a close watch on today’s weather forecast for the past two weeks, and it proved to be slightly cooler than was even predicted.
Oh well. I couldn’t change the weather- all I could do was keep going. I got dressed and waited about 10 minutes for my parents to finish getting ready (they were my ride, my photographers, and my “support crew”). We piled into the car and left. During the drive, I alternated between playing with my blackberry and looking out the window while I visualized the race in my mind.
Once we arrived, my nerves calmed down A LOT. I guess there was enough going on around me to keep me distracted. This was the smallest race I’ve done so far- not that it was THAT small. I later found out there was 700-some runners divided between the 5k, 10k, and half-marathon. The finish line area had three or four small tents (sheltering the race administrators) and one of those inflatable moonwalk jump things with a slide for the kids, plus an inflatable “canopy” thing over the finish line. There were runners all around us, jogging and jumping and doing their various pre-race rituals.
For about 20 minutes, we walked around and talked. I stretched and jogged a little bit. Finally Sophia, one of the race administrators, made an announcement on the (portable) PA system and pointed all of us runners in the direction of the starting line. The finish line was down a hill and a few yards off of the main loop.
*Side note* All of the races were on a 3.1-mile loop. The 5k was one loop around; the 10k was two loops around; and the half-marathon was four loops around, plus a short jog off to one side. The volunteers directed us on where to go, and our bibs were color-coordinated by race so they could identify where we were supposed to go. Of course I didn’t figure this out until later- more on that below.
So anyway, my parents walked up to the finish line with me (and all the other runners). They took a few photos while I took off my jacket, sweatshirt, and sweatpants. I got into the runners’ “chute” and hopped from one foot to the other for what felt like eternity but was probably only a minute or two. Finally the horn sounded and we were off.
mixing in with all the runners- trying to look like I know what I’m doing!!
*Side note* The race was chip timed, but there was no chip timing at the start- they just started the timer when they sounded the horn. So our chip times just told us primarily when we crossed the finish line. Luckily it was a small enough race that there was only *maybe* one or two minutes between when the horn sounded and when I crossed the starting line. Probably less than that.
The first mile was the easiest physically and the hardest mentally. After a half mile, as the runners began to spread out and as I was passed by who-knows-how-many runners, my mind began that battle of “slow down and walk” vs “you know you can do this, keep running”. The course was really nice. It was a loop within Unity Village, which is a teeny-tiny “rural” village within the Kansas City metro. It’s a huge green area, like a park- I think there’s actually a golf course in there. Most of the loop was on an old asphalt path through the grassy area.
Anyway, I made it through that first mile and got to the first aid station.
*Side Note* There were aid stations by the starting line and at mile 1.2- so for the 10k, there were aid stations at 1.2, 4.3, and 5.5.
I made it to that aid station and dropped back to a walk. I grabbed a cup of gatorade and, when I put it to my lips, was really surprised that it was orange citrus flavor! I know, dumb, considering that it was ORANGE and what did I expect?! But it went down the wrong pipe and I coughed a few times. I finished my drink, tossed it in the trash can, and headed off again.
I really gritted in and ran another mile. I was struggling more than I wanted. The route had several hills- nothing terribly steep, but still enough to cause me to struggle. The miles were not marked, but around mile 2, I slowed to a walk for just a few paces. It wasn’t much but I was still frustrated- those hills were really getting me! I picked up and resumed running, came around the loop, and finished the third mile.
Originally I had planned to really throw myself out there during the first 5k and try to beat my earlier 5k time (assuming they would measure a split at 3.1 miles) and then take it easier during the second 5k. Maybe that’s why I’d struggled. Anyway, that was when I realized that the finish line was offset a bit, and that they would NOT be measuring the splits. I kept running, rethinking my strategy.
Not too far past that point, I passed the parking lot, where my parents were cheering alongside the route. They had been waiting in the car- did I mention it was COLD? The race was small enough that there was not really anyplace for the spectators to wait. I took off my gloves, tossed them towards their feet and kept running.
that’s me, in the blue shirt, on the left.
tossing my gloves at my parents.
After another half-mile or so (maybe around mile 4?) I dropped back to a walk again. I was pushing, a bit harder than I’d first intended, but since there was no split at 3.1, I just figured I would run as much as I could, as fast as my could, and just get the best time I could. After a few yards, I picked up and ran again.
Another mile in, and I was starting to regret taking off my gloves. I wasn’t exactly cold, but my hands were reacting to the cold weather by swelling. I have a chronic skin condition on my hands, a leftover side effect from a years-ago accident, that causes my hands to become extremely dry. However, I’m so accustomed to it and have it so much under control that I forget about it. Note to self: don’t remove gloves when it’s cold. Even if you don’t feel cold. I alternately squeezed my fingers into a fist and stretched them out. It wasn’t serious, but it was very annoying.
One last mile. By now I was really kicking myself for signing up for the 10k. Mentally I was totally asking myself why I hadn’t stuck with the 5k! What did I think I was doing?
Finally I could see the finish line. I knew that all that was left on the course was this one short loop, down the path and then to the finish line, and I pushed. I was pushing with all I had just to keep running, and somehow I managed to pull out a little more to speed up.
my parents took a picture of themselves by the finish line.
A few feet before the finish line, I saw my parents again, cheering for me. Then, just before the finish line, I saw Dick Ross, who is a fixture in the Kansas City racing circuit. He takes photos FOR FREE at local running events. (see my photo below!)
At last, I crossed the line. 1:26:00.69. I’m thrilled and pleased with that time! Everything after that was just wonderful. I got a finisher’s medal, a slice of pumpkin pie, and a cup of hot chocolate. I went home, showered, ate lunch, took a (LONG) nap, and took ibuprofen to fight the monster soreness that came on a few hours later. What’s next? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to it!