Friday night I got everything ready. Number pinned on, socks, Bondi Band with appropriate saying on it.
Water belt on the counter next to the fridge, where my water bottles were waiting. Nuun in the handy-dandy little pocket on the belt, ready to insert just before the race. Hoping for a better night's sleep, but not counting on it. Good thing, because it was another rough night. Anna came into my room at 4:40, and by the time I got settled back into bed, there wasn't a chance in the world I was going back to sleep. Finally gave up at 5:35 Saturday morning and got ready. Tony heard me stirring and got up. Elaine, my usual sleepy headed 10 year old, was up before 6. We managed to wake the others shortly thereafter so that we could leave by 6:30.
Arrived at U-Hall and got parked by 6:40, and soon found running buddies Robin and Roger (RBR#1 & #2). Took the mandatory pre-race pics.
Anna was running the Kids Dash, so she had her number, too! (BTW, she fell about 3/4 of the way into the 1-lap race she had entered, but got up and finished--last, but not the least bit perturbed! That's my girl!)
Running Buds Roger and Robin, who have been so incredibly supportive throughout this entire journey.
So the race began with 2300 runners on a glorious spring day. We found a spot near the back, since we knew we wanted to start slowly and pace ourselves. We'd run the course a few times before, so we knew where the hills were, with a number of them occurring in the first two miles. I felt good, Robin felt good, Roger--well, Roger is super athletic and has probably never not felt like running. Go figure. Anyway, we were looking forward to a nice run.
Things went well until mile 6, when there is a slow, steady incline past a cemetery on the heels of two shorter, steeper hills. This particular stretch has never been my favorite (despite RBR1's great jokes about our whoopin' and hollerin' waking the dead as we celebrate making it up the hill). During the race, however, my body was sending me very strong "You need to walk now" messages. I haven't heard that in a long time, even during my 12 mile run 2 weeks ago, so what did I do? I ignored it. Probably not the best move. About 1/2 mile later, I started coughing hard, remnants of last week's bronchitis. I kept plugging away, but I didn't feel like I normally feel, and I knew I was slowing down.
We got on a great straight stretch and I figured I would be able to pick up the pace. It didn't happen. RBR1 said she was getting her second wind (her 8-mile wind, as she likes to call it). I've seen this with her on our training runs--sometimes I can hang in there with her, sometimes I can't. Yesterday I definitely couldn't, but we'd often discussed this possibility, and we both agreed that if one of us was feeling the groove, then go with it. So when RBR1 asked, "Lisa, is it okay?" I replied without hesitation for her to go for it. We train together, but as Coach Lorenzoni says, your race is your own. I was SO PROUD of her--she caught up to RBR2 and let it fly, fully a minute faster than had she hung back with me. She has been an awesome running buddy--always very supportive, with the most upbeat attitude you can find. I look forward to running alongside her for many years.
The last two miles were pure torture. I finally ended up walking for two separate 15 or 20 second stints up the hill during mile 9. I knew that the finish line and my family were waiting, so I kept trudging along, but I was feeling the pain. I think this picture tells the story better than I ever could. I'm embarrassed by it (I look old, tired and defeated), but I did, in fact, cross the finish line, so I'm trying hard to remember that gift I promised myself.
Here is another shot as I was about to cross the finish line, holding dear Anna's hand. It is the only shot of my legs that I have ever liked--despite how tired I may have looked from the neck up, these are STRONG legs that carried me through a tough race. I LOVE my legs! (However, if any plastic surgeons out there would like to contribute their services to my "End Cottage Cheese Thighs" campaign, give me a call.)
Then there was the technical difficulty. My iSmoothRun app (the only app for which I have shelled out actual dinero, $4.99 in this case), gave me a false reading of 10:37/mile. I knew it was too good to be true, considering my 8K time was 10:38/mile, but I accepted it and shared it on FB. The actual race results came out later in the day and my time was 11:20/mile. Big difference, and quite a letdown after thinking I was faster, but hey, when I started the training I was just hoping for 11:30, so I should be quite satisfied, right?? My final time was 1:51.
Split-wise, I'm neither surprised nor particularly disappointed. Disregard that last 9:44 time--this is the mysterious 0.38 mile that showed up for some reason, despite the impossibility of the race being more than 10.0 miles. (This is what skews all the splits, by the way; but while they are not accurate in terms of total time, they do show the overall picture--namely, that I started slowly, as I wanted to, got faster and stronger until mile 6, then pretty much crashed by miles 8, 9 and 10).
So what's the "take-away", if you'll overlook that overused expression du jour?
I have given this race a lot of thought, and I say this knowing that most of the folks who read this love to race. But honestly, I think that while I have grown to love running, I really can't say that I enjoy RACING. Part of this may stem from the fact that I have never been intensely competitive--at least not with anyone else. I am hyper-competitive with one person: MYSELF. And when I try to do something that doesn't necessarily come easy, something at which I do not excel, my immediate instinct is to quit. Give up. Leave it for the pros. But deciding that racing isn't my thing still gives me the freedom to RUN all I want. That 12-mile run 2 weeks ago? I LOVED IT! I wasn't worried about my time, and I ran it with RBR1, not a huge crowd of people. It was peaceful, healthy, pleasant. Yesterday was a gorgeous day, and the enthusiasm and encouragement of all the volunteers out there cannot be found outside of a race. I understand that part of racing, believe me. Being part of something that is happening for a good cause (lung cancer research, in this case, or breast cancer research for the Women's Four-Miler, or the Boys and Girls Club, or the food bank), that part of racing is also super. But maybe I volunteer for those events instead of participating. Or I pick a shorter race and approach it with more of a "do it if I feel like it" attitude, so that so much of my life isn't about ONE DAY. This race took on a bigger-than-life aspect. Plans were made around it, training for it became an obsession, and the rest of the family definitely felt--if not suffered--the effects of this one race. I'm just not sure that I, personally, want to add this particular stress to what is already a busy and sometimes overwhelming schedule. So while I fully expected to want to come home from yesterday's race ready to sign up for the Richmond Half-Marathon coming up in November, that's not happening. At least not anytime soon.
By the way, my dear family members were amazing about this entire process and never once begrudged any time or efforts I spent on this race. They cheered me on, told me how proud they were of my having run the race, and lifted my spirits when I was down about my troubles and slow time. However, it is someone else's turn, now, to hog the spotlight. Today, Olivia scored her first lacrosse goal. And soon both Olivia and Elaine will be participating in the Heritage Choir Festival in D.C. Life is busy, life is good. And I will run three or four times a week and enjoy it. And I will re-enter my love-hate relationship with those vicious Jillian Michaels DVDs that I've ignored during my training out of fear of injuring my ankles or knees. And I will still read the blogs of all those great running, racing women who have inspired me, and I will cheer them on before--and vicariously experience after--their races. But for me, for right now, I think I'll jump off the race circuit. Thanks, C10M--it was a challenge, and I'm glad to have that great sticker on my bumper. I earned it!