I was looking forward to a fast, flat 10K and possibly a PR. My fastest 10Ks have all been run on a hilly course in the heat of May simply because I’m in better shape then than I am for the flatter January races. This was a brand-new 10K that didn’t conflict with any of my other races, so I decided to sign up. I’ve been running well lately, and wanted to see what I could do.
For several days before the race, the forecasters were predicting heavy rain. 80% chance! 90% chance! Have you noticed that percentages seem to mean something different to weather folk? When I hear there’s a 20-30% chance, rainfall is almost certain. Whenever I hear those high numbers, it seems a lot more iffy. Anyhow, I was prepared for a storm, but the day dawned cloudy, cool, and dry.
My friends Keith and Shane were running the 10K, but none of my female friends were there. There was also a 5K race, which would begin after we were sent off. A few minutes before the race, Shane pointed to me and Keith and said “Top male and female winners right here.” I thought about that for a second. There is one pervasive, recurring reason why I have yet to win a race: the other people kept running better*. We have some really speedy ladies in town, but I didn’t see any of the usual suspects today, so maybe, just maybe… I lined up a few feet behind the men, but Keith ushered me up to the front.
I felt pressure to show that I belonged up there, so I started off hard. We ran a lap around the track before heading to the river path, and my split was 1:40. That was faster than my current 5K PR pace, so I slowed down a little, trying to find what felt like a good 10K effort. My goal was to break 45, but it was still mid-season and I was going to run by feel and not stress about time too much for the most part.
The early part of the race was uneventful. Some men passed me, but I remained the top female. Some of the volunteers shouted “First place woman!” as I went by, which was fun. The course was really flat, except for an underpass. Coming up that thing didn’t take too long, but it was sure was steep. Because it was an out-and-back, I knew I’d be hitting it again. A volunteer said “Fluid!” at one of the aid stations and I took a cup without realizing that it was a type of sports drink. I only took a sip and tossed the rest. I don’t normally consume calories during a 10K and I didn’t want to mess with something new.
After two and a half miles, I started wondering when I’d see the men on their way back. Keith, who was in second, ran by me at 2.93 miles. After crossing a bridge, there was a hairpin turnaround and I saw Shane and a few women not too far behind. I had passed a couple men by this time. The sun came out around mile four and I started getting toasty, so I pushed my arm arm warmers down. I felt the slightest hint of a side stitch. I never get those anymore. A Gilbert and Sullivan song popped into my head: “No, never!” “What, never?” “Well, hardly ever!” Then I hit that darn underpass again. It was even less fun the second time around.
Around mile five, the sun ducked behind the clouds again. The pace as starting to wear on me, but I thought I could maintain it. My mental DJ switched between Muse’s “Uprising” and Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out”. Suck it up, buttercup. Run on guts. That led to the Office episode where Michael runs a 5K: “…today, I had a triumph of the human body. That’s why everybody was applauding for me at the end, my guts and my heart. And while I eventually puked my guts out, I never puked my heart out. I’m very, very proud of that.”
As I made my way back to the track for the final half lap, I was still in first. I hadn’t checked behind me, but I could taste the win. I started to pick up the pace, and then a woman blew by me. Something like this shot through my mind: “Excuse me, kind miss. I did not lead for 99% of the race with the intent of surrendering at the end. Begging your pardon, I shall attempt to pass you now.” Alright, it was a bit more coarse and visceral than that. As much as I was hurting, I dug deep and probably ran faster than I have since high school. The final results showed that I won by a second and my Garmin said that I hit a 4:16 minute mile pace at the end. Rage can do wonders.
Everyone Runs races have great food afterwards, and I helped myself to some eggs, refried beans, salsa, a smoothie, and a cup of Earl Grey. I won a certificate for a free pair of Asics. Keith was the second overall man and won some free dry cleaning. He still had certificates from last year’s race, so he gave his prize to me. Shane placed second in his age group. Keith pointed out that because it was a new race, I owned the female course record.
Unfortunately, I left the race with one other memento – a mild adductor strain. Doesn’t that sound classier than groin injury? It bothered me enough that I skipped a planned 5K race this weekend, but I think I’ll be ready for my first triathlon of the year next week. On the bright side, I now have something in common with Sam Malone (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg9ruee3Vos).
I was two seconds slower than my PR, and I’ll have to wait until May for another chance to break 45, but I still found myself grinning throughout the day. Little old me won a race!
Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/282240409
*My husband had the Golf Channel on and I was half-listening to David Feherty interview some golfer. They talked about this guy possibly winning a tournament, and then Feherty said something like “There’s one reason I never won. The other people kept playing better.” I’d love to find the exact quote, but Google let me down. Anyhow, this is the sort of thing that amuses me, so I thought I’d paraphrase.