The Cinco de Mayo 10K holds a special place in my heart. Twelve years ago, I made the transition from a fitness runner who raced occasionally to someone who actively trained in pursuit of faster times. Cinco was my first serious race and 50 minutes (about an 8-minute mile pace) was my goal. I ran it in 55:55 (8:59 pace). It took me five years to break 50 with a time of 49:51. This year, my sights were set on cracking 45. All of my 10K PRs have been set at this race, despite it being a hilly course, because I’m usually in good shape this time of year. I call it my A-minus race of the spring.
It was a warm morning, but May in Tucson could definitely be worse. The competitive 10K started at 7, and I arrived in time do a mile and a half warmup and duck behind some bushes before heading to the starting line. I chatted with a few friends, but soon it was time for business. I headed out at what felt like a strong 10K pace and hit the first (net uphill) mile at 7:05. “Let’s Get It Started,” which had been playing before the race, rolled around in my head. If I could just keep that pace, I’d be golden. As I thought about how I might feel, look, and sound toward the end, an image of Inigo Montoya talking about ultimate suffering flashed through my mind. Time to run like your father was slaughtered by a six-fingered man, girlie!
I saw my friend Stu around mile two. Will he stop to have a Gu? Who makes his running shoe? Argh! No more rhyming and I mean it! Anybody want a peanut? Alright, no more Princess Bride references. May I live a thousand years and never hunt again. As a woman caught up to him, he said “Good job Kristen.” When I pulled up alongside, he said “Good job, Michelle,” which caused the other girl to say, “Oh, I’m Kristen?” We hit a downhill section of the course, which was a pleasant break. “Love in an Elevator” was in my head now. ♪Living it up as I’m running down…♪ The course is an out-and-back, and I saw the lead man 2.66 miles in. I also started passing some of the walkers who had started a half hour earlier.
After the turn-around, I got into a back-and-forth thing with Not-Kristen. I felt like I was keeping a consistent effort and wished she’d either pass me for good or stop trying. After I pulled ahead for about the sixth time, I didn’t see her again. The road turned, and it was head-on into the wind. I mentally chanted: “I must! I must! I must defeat this gust!” I had spend a lot of my recent evening workouts fighting the wind, so I was prepared for the battle. Soon, I hit the long downhill section of the course, and it was time to fly.
Once things flattened out again, the song “Running on Empty” popped into my head, which was fitting. This is where racing becomes as much mental as physical. With the events of Boston still fresh in my mind, I felt really grateful to be out there and I was determined to stay strong and run my best. ‘Cuz I can (mental DJ, cue Pink).
In the distance, I could hear the announcer’s voice say “Second female finisher. Third female finisher.” Was I that close to the front? I picked up my pace and finished in 44:01, sixth woman overall and second in my age group. I had more than exceeded my expectations time-wise, but was just a little disappointed that I had been so close to 43 minutes. I don’t like to stare at my watch when I’m running; I’ll quickly check my pace and overall time on occasion, but run by feel for the most part. Still, maybe someone should invent a feature that would shout at you if you were close to a certain time: “Hey you, stop lollygagging! Pick it up and you’ll break 44!” Or not.
I grabbed some fruit and a burrito and stashed them in my car before heading out for an additional 4.5 miles. I made it to the awards ceremony right before they announced my age group. I now have a third Cinco de Mayo 10K margarita glass for my collection. Overall, I was really happy with the race and it gave me a shot of confidence going into my A race the next weekend.
Race Data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/308331859