The setting: Liberty on the Lake, The Colony.
The time: 8:05 start, JULY 4th.
The cast: Frunners abounded. Some I knew would be there, some pleasant surprises.
The mission: 10K. All out. See where I am. See what I could do.
I got there early. Parked ridiculously easily and close to the start/finish line. Picked up bib, chip and t-shirt and sat in the shady grass for a bit while the other folks started to collect. Noted that the humidity that tortured me on my previous run was non-existent. Yay. Good sign. Folks start arriving, and it evolves into the usual race scene of hugs and catching up with folks. I left my phone in the car for this one - no music, no MapMyRun, NO PICTURES! (gasp). No, ma'am. I was all BIZNASS for this one. I was here to run. No distractions, no getting sidetracked by anything on this day. Thankfully, a couple of other friends had cameras with them and I did demand the assembled peeps get together for a group shot and assailed an unsuspecting passer-by to take the pic. So all was not lost.
|Pre-race pic. Missing Mark, Cairo & Daniel. boo. We'll draw them in later.|
|Stronger. Waffles. Things to remember.|
Start time arrived and here comes my pacer, Drum, who had done an easy five miles before meeting up with me and the rest of the crew. We had discussed strategy just a little bit previously, and I said I was thinking I'd like to hit 10:30s for the first 10k and then turn it up in the last 2 miles. So that was the plan. She had her new Garmin set to quarter-mile intervals so she could correct my pace quickly, and we were off.
Right away, I felt good. Too good. I was going way faster than I should have been. I let the crowd sweep me away and I went with them, right in the middle of the fray. I don't know exactly what my pace was for that first half-mile or so, but I do distinctly remember her reaching for my shoulder and physically slowing me down. "These people are doing a 5k! LET THEM GO!" oh, snap. Okay. Thank you, Drum!
Ok, so we settle in. Kind of. Ok, there was no settling into anything. Right away, I had trouble regulating my breathing. I was glad to see the path we were on turn onto a crushed limestone path. I've had great success on this surface, and I was relieved that I wouldn't be on hard pavement for 6 miles. But, I was struggling with my breathing early on. And I suddenly became aware of how hot it was. There was very little shade and absolutely ZERO cloudcover. Ahhhh, Texas....
Drum was so good to me during this whole race. She reminded me to keep my shoulders back, head up, so I could open up my airway and get the oxygen I needed. She reminded me we didn't need to sprint. She tried to keep me calm and get me to shut up the voices in my head. Apparently, it was pretty evident early on that mentally I was in full Chaos Muppet mode. I was getting in my own way pretty much from the start. About this time, we come up on the two-mile mark. TWO miles. And it just seemed like it took FOREVER to get there. And I may have done a mini-primal-scream. More of a grunt, really. Poor Drum. I was DQing it up, big-time. So early, too. Ah, hints of what was to come.
By now, we're on this path along the lake, and I can very slowly start to see the wheels coming off. I'm having a hard time running. Everything hurts. Not any specific pain, just that general, working hard, OMG-I-can't-do-this-much-longer hurt. And I want to stop. So I start walking. And Drum yells at me, "NO! we walk at the water stop. Not now! Not yet!" And I love her so dearly for doing this for me, but in that moment, I gotta say, a tiny part of me was like, "whatever, whatever, I do what I want..." But she was right. Please. It was MILE THREE!! So I sucked it up and ran. Did I mention it was hot? Yeah, it was hot.
From there, it got hotter and hotter, and the mile markers were further and further apart. The strong happy that I felt at the start? All gone. And I couldn't get my mind to just.stop.talking. I kept getting frustrated with myself, because I KNOW I can run a consistent pace. I know my body is capable of going much faster than I was going. I let myself get negative-head. And it just built and built. And I slowed further and further down. Drum was awesome. Kept ahead of me so she didn't have to hear me whining, but close enough that I knew if she looked back and I wasn't running she was going to kick my ass. I kept running when I didn't want to because I didn't want to disappoint her. I joked on FaceBook about her being mean and yelling, but really she was perfect in every sense. She reminded me that I asked for this, I signed up for this, that this test of myself, physically and mentally, is what I wanted. She was right. When we hit the 5 mile mark and I was shuffling so badly that my feet were kicking up limestone on the path, she wheeled around and yelled, "You are not a SHUFFLER, you are a RUNNER!! RUN!" That made me laugh. On the inside, though, because every ounce of energy was going into my feet and my legs. And it wasn't enough.
As we got to the finish line, I started to hear people yelling my name. A lot of people. I am so fortunate to have so many dear friends at this event, and in my life, all cheering for me and pulling for me, and holding me in their hearts. Everyone was cheering for me. It was too much. I have that rule about crying on the course, but thankfully, it doesn't apply once you cross the line. I burst into tears nearly as soon as I crossed, once I was sure I wasn't going to puke or die, or possibly both. Those were frustrated tears, happy tears, grateful tears, tired tears, all kinds of emotions going on up in there. And then my friends gathered around me, and I got the BEST hug ever from E, who had a GREAT day on the 5k course, in her first race back in MONTHS. And E very quietly reminded me that we both walked that race last year. And she reminded me how far we've come. And then another lady came up to me, someone I didn't know, and told me that I had a strong race, and that she was following me and trying to catch me the whole time but couldn't.
And then I was ok with whatever the clock said. Not right away, no, but as the day wore on, and I basked in the comfort and companionship of so many wonderful friends that morning over waffles and bacon, and when I drove home and my son asked me why I had "STRONG" written on one arm and "WAFFLES" on the other, then, well, then I was OK with what the clock said.
|We were accidental matchers. I love her.|
I said going in I had no time goals. I thought I might come in about five minutes faster, based on my training paces and what I'd been able to do on the treadmill. But I also knew that doing the bulk of my training on the treadmill was going to be a hindrance to my heat acclimation. I owned that. But that was a choice I consciously made so that I would be more sure to hit my paces. I knew it would bite me, and it did. The heat sapped my strength and it sapped my drive.
I also knew that the voices in my head, comparing myself to the Runner That I Used to Be, were going to be strong. I just didn't realize how strong until I got out there. I have to reconcile to my current state, or I'm just going to keep poisoning myself during races. I have to embrace the new me and the new paces and look for improvement from yesterday, not chase PRs from two years ago, when my body and my life were oh so different. And that's hard to do. But it's something to work on, along with holding my head up when I run, and breathing properly, and remembering to pick up my feet. Because I am a work in progress, not a finished product.
So while I was initially disappointed in my result, I also know that I WILL get to where I want to be. It might not be in October, at my next big goal race. It might not be for a long while. But I do know that all along the way, and waiting for me when I get there, will be an amazing group of people with whom I've somehow been lucky enough to collide paths. And there will be one helluva a party. You're invited.
|Sweaty, hot and awesome.|
|How did I ever get so lucky?|
Splits, because I have them, and because they so elegantly describe the GIANT IMPLOSION:
- quickened pace from the Frunner Love!
to Drum, for being my pacer. For being real with me. For telling me what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. For Not Coddling That Sh!t. I love you!
to That Pink Girl, for lending me her marker, and running me in the last .10 of a mile. and holding my sweaty visor, and reminding me to smile all the time, because it's worth it.
to MK, and Mr K, for sharing their love and their home and their bacon. Being around all these amazeballs friends makes me realize that I am such a blessed person.
to E, for reminding me of the journey and that it isn't over yet. and for the BEST hug in the world.
|We sometimes share a brain. This is a good thing.|