Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Cotton Row

I woke up in full-on intestinal distress.  Not a good way to start a race day.  I decided to push past the discomfort and give it my best shot.

I really do love Cotton Row.  The air practically vibrates with excitement!  Last year I was unbelievably nervous...this year I was just nauseated which completely helped hold my nerves at bay.  The other thing that helped was meeting up with my FCA Endurance Huddle group for a pre-race prayer.  Unfortunately I didn't take the time to warm up.  Announcements take about 15 minutes at this race which is the only down-side to it in my opinion...however part of their routine is playing taps in memory of all the soldiers who have helped keep this country free, so it's not a big down-side, just something I need to keep in mind for next year.

My master plan for the race was to go it alone so I could run my own race.  The draw-back to that strategy is not having anyone to talk to, or to talk to me...but that's also the advantage as well.  For some reason when I run with someone I can't seem to run my very strongest race (even if that "someone" is just the nag in my head).  I spent a good bit of the race running from "her".  Within the first mile I thought I should maybe just step off to the side and go back to the start line.  My stomach was rolling.  Instead I decided to push through until I saw my sweet husband (at about mile 2).  Thankfully by the time I saw him I was feeling a bit better.

Dwayne positions himself at the bottom of the start of the toughest section of the course.  There's a short incline, a turn that leads to another short incline, which leads to a long slow incline...which leads to the HILL.  Up, up, up, and up.  All that would be bad enough, but on top of all that it's HOT...and my stomach was giving me some internal ups and downs right along with my thoughts.

A while back I did hill repeats on THE hill...and did quite well.  I ran a mile easy warm-up then up and down that hill twice (or maybe three times?).  This experience was running through my mind along with Dwayne's voice telling me to keep running up that hill and to recover at the top knowing the whole next mile is a fast easy decline.  As I rounded the corner I could hear the Rocky theme playing, but it wasn't actually registering because I began to focus only on my breathing and my stride--short quick steps, up on my toes, breathe, drive the elbows back, lean at the ankles....  About a third or quarter of the way up the hill I decided to walk the rest of the way.  When I go to the top, I took a deep breath and started running again.

If there was one section of the race I could change, it would be the next mile.  I remember last year when I hit this section I completely let loose and had the best mile of the year much less the race.  Looking back I think I could have pushed harder, but at the time I felt like it was all I could do to keep running.  I kept telling myself to pick up the pace to the point I no longer wanted to talk.  The only think was since I was running alone, I didn't really have a proper gauge.  I do remember seeing Dwayne at mile five and not really being able to say anything to him and being so energized by his smile and words of encouragement, "Lori and Lisa are JUST ahead of you--you can catch them--GO!!"  I wondered if he was serious, or just trying to give me fuel to pick up the pace.

As I reached mile six, there he was again!!!  I knew I was pushing the line to make my goal of finishing in under an hour, but I didn't know just how close I was.  He yelled at me that I was going to make it if I PUSHED (that's the way I remember it anyway).  I had intentionally not looked at my watch, hoping to simply run as hard as I could by feel.  As I ran under the first banner, with my eyes focused on the finish line (the second banner), I saw the clock showing 1:00:XX.  I momentarily paused until I remembered that wasn't my running time because I started a good ways back and the race was chip timed....so I kicked in my sprint.

The down side was TWENTY FOUR SECONDS (chip time, forty seconds gun time) OVER my goal.  Dang it.  If only...woulda' coulda' shoulda'-didn't.   But you know what?  The up-side is about an 18 minute PR!  Cotton Row is the only 10K I've ever done.   Last year I ran it in 1:18:23.  I came in 86/100 in my age group and 1920/2048 over all.  This year I cam in 39/111 AG and 930/1878 OA.  Not a bad improvement for a year, huh??

I can say I'm happy.  I think maybe for the first time I'm happy about my performance in a race!!  That's not to say I'm not saying there are some things I could have done differently, but I did a lot of what was right--and THAT is the best of the upside!!

Thanks for stopping in!  Come again soon!

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