I'll spare you the details of my three ringed circus-worthy life but suffice it to say, it's been crazy lately!
I told my coach I really wanted to run the Cotton Row 10K but I balked when she told me I would need to do it as a training run because I wasn't in race-running shape. I pouted and stomped my foot and told her I most certainly HAD to try to break an hour because that's what I had done for the last 3 years running and it was only last year that I finally actually did it. (That conversation took place before I really even started running again...)
As I started realizing just how much running fitness I have lost and how little time I had to rebuild it before this race I started rethinking the desire to register. I put it off until the last possible minute. I finally decided it didn't matter how fast I was able to run it, I couldn't possibly NOT run it because I have done it every year since I started in 2010. This is the only 10K I've ever entered, and I didn't want to let a thing like performance determine if I would have fun in one of the best races in Huntsville.
There are so many things that make this race amazing, not the least of which is the fact I see so many people I know out there-either running or on the course cheering. It's the biggest race in town (maybe the Liz Hurley breast cancer 5K is bigger?). It's on Memorial Day so there is a tribute to soldiers before the start, and this year they had pictures of fallen soldiers along road to the finish line as well as on the shirts of many runners. I also really LOVE this course. It's challenging. It's basically 3 miles of uphill followed by 3 miles of down(ish) hill. It's hot (usually one of the first really hot days of the year). And...there is a brutal hill smack in the middle of the route. It's a Hunstville tradition.
I lined up at the start already knowing there was really no way I would be breaking an hour. I had not run more than a couple of times in the previous two weeks (did I mention my life has been crazy lately?), and I haven't run more 5 miles at any one time since January. So, I took the start line with ZERO expectation. I just wanted to run and enjoy the day.
The first 3 miles I was running off my heart rate. When it would get up to 175, I would take a walk break until it came back down. I played around with that recovery number a bit, but pretty much settled on 160, allowing that to be the "it's-time-to-run-again" signal. When I got to "the hill" (Mountainwood), I turned the corner and made it a goal to run to the first mail box. I didn't quite make it, but almost. (Heart rate 185...) I walked the rest of the way up, and then started on the 3 miles basically down hill to the finish line. A funny thing happened...my heart rate stayed below 175 for almost the rest of the time-even though I was running faster. (Again--down hill running takes so little effort!)
Although my heart rate wasn't elevating, my legs were letting me know they were TOASTED (which is why I couldn't run harder to get my HR elevated...it's a vicious cycle!). But, since I had made a "deal" with myself to only walk with a HR of 175, I kept thinking, "This is ONLY fatigue...you aren't even really working! You can keep running through fatigue." I cheered spectators, telling them, "you can pretend I'm who you are here to see and cheer for me, I won't mind--I'll be your stand in family member!" When I would see someone with a dog, I would ask them, "Hey, can you get that dog to chase me, I need some motivation to keep going!" And, as always, I would thank the volunteers. Around mile 4 I noticed I didn't really have it in me to chat it up with anyone. Fatigued.
When I rounded the last turn, I told myself, "this is it...the faster you finish, the faster you will be DONE...this is JUST fatigue and you can run as fast as you can make your legs go and then it will be over!" About that time a friend came up beside me and cheerily said, "okay, let's finish this thing". She sounded like she hadn't even been running. I seriously didn't even have the energy to talk to her. But she started pushing the pace. I thought she was pushing awfully early, the finish was a good quarter mile away, but I really didn't want to let her leave me so I pushed with her and kept my focus on solid form and breathing. I want to think I was pushing her as much as she was pushing me, but I know the truth was she was pulling me along. We ran up behind some people going a bit slower so we split apart and when we did I was afraid I would end up slowing, so I threw in a little surge to get around. When I did my friend said, "go ahead..."
In my mind (and out loud) I have said that same thing a thousand times. What that means when I say it is "I just don't have it in me to keep this up; I'm pulling back; I'm taking my foot off the gas; (and unfortunately a lot of the times) I'm throwing on the brakes." At that point I thought I was going to puke. I knew the finish line was still a decent ways away and I knew to keep this pace was crazy given the fact I had taken the rest of the race so conservatively. When people get to the finish and FLY through the end it almost always means they had more to give on the course. I knew that was the epitome of my day....and I didn't want to pull back. I told myself I DID have it in me to keep it up and it didn't matter if I threw up. I held as strong a pace as I could possibly hold and finished as hard as I could go. 1:06:21 chip time (1:06:42 gun time). Second worst Cotton Row ever for me.
After the race a friend asked me how I did. I wanted to say, "I stunk really...but it is what it is this year..." but instead I thought for a second and I said, "I did decent".....
To be continued...