Monday, April 23, 2012

Race Report: Run the River 10K

Some of you are probably old enough to remember at least a few lazy Summer days as a kid, sitting in front of the TV, watching The Price Is Right.  One of the most memorable moments of that show for me was watching the pure glee expressed by some as they were called upon to take their enviable place on Contestant Row.  The ladies would cup their hands in front of their face in sheer joy and surprise, and then leap out of their seats and scamper up the aisles.  When they arrived, they would scream, cry, giggle, and seize Bob Barker in a severe hug as they expressed their amazement in making it to the next level of the game.  Well, folks, I came to understand that feeling very well yesterday as I blasted through my race goal and set a new 10K PR that I NEVER EVER in a million years thought possible!

Last April, my 10K main goal had been to run the 2011 Peachtree Road Race in less than an hour.  I had trained hard, but still came in at a disappointing 1:02.  What's worse is I felt utterly exhausted, nauseous, and woozy after the race.  I kept training, though, and last November, surprised myself by running a 10K in 50:23.  Boosted by success I continued to train hard.  By January, I had shaved that down to 49:05 on a hilly course.  All those training miles had really made a difference!

My goal on this race was not just to set a new PR, though, but to run it in 47:59 or less.  This was the magic number needed to win me a spot in Corral A for my 21st Peachtree Road Race.  It would require that I surpass my previous PR of 49:05 by more than a minute.  My hopes were high as my training runs had shown that I could get very close to this number on my usual flat course.

I lucked out, and the conditions this particular morning were nearly perfect, much unlike my recent stormy marathon run.  The course was almost flat; the sky was cloudy; the temps. were in the high 50s; I had rested a full two days.  Sure, it was humid out, but I was determined to make the most of this opportunity.

I woke up early and picked up a neighbor, Jennifer, who was running the race too.  I had not met her before, but when I saw her shirt, I noticed she had also done the Color Run 5K recently.  We immediately hit it off as we made our way to the race.

After pinning on our bibs, we met up with another neighbor, Melinda, and a fellow choir member, Chris, who is also Director of Children's Music Ministry at our church.

I had promised myself that I would do a warm-up run, so I reluctantly left the group and headed out for that.  Although I felt really light on my feet, I was also becoming more and more nervous.  To make matters worse, when I turned on my watch to find satellites, it got stuck on one screen and would not move.  It's not like a watch will help me run any faster, but I desperately count on it for feedback and motivation.  Anxiously, I pressed all the buttons in different combinations, hoping to get it to work.  Everyone was starting to line up, so I knew there was not much time left.  Finally, I heaved a sigh of relief as, at the last minute, the watch became unstuck.

My next issue was that I really needed a few sips of water, and there was none to be had.  As much as I hated to waste a moment, I knew I was going to have to stop one time at a water station.  I chatted with a few folks as we waited in nervous impatience for the race to begin.  As we all headed out, I started very quickly, but tried to hold back some, because I always go out too fast.  It's very hard to get passed just after the start line when you already feel like you are speeding, but very soon we started to space out a bit.  Sure enough, as we hit the first mile marker, a guy called out 7:22 as the first split (though Garmin told me 7:28).  Drat, that definitely meant I was going to be very tired very soon.  Half a mile later, we reached the first water station.  I reached for a cup and tried my best to get a sip.  Invariably, this does not work.  It mostly went up my nose and down my shirt, but I managed to get that one vital sip in my mouth, and off I went again.

On mile 2, we headed off the asphalt and onto a dirt path that had round holes in it.  I stayed distracted trying to dodge the holes, and was still hanging in there.  It sort of felt like we were at the beach.  I looked around at the other runners and wondered what they were thinking.  I checked out shoes and thought about saying hi, but I had no breath to spare.  That mile was a bit slower at 7:51.

Just before mile 3, we headed up the one hill of the race.  It was of the fairly short, yet steep, variety.  About halfway up it, I was hit by that typical feeling of doubt and desperation that plagues me on almost every hill.  I really, really wanted to walk and catch my breath.  I could see the top, though, and I knew there was downhill after that.  Therefore, I kept plowing along, step by agonizing step.  I had somehow managed to keep a pace of 7:46, even with the hill.

As I headed back downhill into mile 4, I was torn between making up some time and conserving my energy.  Before I knew it, the downhill was gone and I was back to flat.  Mile 4 was somehow the slowest at 7:51.  I still had two miles to go, and I was feeling mighty pooped.  I watched the runners ahead of me and just tried to maintain pace.  It just kept seeming harder and harder to keep going.  I remember that I had promised to take a mental body inventory and figure out exactly what was hurting most.  My lungs are usually the culprit, but this time my legs were tired too.  This is the part where the race becomes mind over matter, and my mind is not my friend!  Why can't I just toss those doubts and negative thoughts out??  I was also angry at being tired rather than being charged up, like I am at this point in some of my training runs.  Mile 5 was a screamin' 7:34.

I finally couldn't stand the pain and dropped to a walk for a few seconds.  Seconds later, though, my guilt began crushing me!  How could I *walk* on a "measly" 10K?  I saw people passing me, and it made me even more doubtful and frustrated.  With a deep breath, I summoned up courage and began to run again.  There was less than a mile to go.  I had stopped consulting my watch, but I still had a faint glimmer of hope that my goal was still in reach. Then I saw my friend, Sang, on the sideline.  He had run the 5K earlier, but had stayed around a whole extra hour just to cheer me on!  I can't remember what he said, but he had his eye on his own watch and was telling me to GO!  To my amazement, mile 6 came in at 7:45 in spite of the walk!

The last half mile of the race was a slight but long incline and I felt every inch of it.  This is always the point in a race where I really start to get lightheaded.  My breathing was coming out in anguished sobs and pants.  I knew I looked and sounded ridiculous and I did not care!  At the top of the rise, I rounded the corner and was ever so grateful to see a steep downhill slant for the last tenth of a mile.  I went all out, trying to take a couple seconds off, and was THRILLED beyond imagination to see the clock read something like 47:27!!!  I did it!  I did it!  My immense happiness made up for all the pain!

Two baby steps later, I abruptly stopped to let the guy pull off the bottom part of my tag.  Unfortunately, I had accidentally put my safety pin through one of the bottom holes.  I told him he was going to have to unpin me, and then I draped my arms around him!  I just love those guys who greet you at the finish line!  Finally, he extracted himself from my sweaty embrace (just like Bob Barker had to do with all those ladies) and released me so I could hobble over and get a water.  There again, I even had to ask the volunteer for help in unscrewing the cap for me.  Simple things like moving your eyeballs are difficult at this point!

Once I caught my breath, though, the good news really sunk in.  I had flashbacks to the previous years' Peachtree when I had felt even worse, and had 1:02 on the clock to show for it.  All that training, all those long runs, all the aching muscles and early mornings had paid off.  Secretly, I thought, "I'm never going to run another race again.  This is probably as good as it's going to get - ever!"

I spied Sang near the shirt table, and we congratulated each other.  We both had achieved PRs on our races, and we got a nice shot showing our mutual happiness!

I also found my first friend from the Running Divas group I joined on Facebook.  Though I had never met Lisa, she recognized me because I had posted what I would be wearing.  We posed for a quick shot, and then I made my way back to the sidelines so I could cheer for the others.

I was clapping a cheering when a gnat flew into my eye.  By the time I got it out, I looked up just in time to see Chris coming up the final rise.  A few minutes later, my neighbors, Jennifer and Melinda, passed by.  I ran with them to the end of the race so I could congratulate them.  I also ran into Running Divas friend, Michelle, who had on the cutest outfit!

I had cooled down by this time and decided to stick around for the awards, just in case.  Two other times I had left early, and had missed picking up my award!  To my utter delight, this time I schnagged a 3rd place win for my age group!

My official finish time was 47:29.  I was the 12th female out of 292 to cross the finish line and the 55th out of 564 overall.  It sure had been a morning to remember!


  1. Wow- I can't believe you took almost 15 minutes of your 10k time in a matter of a year! Great, great, GREAT job!!! Also, I think you might be part Kenyan ;)

    1. I truly, truly did not ever expect to be able to do this! I can only say that running multiple 50+ mile weeks has benefitted me in speed as well as stamina. As for being part Kenyan - only in my dreams! :-)

  2. What a great race recap...I love it when people bring you into the story and you can feel the pain and excitement. Well done on your PR...that time is simply amazing! That just completely should be very proud. Your hard work paid off nicely. :-)

  3. Gail, I just read your blog and I am so proud of you!! You will do great at the Peachtree Road Race. As for being part Kenyan, you may want to check your Genealogy :) Like any other sport, practice practice makes perfect!!!