This past Sunday it was finally here; the race for which I'd been preparing for 12 whole weeks! My very first official 10K!
In the days leading up to the race, I was nervous for many reasons. My worries included things like making sure I was hydrated enough; remembering to bring my number and timing chip to the race; what to eat for breakfast on the morning of the race to feel full, but not too full... I was also worried about running in the morning; something I hadn't done in a very long time.
Despite all these troublesome thoughts swirling in my head, I got a decent night's sleep before Sunday morning's race. ...with the exception of waking up once at 2 AM thinking I overslept and was, subsequently, late for the race.
At 5:30 AM, when it was actually time to wake up and get ready for the race, I jumped out of bed, got ready, and made breakfast. ...I settled on half a bottle of water and a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter on it. Then, I gathered up all my race gear and headed off for the start line.
I left home with enough time to get to the race location 45 minutes early and meet up with my training group. ...or so I thought... It turns out that I should have left about half an hour before I actually did. With the perfect storm of one wrong turn and an incredible amount of traffic, I was parking my car 5 minutes before the official start time of the race! ...yeah. After finding a parking spot, I grabbed my race number from the passenger seat and hastily began pinning it to the front of my shirt. Let me tell you, safety pinning anything (especially to the clothes touching your body) is not fun to do in a rush. After sufficiently attaching the race number to my shirt, I grabbed the rest of my gear and took off running to the start of the race.
When I made it to the start line, I looked around for any members of my practice group. ...there was no one in sight. I sat on the curb and attached the timing chip to my shoelaces. I stood up, popped my earbuds in, and started to set up my Nike + app. As I was setting the distance to 6.2 miles, the race began! So, already slightly out of breath from my brisk jog to the start line, I started the course.
While still within the first half-mile, I miraculously caught up with two members of my practice group! I paced with them for a while and shared my tale of how I almost missed the start of the race. When they decided to walk for a bit (one of the ladies was having stomach issues), I went on by myself. In the first few moments of running by myself, I was panicking. I wondered if I'd be able to keep a consistent pace or if I'd manage to talk myself into walking when I didn't really have to. But, I decided that I'd be alright and I wouldn't stop unless I truly had to.
After talking myself through those first few panic-induced moments, I realized I was actually doing alright! I ran alone for about another half-mile and then caught up with a couple other member of my training group! This happened to be just in time for the first big hill of the course. This was good timing because we helped talk each other through it. ...as we were trekking up the hill, there was also an interesting moment when we encountered the race leaders on their way back to the start line (which also happened to be the finish line). ...it was crazy to think that we weren't even halfway done with the race and they were practically in the homestretch! But, on the topic of running, I had already convinced myself that nothing good can come of comparing myself to anyone else. So, I gave each leader a good cheer and continued my journey along the race route. After we made it up the hill, my group members fell back and I continued on alone.
The next hill I came upon was one of those that seemingly continues on forever. I had decided before the race that I would walk the hills and make up time in between them, but when I was physically at the bottom of that hill, I changed my mind. I wanted to be able to say that I had run the whole race. ...including the hills. So, still running, I started making the climb up the hill. I had to slow my pace and take smaller strides, but I made it all the way to the top. Feeling a little winded, I pushed forward. Eventually, my breath caught up with my body and I was back at my normal pace.
After this hill, I hit quite a stretch with fewer runners and fewer people cheering from the sidelines. Besides a stop with people passing out water, I only came across a few other people. The beginning of this stretch was one of the only times when I wished I had time to set up my Pandora station before the race... I contemplated setting it up as I was running, but I didn't want to take the time necessary to do it. ...I pushed on.
After that stretch of relative desolation, I started encountering more runners. This was where the course took runners downhill, then back up again. The downhill part of this scenario was heavenly! I was gliding along at a ridiculously fast pace. I was practically resting as gravity propelled my body forward at probably my fastest pace of the race! Then, it came... the part where I had to climb back uphill... This was the torturous hill; the one I thought I would walk for sure. But, since I hadn't walked during the race yet, I decided to run at least halfway up. Once again, I slowed my pace and shortened my stride. At the halfway point, I figured I'd made it halfway, so I might as well go the rest of the way. ...and I did! I was pretty proud as I climbed over the top of the hill and continued running down the course. It felt good!
I hit another desolate stretch before the last mile. This one was a little more bearable than the first. I must have been in the zone. It was during this time that I noticed how beautiful the day was shaping up to be. ...the sun, the trees, the mild temperatures, the nice breeze. ...it was a good day!
Before I knew it, I was within the last quarter-mile! I could see the finish line and I started increasing my speed. I began sprinting; swerving around other runners! I crossed the finish line feeling super accomplished! I couldn't see the time on the official clock as I finished, but Nike + said I had completed the run in about an hour and 6 minutes! I was so happy with the time because it was 3 minutes under my practice 10K time. I didn't know if I'd be able to hit a time anywhere that since I had someone to pace with (my group leader) during the practice run and, during this real race, I ran mostly alone. From this, I've learned that I need to have more confidence in my ability to pace myself. Apparently I can do that just fine!
I was only slightly disappointed to later learn that my official time for the race was one hour, 8 minutes, and 15 seconds... But, hey, that was still one minute under my practice time! So, I was good with it. ...At this point, I'm just so happy that I finally have the ability to run relatively long distances without being winded. It's crazy to think that just 12 weeks ago, I could barely run two miles! And just a short while before that, I could barely run for even 5 minutes! I have to say, it makes me feel accomplished and healthy and proud.