With last weekend's duathlon a no-go due to heavy rain here in Central Texas I was ready to test my leg speed in the 10K distance this weekend as another fitness indicator on the way to my first 70.3 of the year. Little did I know this race would be quite the adventure to say the least!
I drove down to the quaint little town of New Braunfels located in the Texas hill country (key word "hill"). The YMCA St. Patty's Day 10K was to be held along the Brazos River on this very humid and warm morning. The weather has definitely been changing the past few weeks and my workouts have gotten continually warmer and more humid. I see this as an opportunity to prepare myself for race day, because my first two triathlons of the seasons should be very warm. This week was also a heavier training week for me, so I was anxious to see what I could run on semi-tired legs.
I arrived with ample time to get in my two mile warm-up. As I was finishing, I came across a woman who was finishing her warm up and she asked me if I was doing the 5K or 10K. I thought to myself "Ok, I've identified one of my fellow competitors" and noted that she seemed confident and ready to race. Bring it!
The race was delayed about 10 minutes, which means I ended up standing around losing the benefit of my warm-up for 10 minutes too long. This would turn out to be disadvantageous with such a fast start on a humid morning.
The gun went off and I immediately found out who my competition would be. There were about 10 people in front of me. Four of them were women so I knew I'd have some work to do. As we finished up the first mile I kept noting how many HILLS there were. I had studied the course before the race and was not anticipating so many hills. My lungs were burning hitting 6:30 miles on these hills and I knew this was going to be a painful race if I was going to even come close to going sub-40, which was my ultimate goal. We were two miles in and the relentless hills and humidity were already getting to me. Both of my quads suddenly cramped up, which is a similar feeling to having someone stab you in the quads with a knife (not that I know what that feels like, but it sure did hurt). I was able to keep running, but the intense cramping finally made me realize I needed to stop and work them out with my hands.
By this time I had gained the lead over the female runners. I knew if I stopped, I would get passed. But I HAD to if I wanted to even consider finishing! And wouldn't you know, as soon as I did I was passed! I was stopped for about 30 seconds and watch the time tick away on my Garmin. Arggh! Maybe sub 40 wasn't going to happen today.
So there I was, at the bottom of a hill forced to start running uphill and somehow try and catch the current women's leader. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. But something compelled me to keep reeling her in. At mile 3.5 I finally caught and passed her. Nice!
I tried to get the pace back down to the low 6:30's but my legs were not having it. The hills just kept coming. How much more could I take of this....?
Well it turns out there were more surprises in store for me! At mile 5 I was blasting up yet another hill when I heard a woman's voice yell "Hey, you're going the wrong way!" It was the second place female yelling at me! I was in "no man's land" by this point and assumed I was still on course. I came to a complete standstill and was stunned. I couldn't believe the race was unfolding this way. I was losing precious seconds!
Once I realized what direction I needed to be heading I turned around and had to face yet another chase-down. I couldn't believe it. I almost had to laugh at this point! It took every last ounce of energy to chase the lead female down again. The only thing that kept me motivated was the fact that she seemed like she was hurting. Once I passed her for the second time I finally maintained the lead and was at least able to put out a 6:21 mile for my last big push to the finish. There was more disorganization at the finish as many of the finishers' times were not "captured," including mine. The timing company is still in the process of validating official times but we had enough information to determine who the overall winners were.
I ended up finishing 1st female and 4th overall. And boy was it a hard-fought first! My time was 41:07 (6:36 pace). Who knows, considering the crazy circumstances, if I could have run 39:5x. I believe I could have, but this race gave me so much more experience in terms of practicing fighting for and keeping a certain position in a race that I'm glad I had the opportunity to test my mental will while racing.
For my efforts I received a hand-painted ceramic plate, a $40 dollar gift certificate to a nice local restaurant, a cap which our dog George has already destroyed, and the priceless experience of learning to "race against my competitors."
Now, after finishing up yesterday with a solid swim and painful interval session on the bike followed by a long training session today on very tired legs I will assume the fetal position until Jason comes home from work to feed me :)
Once again, thank you to coach Hillary for helping me to improve one workout at a time and thank you to PowerBar for fueling me properly in training and racing. And thank you to my pink CEP compression socks. Oh and to my cute LuluLemon shorts. And to my awesome K-swiss runners ;)