|Me finishing and hiding my misery -- Photo courtesy of Stacy Juckett Chestnut (who won the women's half!)|
Oh my. PEI.
Before I get into my race description, I want to say big congratulations to J-A for not only completing her first-ever 10k race but also completing it feeling great and running way faster than she expected. I am so proud of her – you have no idea.
I also want to congratulate all my friends who ran – Delthia (who scored a huge 10k PB in tough conditions), Steve (who also scored a huge PB... but was mocked by 9 seconds), Patricia (who wanted to run the 5k but ended up stuck in the 10k and did great), Thomas (who had a rough day but still showed amazing talent), Karen (who ran a great half and provided a fantastic and generous pre-race meal), and Cynthia and Shauna (who ran awesome, coming so close to their 10k goal times).
As for me... well...
Race conditions were okay – not great but okay. The temperature was around 15, which was excellent. There was no rain. Also a plus. But there was some wind: 35km/h gusting to 50. That’s pretty significant. It was coming out of the south west, so it was a factor in the first few k and in the last 8-9k.
But the wind didn’t trouble me as I lined up at the start. I felt fit and ready to go – conditions be damned! The previous day, when I did my 1 fast k in preparation, I’d run a 3:10 according to my Garmin. That’s the fastest I’ve ever recorded for a Garmin k – so I felt pretty good about my race readiness.
When the gun went, two guys took off. The rest of us were more conservative. There was one guy wearing running flats, so I decided to stick with him. It’s funny how much that changes my impression of a runner – you can wear all the fancy clothes you like, and I won’t be impressed or intimidated. But if you show up to a half marathon wearing flats, then I’m going to worry.
As the first k stretched on, the race settled into its early pattern: there were the two guys in front and then three of us in the chase group. We (the chase group) passed the first k in 3:40 – perfect. I normally go out way too fast, but having a couple of guys around me and running into the wind helped me keep the pace right.
For about 4k, the three of us ran together, watching the guys in front. By 5k, one of the two guys began to fade, and we eventually passed him. The other guy, though, showed no signs of fading – but nor was he getting further away.
Around the 5k mark – which we passed in 18:20 or so – the guy wearing the racing flats picked up the tempo. I couldn’t match it – neither could the other guy in the chase pack. Me and the other guy settled into a battle for third. And it was great – normally I run alone at races, but this guy was matching me stride for stride. We were keeping each other honest and on pace.
We passed 10k at 36:30. I was feeling good, although I could feel a stitch developing in my right side. I tried to relax and keep my breathing regular. I kept it off until the 12k mark, but around this point, the little stitch became a full-blown cramp or spasm. I’m not sure if it was my diaphragm or some kind of ab muscle, but whatever the case, it felt like someone jabbed a knife into my right side all the way to my belly button. I couldn’t breathe.
And that was it. My race was done.
I thought about walking off the course, but I decided against it. Instead, I slowed until I could breathe again and kept moving. The last 9k were miserable. There were significant hills and significant wind – and I could barely run 4min/k because of my diaphragm. My legs were screaming at me to go – my heart was asking why I wasn’t working harder – but I just couldn’t shake the cramp.
Even though I was slowing, I could see how the race in front was progressing – the last third or so is a couple of long, straight stretches. The guy in the flats eventually caught the guy who went out quickly. The guy I was battling, though, didn’t catch the early guy and so finished 3rd. Everyone slowed a bit over the last third.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t caught over the last few k. I ambled over the line in 1:20:57 for 4th place.
The funny thing is that I’m not as upset about it as I would’ve expected. I gave it my best – and it didn’t work out. No biggie. My training has been good. I’ve been loving the running. The race is just one day. I’m getting to a point where the races are just another maximal effort like all my workouts. Sure, there’s something special about a goal race, but it’s the daily process that captivates me these days. I’m no longer back loading the meaning... no longer seeing training runs as a means to an end. It’s a day-by-day thing now, which makes the sting of a bad race less... well... stingy.
Now I’m just gonna set my sights on next season and take it one run at a time.