I seem to be making a habit of comeback racing, where I race on low mileage and zero speedwork due to just having come back from an injury. This time, it was the jammed talus bone that turned into an achilles injury that kept me off my feet for the better part of two months. I’d go for short little test runs only to have my ankle render itself completely inflexible part-way through the run. The next day, my achilles would be hurting. After going back and forth like this for a few weeks, like some demented yo-yo, I took some time off, biked a lot, and hoped I’d be ready for Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 mile (CUCB).
Things started looking up a few weeks before CUCB, and I was able to get my long run up to 8 miles. Yep, that was my longest run going into a 10 mile race. The week before CUCB, Spring finally arrived, and so did my allergies. All of a sudden I was tired and lethargic. I didn’t even attempt the workouts scheduled for the week before the race, I just did a couple of slogs (slow jogs), although given my high heart race you’d have thought they were tempo runs. I started to wonder if I would even be able to run 10 miles, considering I felt like molasses. Thursday before the race I got my pre-race massage where my therapist noted that my connective tissue was sticky, even though I was hydrating well. We put it down to the allergy meds. On Friday I had an appointment with my chiropractor. Unfortunately the only time he was available was during one of my weekly conference calls, so there I was getting adjusted while listening to a call and hoping I wouldn’t need to say much. All of a sudden, while my chiro was working on my troublesome leg, there was a crack and a pop, which made me turn around in amazement. Chiro has a big smile on his face and tells me he finally got my knee realigned! Then he moves to my foot, and again there’s an amazing pop. He says, “I’ve been trying to get your foot to do that for weeks! You’ll have to be on a conference call every visit!” I suggested that it was the massage the day before that may have helped, but he was sticking with the conference call theory. Perhaps because I was distracted.
Fast forward to yesterday morning. I’ve got myself down to Washington, DC and found a great parking space with no problems. I’ve avoided the crowds and found a back route to the starting line that goes past the staging area for the 5K, where there’s a row of portapotties that no-one’s using. (I guess I’ve now shot myself in the foot for next year…) After a nice, easy warmup, I head over to the start line. On my way I notice a huge line for one of the Park Service bathrooms, so I decide to pay it forward and announce to the line that there’s a row of portapotties just around the corner that aren’t being used. A few people get out of line to go investigate. People in DC aren’t the most trusting.
I’ve decided to wear an Ink’n’Burn Cherry Blossom skirt just for the heck of it. Since that’s quite enough pink for me, I’ve painted my nails black, and I’m glad my =PR= race team singlet is black. As I head to the start line I notice that behind the elite area is another penned area in front of the first corral. This area is for seeded runners. My time at St. Michael’s Half Marathon last May was just fast enough to get me seeded runner status, and since this meant not having to enter the lottery, I jumped at the chance.
So there I am in this little penned area, feeling rather conspicuous. I make friends with the few other ladies in this area, and then some familiar faces start arriving. Before long the little pen is feeling a lot cramped, with fellow =PR= race team runners and many others. After the elite women start, 15 minutes before the rest of the field, the elite men enter the area in front of us. Then the barrier behind us is removed and everyone else from the yellow corral joins us. This is now feeling more familiar. Lots of bodies pressed together in a small space. Soon I’m feeling nice and warm. And hoping no-one nearby has BO or gas.
So, standing there on the start line, do I even have a plan? Sure I do. Run Like Hell. It seems to be working pretty well these days.
Actually, what tends to happen is that I run the first mile, trying to stay relaxed and get into a rhythm, and then I try to hold whatever pace that first mile turns out to be. Looking at my Garmin, I’m seeing a pace in the high 6’s which I’m pretty sure I can’t hold for 10 miles. The first mile is a 7:01. I figure I’ll slow down once I settle in. Mile 2 is a 6:58. So I gain a little confidence. Mile 3 is a 6:55. Of course either my Garmin is a little off or I’m doing a terrible job running tangents (likely), because, according to RaceJoy, the fabulous little race app CUCB is using, my pace at 5 miles is 7:07.
Anyway, the miles click away and, although I think perhaps I should back off a little, it’s actually quite hard to do because I’m in a comfortably uncomfortable zone and really don’t want to back out of it. I go through 10K in just over 44:00 (7:06 pace according to RaceJoy…wish it had a better name…) and feel good about the last 4 miles. Just Hains Point to conquer. I actually like Hains Point. You don’t get the support from the crowds because it’s hard for spectators to get to, but I enjoy the quiet. Trouble is, there’s a woman behind me being coached and it is driving me nuts. Her coach is blah blah blah, your heart rate is blah blah, your time is blah blah, do this, don’t do that, blah blah. I move to the other side of the road to try to create some distance, but coach dashes in front of me to get water, and then dashes back across to his runner. Gah. Focus.
I know the last 3 miles are going to be painful. They always are. I prepare for it as best I can. Between miles 8 and 9 we get a little headwind and of course I’m not close enough to anyone to tuck in. I start trying to bridge the gap between myself and the group in front. It takes a while but I finally make it and hang on. Garmin is now reading in the 7’s which I’m not happy about but really can’t dig any deeper. At the same time, I don’t want to lose all that hard work, so I keep pushing as hard as I can. I try not to think about the hill before the end. In the last 400m (which of course is the longest 400 in history) there’s a rise and then a short fall to the finish. The rise is a killer. You try to prepare for it but it sucks everything from you. There’s a dad urging along his son, and I try to use this to my advantage, listening to him telling his son that he’s almost there, that – look – you can see the finish line. It’s tough. And then I crest the hill and try to make my dead legs move faster for the downhill to the finish.
Official finish time: 1:11:17. A 3 second PR, previously set at Army 10 Miler in 2011, for which I was much better prepared. I’ll take it.