My First 10K (1 of 2)

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

(This post and the next are about my experience at my first 10K, The Cleveland Rite Aid, on May 19, 2013. There’s a lot to say, so this post will tackle leading up to the start.  My next post will take you through the race. If you’re anything like me, you’ll lose interest after about 4 paragraphs and I since I need my 3 loyal readers to stick with me, I’m splitting it up. You’re totally welcome. So here goes…)

build up…. Build Up… BUILD UP!!!!!  Aaaaaaand, it’s over.

So the Cleveland Rite Aid 10K has officially come and gone. It felt like I talked about it, trained for it, talked about it some more and so on for months and months and months. And now, just like the feeling you get on Christmas afternoon, it’s over and I’m left wondering, “OK, what now?”. But before what’s next, I need to reflect on what was.

I was pretty darn nervous the week leading up to my very first 10K race. I decided that hydration was key, because heaven forbid I go down with a side stitch 3.42 miles (totally made up number) in to my 6.2 race!  (Turns out I would go down with one at about mile 5.25, but we’ll get to that.) So in the days leading up, I drank water. LOTS of water.  And for me, lots means, like, 2 or 3 tumblers a day. A tumbler load was maybe about 20 ounces, but for me, drinking 2-3 of those suckers a day felt like water boarding. And then, of course, I just peed a lot. But I felt like I was doing the right thing in preparing myself for the big race.

I set my alarms… 2 alarms… to go off at 4:30am. I wanted to get up and shower, in an effort to get my body awake and moving. And, well, clean. That part was important, too. But mostly I just needed to feel like I was alive and the shower was the way to go. I timed my morning beautifully. Up at 4:30. Showered, dressed, hair in a swishy pony by 5:00. Toast with butter and light cinnamon-sugar spread prepped and consumed by 5:15. Out the door at 5:20. I was to meet my friends in a (super shady, but super cheap) parking lot down in The Flats.

It’s 5:20am and I’m on the road. I call my friend, Jen, at 5:30 to check in and to see how her progress is, well, progressing. She is supposed to be meeting another friend, Len, at 5:30, but he’s running 10 minutes behind. *Gulp* I don’t deal with late very well. And especially when I wasn’t sure exactly which super shady parking lot in The Flats I was supposed to meet them at with no one around at 6:00 in the morning. But I continued to breathe. It’s all good and a 10 minute delay is no big deal.

Let’s fast forward a bit. I’ve met my friends. We’re parked, organized and have made our way over to the Browns Stadium (is that still what it’s called these days?!) where the start of the race is. It’s such a cool vibe! People were everywhere in their new, but tested, running outfits. Bibs proudly pinned to their fronts. I quickly learned the color coding. Red striped bibs were the real runners. The half and full marathoners. Solid red bibs were the relay folks, or what I like to refer to as “the cheaters”. Then there were us yellow stripers. Probably yellow because we were too chicken-shit to run anything more than 6.2! But I wore my bib proudly and it matched my outfit, so life was good.

I hit the bathroom twice waiting for the 10K’ers to get called. On the way back from my second trip, the real runners were taking off from their corrals and I could hear “Cleveland Rocks” and then Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” as they left on their 13.1 and 26.2 mile journeys. It was so cool. SO COOL. The experience of it gave me goosebumps and a lump in my throat. I couldn’t even see them, as they were on the other side of the stadium, but the music and the mood of everyone there was really intense and you couldn’t help but feel like you were a part of something pretty special. Yellow-striped bib and all.

The real runners took off at 7:00. The yella-bellied 10K’ers started at 7:30. We made our way over to the queue at about 7:15 and casually walked our way up to where we could see the starting line, but weren’t so far up that people would assume we could take on course records. It was a comfortable position.

Counting down from 10, it’s almost go time! (Do I have time to pee again?! Shoot. No.) “…5-4-3-2-1!  Cleveland Rocks!  Cleveland Rocks!  Cleveland Rocks! Cle-e-veland Rocks!” The music is blaring and I’m jumping up and down. Jumping because even though we got the big “GO!”, we were so far back that we weren’t moving forward yet and up and down was my only option. It ended up taking about 3 minutes from our position to hit the starting line.

Still with me? Yes?! Well then come join me at my next post….

My First 10K (2 of 2)

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

(Hey! Thanks for hanging in there with me.)

We made our way up to the starting line about 3 minutes after the official “Go!”. It was so cool, to be among a crowd of people who were all pretty much like me. Who had been training and preparing for this day just as I had.  We paid good money to go through what we were about to experience. The good, bad and ugly of a race. Any race. But for me, being that it was my first 10K, I really didn’t know what to expect. Just, please God, don’t strike me with a side stitch.

The first mile was rough. Not because I’m tired or in pain, but because I’m dodging the mother f&#!’ing walkers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the walkers. I’m just as proud of them for being out there as the runners. Any movement is better than no movement at all. BUT! And here comes my big but. (hee hee) Get your asses to the end of the starting line! Maybe that sounds snotty, but it sucked beyond belief to walker-dodge people for the first half to three quarter miles or so. You can’t get in a rhythm. You’re slow. You’re making zig zag movements and it just, well, sucks. I later learned that the pace of my first mile was 10:01, when it should have been somewhere below the 9:30’ish mark. But it’s ok. It’s all part of the experience.

My second mile was nice. I hit my stride, felt strong, confident, the music was coming through my headphones and I found some space. I completed that mile at a 9:26 pace. It was a good mile, with one exception. I could see the “2 mile” flag in front of me and then all of the sudden, I hear clapping and cheering. Where is this coming from?! There were about 20 spectators along the whole 10K course combined, so I knew the yella-bellies weren’t getting cheered from the sidewalks. I look to my right and see the road leading back in to town. Back toward the finish line. The cheering was from my fellow runners, who had noticed that the leaders were at about the 5 mile mark of the race and, basically, in the home stretch. I looked up again to see the green “2” flag mocking me. Ugh. I didn’t cheer for them. I kinda wanted to, but I had never cheered and clapped in my training, so I’ll be damned if I was gonna do it during the race.

I ran mile 3 at a 9:24 pace. I didn’t know these times as I was going along, but I just knew that my 3rd mile was the strongest one so far. It felt good. I felt like my legs weren’t attached to my body any longer and that I could have run at that speed for days-and-days.

Mile 4. Hmm. Where did that hill come from? I passed my second water stop, but didn’t take any again. I didn’t train with water, so I decided I wasn’t taking any on the course. I wasn’t sure how it would react in my stomach. Would it slosh around? Would it make me nauseous? I didn’t want to risk the unknown. This may have not been a wise decision. My pace was 9:43. Uh-oh. I’m slowing down.

It got a little hot at mile 5. And the course got a lot more uphill. My pace stayed at 9:43, but I had apparently left my running legs back at mile 3. That “I could run for days-and-days” feeling was fading and on top of that, now I’m in my head! Shit, that’s the last place I need to be during a race. I started getting goosebumps on my arms. The ones you get when you’re in the middle of an overheating/underhydrating scenario. I tried to ignore my arms and decided to just not look at them. If I didn’t see the goosebumps, they wouldn’t bother me. Very mature.

I climbed the monster hill of mile 5, which was up the shore way bridge. Someone told me before the race to make sure I looked around when I got up there, because it was a spectacular view and one not everyone would get to see from that perspective. I found a “friend” to help me get up that hill. I don’t know if she knew it or not, but I clung on to her and matched her stride-for-stride until we just about got to the top. Had I been able to get her name and contact information, a fruit basket sent to her home after the race would have been appropriate. Whether she knew it or not, she got me up that hill. And I did manage to take in the view a bit, but unfortunately by this point, my breathing was sporadic and I could feel “IT” coming on, so I couldn’t really focus on anything but myself.

I’ll be damned. The one thing I knew could take me out. The one thing I had been praying would not happen to me. It happened. The dreaded side stitch.

I’d say I’m at about mile 5.25’ish and I have just 1 mile to go. ONE FREAKING MILE. That’s nothing. It’s a warm up. Four times around a track. A chip shot. What I’m trying to say is, a mile is NOTHING at this point. But when I got hit with a side stitch, it may have been the starting line all over again. I couldn’t stand up straight. I kept my legs moving and did the classic “pinch your side and bend over” maneuver that you hope and pray will make it go away. But it didn’t. And I couldn’t take it any more. I slowed down to a walk and I wanted to scream. I tried to control my breathing. Tried to fight off the pain and make it go away. I would feel pats on my back from other runners, encouraging me to keep going.  “Only a half more mile!” one nice man said to me as he ran past.

That last half mile was a run-walk mix, but as I turned the corner that led down to the home stretch, I ran. Slowly, but I ran. There was no way all of those people at the finish line were going to witness me walking across it. And for my own sense of accomplishment, I wasn’t going to allow myself to walk across it, either.

Surprisingly, I ran my last mile at a 10:06 pace. I thought for sure it was going to be upwards of 10:45’ish. My goal was to finish my 6.2 miles in 59:59 or less, but I crossed at 01:02:23. My first and last miles were the end of that dream, but all-in-all, I’m super proud of myself. I set a goal and reached it, while encountering lots of hurdles along the way. It made me a stronger person. It made me see just how tough I am and showed me that I’m not out of the game yet. I’m 37. I’m young. I’m going to keep running… all the way to my first HALF MARATHON scheduled for October.

That’s right, folks. I’ll be a red striper soon.