Going into the race, I assessed things, and decided, since I hadn't really trained, I was clearly not in PB shape. This was also not a PB course, as I set that on a mostly flat course. This one included serious elevation and was probably the most challenging 10K I've done.
So, I made the decision to race this one for fun. No pressure. No serious goals. I was hoping to meet up with some friends before the race and maybe run together with one of them. The meetup didn't happen though. I got in a porta potty line up about 40 minutes before the race, and wasn't out of it until there was only 5 minutes left. There were thousands of people gathered at that point, and there was no finding anybody.
So, I was on my own, which I'm okay with. I've done the majority of my races on my own, and I'm happy to just leach energy from those surrounding me.
I seeded myself about a third of the way back from the 6km/minute pace marker. I figured I could probably maintain a pace of about 6:20, at least until we hit the hills. Those didn't start until about 2km in though, so by then the field would be spread out a bit.
The shuffle began towards the start and a few steps before crossing the timing mats, I was able to start running. My legs didn't love it right away. This is the first race I've skipped the warm up for in a long time, and I could feel it. There is almost always a hump I have to get over before I hit my running rhythm, and it's about 10 minutes in. By skipping the warm up, I got to have that sluggish feeling for the first 10 minutes of the race.
I'd checked out the elevation chart prior to the race, and it was no joke. After 2 km, we started going up. When we turned the corner and I saw the hill, I was almost relieved though. It wasn't so bad. Sure, it would slow my pace, but it wasn't so steep I'd need to walk. By now, I'd hit my rhythm, so I powered on up. And up. And up...
It went up until about 3.5 km. Then we went down (some). I let the hill carry me. I focus on even effort rather then even pacing, something that is essential in a race like this.
Then, back up. I'd studied the course map, so I knew it was coming, but there were plenty of groans around me when we approached the next hill. This one was shorter then the first, but part of it was steeper. I kept running until my pace started plummeting and my effort was spiking. Then, I moved to the side and walked the last bit of the hill - at about the same pace I'd been running...
Then, it was down. Fast. Turn the corner, see mountains. Trees open up, see mountains. It was amazing and spectacular.
I knew that the fast downhill would probably leave me sore the next day, but there was no help for it. I just concentrated on keeping my legs turning over and letting the hill take me down. Weeeeeeee!
It was at about 7km that we were back on relatively flat ground. A quick mental check and I was doing okay. My legs, tired. But, capable. And, I asked myself, what did I have left? The answer surprised me.
I picked up the pace. I was at almost exactly 44 minutes at 7 km. 16 minutes left to an hour, 3 km. Could I run 5:20/km for the last three?
I didn't know. That would be a faster pace then I ran for my 5k personal best. I did know, however, that I could push it.
I picked up the pace a bit. Just enough that it hurt a bit, but I still knew I could hold it. Run. My legs moved and found their happy pace, which is usually faster then I let them go. And, I ran.
8 km. For some reason the last couple kilometers, I frequently struggle in races. It doesn't matter what the race distance is, but when I reach the point of having about 2 left, it's a mental challenge. I kept running. I kept pushing. Surrounded by mountains.
At about 9 km, we passed a couple of signs I loved. First one: "keep running, I'll take care of the zombies". The second one was the one that gave me that extra push though: "The future: "It was worth it." Isn't time travel awesome?"
Yes. It would be worth it. Especially if I could keep pushing to the finish line. Turn those legs over. Sure, it hurt, but only for a few more minutes. Half a kilometer left, that's what? 2, 2.5 more minutes of letting it hurt?
And I kept going. I was passing people all over the place. I had a way stronger finish left in me then I would have expected. Then, as I turned the corner, I heard a friend call out my name. And, I picked it up and sprinted to the finish. One of the strongest finishing kicks I've ever found.
Final time 1:00:25
So, what happened? I was going to run this for fun?
In the end I did. It was great fun. It was midway through the race that I realized why my running groove has been missing for the last month and a half. It's because, for me, part of the fun is pushing myself as hard as I can. That's why I can always muster up a smile even when I'm suffering. That's why I love the coached swims that push me to the edge of my ability. Because, for me, that's fun. The slow easy runs are a break, but they only work that way when I've got the hard fast ones in there as well.
I might not have gone into this race expecting much of myself, but I learned two things. The first, is a piece of the puzzle in how I tick. My competitive side is not going away and is part of what pushes me. I need to feed that side of me regularly.
The second thing I learned is that I continue to be capable of more then I give myself credit for. Even though I didn't set goals for this race, I wasn't expecting much. 65 minutes, maybe? I certainly didn't think myself capable of going sub-60 in my current untrained state or on this course. Now, I didn't go sub-60, but I was capable of it. The simple act of believing in myself going in, or just doing a warmup would have easily bought me that 25 seconds.
This was a race in which I transformed from the start line to the finish line. When I started, I was lacking my fire, my passion. By the time I crossed that finish line, I got it back. I remembered why I do this. That desire to push myself and give it everything I'm capable of.