It finally arrived - the big race I've been anticipating for months, the Tufts 10K.
This race is a huge milestone for me on many levels. It was my first real 10K and the longest I've ever run. It's a women's race so it's supposed to be "empowering." It's supposed to be high energy and so many other thing.
It is, by far, the largest race I have ever run. There were around 7,000 runners and walkers lining up on Beacon Hill at the start. So many that it took close to six minutes to cross the finish line. While I am glad that it was big enough so that someone like me could feel like they accomplished something, but it wasn't what I thought it would be.
For one thing, my running it came into question when I woke up. Sunday I was stiff and sore from assembling my new desk/hutch over the weekend and felt like I might have pulled something. When I woke up, the muscle I thought I might have pulled a little was a deep, sharp, scary pain. I told myself that if I still hurt at 9 am, I'd call the race and took a couple of ibuprofen.
You may be thinking, "Wait a minute, if you took ibuprofen why would you hurt at 9 am?" For most people you would be right, but when I'm in pain not even 800mg (prescription stenght) of ibuprofen is going to mask that sucker. I took the recommended OTC dose to dull the edge a bit and give myself a good sense of what's what. By 8:30 all the pain was gone - this told me that I either slept on it wrong or I needed to talk myself into racing. I suspect the later as the pain has not returned at all.
The knee felt good, but I also was aware enough after the wake up call to wear the knee brace. Something I was glad of after the 3 mile mark.
I met up with Nini, her friend Kate and my sister and headed over to the starting line with them. Because Nini and Kate are fast - they moved up to where they should be and my sister and I started towards the back but in front of the jogging strollers. (Do not start me on the mom groups who block pathways and the roadway at races by running side-by-side to chat. You may normally run faster than I do, but if I'm having a hard time passing you because you're blocking the roadway, then you're running too slow and are a hazard.)
The race starts by going through Charles Circle up and over the Longfellow Bridge onto Memorial Drive and past MIT to the BU Bridge. The first mile was pretty much about getting through the folks who didn't care about seeding and just were doing it how they wanted. I have now decided my one big suggestion to race organizers is to start the walkers 10 minutes after the runners go off to avoid a lot of the jamming up at the start and along the course. I did a 12:30 first mile, which is about right for me and I was settling in nicely. I walked through the first water stop and picked up again, still weaving through folks to the second mile split - where I was holding my pace. Then the heat began to get to me and my knee got a little wonky, so I figured it was a good time to do run/walks for a little.
About this point I found myself near two women - one was clearly coaching the other through run/walks and had one of those watches with a timer on it. When they would walk, I'd walk, when they'd run, I'd run. It was incredibly helpful. I compared them to two other women doing something similar but different. The other pair of women it was clear the "coach" wanted to run while the other woman was struggling. The fast woman would run ahead and then yell back, "C'mon, you can catch up to me," and then run on.
Her friend had a pained look on her face and was clearly struggling and finally was beginning to give up around mile 3. I passed her and said, "You know you're going to end up beating me don't you?" She just smiled and said, "Thanks."
If she finished, she did finish ahead of me because my knee made it clear it wanted to walk for a while and when I reached mile 3 in 40 minutes, this was the "walking" mile. This part of the race you're going back the other side of Memorial Drive, under Mass Ave to a turn around point around the Killian Court area and make a hairpin turn to go cover the other lane of Mem Drive to the Mass Ave bridge (aka the Harvard Bridge). Every so often I would jog a little and then walk a little. Because I did not wear the mp3 player (rules said you weren't supposed to... trust me, that's a rule I'm breaking next time because I really missed my pace music) for some reason I got a variant of a Broadway tune stuck in my head. I started hearing, "Walk a little, run a little, walk a little, run a little - walk, walk, walk, walk a lot run a little more..."
It got me through that mile in 15 minutes - which was good. I'm now at 55 minutes so even if I walk the rest of the route, I'll be close to my guess of 1:30-1:45 for the race.
For people not familar with the Mass Ave bridge, like 40 or so years ago one of the MIT frats rolled a pledge over the bridge and measured it in "Smoots" - the pledge's last name. Every year they go out and make sure the measurements are still clearly marked and recently rolled his grandson - who was pledging to the same frat - over the bridge to see if measurements still held.
I measured my run/walks by the Smoots at this point. Run 150 Smoots, walk 100 Smoots, run 150 more ... there are the race photographers, so it's time to keep smiling and running ... oh what the hell, I'm almost to the end so when I get to the end I'll walk to Comm Ave.
I ended up doing something slightly different for Mass and Comm Ave. I'd run a block and walk a block until I got to the Public Garden. Oh damn, more race photographers - smile and run, smile and run - look like this is effortless right?
I turned the corner near the finish and realized I was running the last quarter mile and wanted to see my family badly. I don't know why, but I really wanted to see them. There they were at the end with Mr. Pi holding up a sign that read "Run for the Cookie" holding a 3 pack of Milanos. I couldn't stop laughing. I know I always have a cookie for Gazelle Boy when he runs his xcountry meets and stand at the end yelling "run for the cookie," so that Mr. Pi did that to me was too funny for words.
At this point, I'm laughing and I hear the race announcer shout out my name and "in the red shirt, throw your hands in the air." So here I am laughing as I throw my hands in the air crossing the finish line. I stop my watch at 1:27:33 where my sister is in the chute waiting for me with a smart water. That I really needed because I stopped taking water after the third water stop because it was tasting funny to me - which said I had enough water. The smart water tasted good.
It's was a good race even if it wasn't one of my strongest or most comfortable ones. But this is like the Ryka Irongirl race - finishing it proved a point to me, that I can do this. I'll probably do another 5K in a couple of weeks and plan on running longer distances now that I can.
Today is about reassessing things - figure out what I want to do next in terms of setting goals and such. For example, I know I would like to be able to run a 10 minute mile at some point. I'd like to fully run a 10K at some point and maybe do the Disney half with Gazelle boy in Jan '08. But for today, I'm all about regrouping and pulling my office back together.