Yesterday, I ran my very first trisko*, the Quad Cities Distance Classic. Training, as dedicated and sexy readers know, has not gone according to plan. I was hoping to run 2:00 or faster, in preparation for aggressive marathon training, but an injured shin meant I had to miss a week of training and back off the speed workouts in a big way. So, going into the race, my official goal was "whatever," though I would have been happy with anything under 2:30.
I was awakened yesterday morning when a huge gust of wind rattled Stately Wasser Manor. The weather was absolutely horrible - pouring rain, cold, with high gusts of wind. I was soaking wet after just walking through the parking lot. It was not a good start. While I was stretching (and people watching), I heard a man say, "I'm glad I'm just doing the 5K. With this weather, the half marathon is just going to be miserable." Thanks, dude. It might be true, but I so did not want to hear it. A big part of me just wanted to bag it. To either run the 5K or just crawl back into bed for some Mother's Day pampering. But, I reasoned, a race like this shows what you're made of as a runner. And it might be Mother's Day, but I? Am one tough mother.
"One tough mother" became my mantra as I ran the race.
I took my place at the start, along with my fellow sufferers. The race director said, "Okay, I'm going to make this fast. No announcements, no thank yous, no national anthem. I'm just going to fire the gun. Go!"
I'd planned to keep an eye on Paula, my faithful Garmin, to make sure my pace was conservative at the start of the race, but Paula was struggling. She couldn't get satellite reception for the first four miles, so I decided to just run comfortably and see what happened. If I finished slow, so be it - this was my first trisko, I was guaranteed a PR, and if my time was slow, well, then it'd just be easier to beat.
The race started off with a bitch of a hill that went from the half mile mark to the mile mark. The hill is just a block away from Stately Wasser Manor, so I've been running it on pretty much every workout. I used to struggle on that hill; yesterday, I kicked its ass.
The Quad Cities Distance Classic is not a big race by any means. There were only 222 people running the trisko, and when I drove the course the day before, I realized that we weren't likely to see many spectators. Add to that the fact that it was Mother's Day and the weather was terrible, well, it definitely wasn't a big race with lots of crowd energy, bands at every mile, or anything like that. It was just me, the other runners, and the volunteers. I made an effort to give a wave to every single volunteer, because standing out in that weather and not even running had to have been lousy.
The race course was scenic, or at least would have been had it not been so horrible out. We ran through Moline and back to Rock Island. The course ran through some really nice residentail neighborhoods - and some sketchy ones. We then ran along the Mississippi, which was definitely flooding.
All the while, the wind battered me. At a few points, it blew behind me, prompting me to run faster than I might have otherwise. Then it would switch and I'd have to lower my head to fight through it - and keep my hat on. Mostly, it blew sideways. And Yoda, but it was cold. I swear I saw sleet and snow and certain points in the race.
At the water stop at mile 5, I spilled most of a cup of water on my gloved hands, but it was so cold out that I was better off wearing the wet gloves than taking them off. I repeated my "One tough mother" mantra, thought of the Toughness Points I was accumulating, and dreamed not of my post-race meal but of a pair of dry socks.
Still, I was feeling good. I passed mile 7 and thought, "Okay, only two three milers left." At mile 10, I took out my cell phone and called Steve so that he and Jack (and my mom and stepdad) could come to the finish line to watch me. Jack got on the phone and said, "Go, Mommy, go!" which spurred me on further.
At mile 12, there was a long incline that was no fun whatsoever. I started to feel pain in the achilles tendons of both legs. That was a new one - my achilles have not bothered me in the least in all of my training runs. So, I attempted some of the mental exercises I've read about and told it, "Hey, achilles pain? Now is not a good time. After I finish this race, I will give you all kinds of attention. I will slather you in Biofreeze and take a ton of Advil, but for now, pipe down." Other runners were struggling, and I passed a ton of people on that hill.
As I headed into the final part of the race, my power song, "All These Things That I've Done," came on. Awesome, as that song is always in my head when I picture finishing a race. The last part of the race is a lap around the track at Augustana College, and Steve, Jack, my mom, and stepdad were there cheering for me and waving at me. I'd been looking forward to seeing their faces, and it really energized me.
I rocked it around the track, passing three people before I headed into the finish chute. The volunteers who took my name from my race number and handed me a finisher's medal were amazed at my kick. Jack almost knocked me to the ground with a mighty leg hug, then I got hugs from Steve, my mom, and stepdad. Other runners milling around smiled that it was a good Mother's Day present, and I have to agree.
One of the other runners, who I think of as Red Vest Guy, came and congratulated me on my race. "You were a good pacer," he said, and I told him he was too. Red Vest Guy and I were close to each other throughout the race. He'd pass me, then I'd chase his red vest and I'd pass him, and so on. I don't even know which one of us finished the race first, but I do know that keeping an eye on him helped me run better.
And how'd I do? Well, like I said, given my injuries and the conditions, I stuck firm with my goal time of "whatever." So, imagine how happy I was when I saw the clock at the finish reading 2:05. That means that I ran those 13.1 miles at an average pace of 9:34 per mile. I came in 9th for my age group and feel just incredibly proud. I finished the race with a new mantra, a new distance under my belt, a ton of Toughness Points, and a PR that is going to be a challenge to beat.
*that's a half marathon to those of you who haven't fully bought into my rebranding of the race.