Monday, May 10, 2010

Race Report: Quad Cities Distance Classic

Mother's Day was the third time I have run the Quad Cities Distance Classic, and the race has always been good to me. In 2008, it was my first ever pikermi (race of 13.1 miles, for the uninitiated), and despite some of the worst running weather nature could invent, gave me a time of 2:05 that made me very proud. In 2009, I had a perfect running day. Everything came together for me, and I ran a PR of 1:56:51.

I had high hopes for this year's race. I have just come off running a hard-earned personal worst of 2:10 at the Lincoln Memorial Race and knew I could do better. If I got to the starting line healthy and rested, I should be able to blast that bad time away.

Then, work heated up in a way that's very good, but very busy at the same time. I spent the past week waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee, and immediately sitting down at my computer to get in an hour or so of work before time to leave for the office. I'd work steadily, eating food of sporadic nutritional value, then come home and work some more.

Still I thought I had it under control (ish) until Thursday. I was in a meeting and had more and more changes piled up on the project I was working on, making it more and more clear that I was going to have to stay up very late to get it all done before going in to work on Friday. "That's fine," I told my boss, "But have you all forgotten that I have a race to run on Sunday? This is going to cost me a PR." Sure enough, Thursday saw me working all day, taking a break to volunteer to stuff race packets, then coming home to work until 2:00 AM, grab 4 hours of sleep, then work over coffee at 6:00. Not the best way to get ready for a big race.

I slept well on Friday and Saturday, then Sunday brought fantastic weather for running - cool and sunny. I ran over the course several times in my head, thinking about how I would tackle each section of the familiar miles, and picturing my goals.

Gold: 2:00
Silver: 2:05
Bronze: Beat the Lincoln Memorial time of 2:10

With a tough week of work tempered with ambition and good running weather, I felt reasonably assure of a silver - but set Paula Garmin to lead me to a gold.

Just like last year, and despite my repeatedly reminding myself to relax, I zipped through the first mile too fast, coming in at 8:35. In miles 2 and 3 I got on pace, clocking in 9:06 and 9:04.

I sped up at mile 4, thanks to a sweet downhill - 8:54 - and apparently let it carry me for another mile of 8:54.

The middle miles of the course take you from a dicey neighborhood to a park and a path by the river. It's scenic, but challenging for me. You don't have the thrill of "I just started" and have not yet hit the great "almost finished" feeling. I ran those miles trying to relax and focus.

Mile 6: 9:07
Mile 7: 9:11
Mile 8: 9:19
Mile 9: 9:11

It was at mile 9 that I started to feel really tired. With only four miles to go, I started bargaining with myself. I should absolutely hold on until 10, and I didn't want to run after 12. I decided that at mile 11, it would be okay to take a short walk break. Until then, I bribed myself with music and jelly beans.

When I got to the 11 mile mark, I started to walk and, as Ron Burgundy says in Anchorman, "I immediately regret this decision!" As soon as I started to walk, I realized in a way I hadn't before just how dead tired my legs were. If I had just kept running, I don't think it would have been so apparent. I picked a curve in the road ahead and willed myself to run again when I hit it.

Then I looked at my watch and realized that if I kept a reasonable pace, I could still finish in 2 hours.

"Just hold on," I told myself. "Just hold on."

I passed a volunteer who was clearly a fellow runner. Instead of just saying, "You look great! You're almost there!" he said, "Pick the person in front of you, pull on them, and pass them. Then get the next one." Hey, that's some advice I could use! I started to do just that when my iPod kicked on my favorite running song, "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers. It was perfectly timed, with the lyrics, "If you can hold on. If you can, hold on."

I held on. Up a short hill, around a corner, and through a parking lot, heading to the track, I held on. Once I got to the track, I knew I'd be fine.

Sure enough, Steve and Jack were right there, cheering for me like crazy. I handed Steve my Fuel Belt Batgirl Running Utility Belt and he grabbed it as smoothly as if we'd been practicing. Jack yelled, "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY" and I turned the corner. There, my mom and stepdad were waiting, a very nice surprise.

I chicked a guy ahead of me and sprinted to the finish. Dale, the race director, called out my name as I crossed the line.

The result? 2:00:54. Gold medal finish!

1 comment:

Lamandra said...

This post gave me goosebumps! Loved to read of your journey to the gold - you totally rocked it!