I’m going to start this off by saying that I live in a state that has a lot of flat surfaces and not many hills. A lack of hills in my immediate area means that while I can do some hill work and prepare for slight rolling inclines and declines, I don’t have mountains to run on. On average, I will experience a 179 foot elevation gain on a hill training day that is part of a 5 mile run. Some people will scoff at what I’m going to say by comparing their own personal experiences from living in a region where there are more hills or elevation gains. Saturday’s race was a 308 foot elevation gain. It was rough. So let’s gather for my race story.
Prior to race day, I’d made arrangements to carpool to the event with some fellow runners and pay back the driver for her trouble. The four of us gathered at 5 in the morning to head to Peoria for the Steamboat Classic. Two of us were doing the 15k and the other 2 were running the 4 mile distance. We wanted time to park close, get together with a group for a pre race photo, and get into our starting positions. My only request was that I got my free beer after the race before heading back home because I was going to use that as my “you get [this] only if you finish” bribe.
While walking to our designated meeting place, we picked up a few people from the group, stopped for bathroom breaks, etc. Then, the arm broke off of my sunglasses. I was able to find the screw and I spent the rest of the walk looking down trying to think of a way to fix them to be able to use them. I started telling the others about the nightmares I’d had about this race the night before. I’d even dreamed that I got lost, couldn’t find a bathroom, and had to squat in the street to urinate. My friend said it was an omen that it was going to be a good race. I thought my broken sunglasses were the opposite. We waited for our group and I started to worry that race time was approaching quickly and considered running to my start corral instead of waiting for the photo. I somehow jammed the screw into the hole of the arm of my sunglasses and repaired them enough to use them for the race. We took our photo and I took off with a friend toward the start. Then, the National Anthem came over the speakers and we stopped to place our hands on our hearts facing the flag and take off into a brisk walk to the correct starting area as soon as it ended. The group was moving forward and I was suddenly standing by a sign that said runners in the group were going 8 minutes per mile. I tapped the woman next to me and asked if she was running a 10-11 minute mile and she said that was her intent and then she saw that I was concerned because of the signs on the road shoulder. I decided I was running alone and I put on my headphones and turned on my music while I waited.
The race began and the group slowly moved forward. I started my watch as I crossed the starting pad, which was around 40 seconds after the race started. Breaking free of the group proved to be challenging, so I settled in at around 11 minutes per mile and let people go around and spread out for my first mile. I chatted with friend for a second until she told me to go ahead and she’d see me at the finish line. Nothing incredible was happening. I felt energetic. When we got to a park, the 4 mile and the 15k group separated and we ran into an area that looked wooded. I saw a hill and I powered up swinging my arms and concentrating on my upper body. I surmounted that hill and I was so…pissed off that I was only halfway up that hill because it took a turn and continued. I was physically spent, so I walked as fast as I could muster still swinging my arms and attempting to regain my strength. I picked back up to running and I took a swig from my water bottle and moved on. There were a few more hills, but nothing like that first one. Then, there was another challenge. An equally steep downhill run proved to be difficult to control and unpleasant for my knees. The second time I met the steep uphill, I didn’t try to power up. I still pumped my arms and concentrated on my upper body and I made it 3/4 of the way before I needed to slow to an awkward power walk.
This race was challenging. I had a really good time, though. I waved to the spectators, I thanked the people along the sides of the road, I gave people high fives, and I even smiled at the finish line. This 9.3 mile run was more difficult than the 13.1 mile race I’d ran in April, but I’d enjoyed it so much more. I was not anticipating the hill to be such a steep incline or to be so long. I practiced running on some rolling hills and one steady incline. This was billed as a challenging race and it was. I didn’t go in expecting it to be easy, but it was certainly more difficult than I’d thought it would be.
I finished in 1:41:23 (chip time) and was nowhere near the top ten. I wasn’t even in the top half of anything. I challenged myself and I finished the race. Also, I set a personal record because I’ve never run a 15k distance before.
Afterward, I took my tired body to the pool with the husband, kids, and a friend where I somehow managed to get sun fried from floating in the lazy river. Then, I went to a party celebrating the graduation of the most recent training program groups. It was a very busy and very fulfilling day. On to the next challenge!! I’m going to be running a marathon before the year is over!
Have you ever felt like you were in over your head during an event or activity? Did you enjoy it more because of the challenge?