Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Race Report: Tufts 10K For Women

I've been waiting to post this race report for a year.

That sounds a touch dramatic, but it is true, nonetheless.

I started running in January 2011. All I wanted to do was run a 5K. I finally did it, and then I wanted to run another one. Cut to June and I wanted a challenge, a goal for the summer. The idea of the Tufts 10K came into my head after I saw an ad on CoolRunning.com.

Six miles? I can't run 6.2 miles. It's so far, so much. But I went for it. If you read through last summer's posts, you'll see dozens devoted to my training for this race.

Before I began training, the longest I ever ran was 3.1 miles. But soon came 4. Then 5. By the end of training, I was up to 8. Eight miles! I ran 8 miles? That lead to other thoughts, which would be realized sooner than later.

I trained for 15 weeks (way too long, really) for this race, only to sprain my ankle three days before the race, walking through the parking lot of an apple orchard.

I was mad. Incredibly disappointed. Pissed off, you name it. I had to drop out of the race, which left me as gutted as I've ever been for something relatively minor. Reading through those profanity-laced posts a year later, the emotions are still so raw, so real.

Anyway, what's done was done and I was left with one vow: I will be running this race next year.

Jump to, "next year," when I found myself a two-time half-marathoner. All of a sudden, 6.2 miles wasn't the dramatic, amazing accomplishment it would have been a year ago. These days, a 10K is a short Sunday run. However, that didn't mean it wasn't significant, nor that it wasn't worth avenging, so I did. I wanted closure, plus, although I've raced dozens of times, I've never run an official 10K race.

Luckily, my domestic running life partner, Sandy, was all-in as well, so we headed into Boston on a blazingly beautiful Columbus Day to run through the streets of Boston and Cambridge.

The Tufts 10K for Women is a mammoth race. There were 8,000 runners and walkers, the largest field in which I have ever raced.

We gathered at the Public Garden, got our bibs and then hung out, meandering until about 10 minutes before the gun. In our meandering, I ran into my friend, Dani, who's a fellow Weight Watchers leader, runner and all-around inspirational person. Check out her blog!

Soon it was time to get in our respective starting areas, by pace time. Big problem: There were so many runners, there literally was no room to squeeze in. I've been in crowded fields before, but nothing like this.

Shooting from the sidewalk on Charles Street, looking toward the starting line (which was actually around the corner) on Beacon Street.

Looking toward the back of the pack (my people!) on Charles Street.

So, I waited for the race to start, standing behind the rope on the curb. When the crowd thinned enough to jump in, I was off.

This would be an interesting race because it was the first big race I'd run without music. Previously, the thought of running without music was horrifying. My legs will stop! I'll just want to walk. I can't do it. I need it.

Last summer, during a 5K my Nano crapped out and I freaked. This year, I was ready to run without as I have been training with a metronome. It's part of the ChiRunning approach that I've adopted (and love) and I find I run better without music, matching my footstrike to a pace of 170 BPM. I still run with music once a week because I do like it. But, for better form and pace purposes, it's no headphones, no music. And, you know what? I don't mind it a bit.

My only regret about the metronome is I sound like a ticking time bomb. I felt bad for anyone around me that didn't have music and had to listen to my beep-beep-beeping throughout the race.

Anyway, we were off heading through Back Bay toward Memorial Drive and Cambridge on one gorgeous day. The weather was perfect for running and the scenery was gorgeous. I half wished I stopped here and there and took pictures of the striking Boston skyline, but I really wanted to run this one hard.

When we turned onto Memorial Drive, I wondered if I would see one of my dearest friends - and a great runner - Jeremy. He lives just a few miles from the course and I figured I would spot him, and I did.

I shouted his name and gave him the double finger guns as I ran by at, if I recall correctly, somewhere between Miles 2 and 3. That's the picture at the top of this post and the best running picture I've ever had the privilege to be in. As you know, I normally look like I'm bring assassinated.

Anyway, I felt great and was running really well. My splits were around 10:50 to 11:00 a mile - very, very fast for me. Yay, metronome!

The course was flat and fast, and as I ran I thought a lot about the past year of running. How all I ever wanted was just one 5K and how that pipe dream turned into an activity I really, truly love. How I look forward to my 6:30 am runs. How I like studying and improving my form so I can keep running healthy.

I thought about where I was when I started running and where I am now. It seemed too fantastic, too good to be true, but it was. For real.

Sooner than I thought, I was past 5 miles and winding back into Boston, heading to the finish line on Charles Street. The clouds had dispersed, the sun was out and it was getting hot. I was ready to put a bow on this one.

I do want to take a second and thank race spectators. They are simply the greatest people because they are strangers who clap, cheer and tell you you're awesome when you need it most. I passed the 6-mile mark and I knew the finish was just around the corner. Since I wasn't listening to music, I could hear every spectator's shouts and cheers, and I heard my favorite spectator comment ever. I've heard it at many races and it thrills me every time:

"You're almost there! The finish is right around the corner!"

Before the race, I was hoping to come in a 1:15. About halfway through the race, my splits were so good, I thought 1:10 would be a possibility. At Mile 5 I switched gears and at Mile 6, I went into my fastest stride.

I glanced at my watch. It didn't look like 1:10 was going to happen, but I decided to keep pushing anyway, why not? Never give up.

I crossed the timing pads and stopped my watch. 1:10:02. Pretty close, nicely done.

I walked through the chute, grabbed as much water as I could carry and set off to find Sandy, who came in about 5 minutes before me.

We headed home, tired but mission accomplished. I may not have had the triumphant ending I envisioned last year, but you know what? In the end, it all turned out pretty damn great, anyway. I went from a person who dreamed big and did little to someone who dreamed big and realized her goals.

A couple of hours after I got home, Sandy posted on my wall on Facebook. The official times were up. Mine - 1:09:59.

Never give up, indeed.