So I wasn't sure how todays race was going to go. It's been rough lately for me physically and emotionally. With lots of stress comes stress on my body. My almost 12 mile run a few weeks ago was awesome! I felt great. I'm learning all about good runs and bad runs, you'll have both. I didn't run at all this week and was concerned about my back/hip/knee on my right side. Since my long run a few weeks ago, it's been slightly flared up. I hydrated really well yesterday consuming about a gallon of water mixed with gatorade after 2pm and had my spaghetti and garlic bread (my usual night before a race meal). I got up this morning and had my 1/2 cup of oatmeal my coffee, and a few gulps of my water/gatorade mix on the way to the race. I was really excited to find out last night that one of my new "running friends" was also doing the 10K. I've done a few runs with Janet and did the marathon relay with her about a month ago.
I get to the race and pick up my packet and John and I make our way to the starting area. I find Janet at the stand she has set-up to promote her book, "Because I can". Janet is one of those incredible people I've met along this journey who was in a horrific accident a few years back. Dr's weren't sure she was going to make it, or at the least thought they'd have to take her leg. She has a great story of overcoming obstacles and making it back to being an avid runner. We exchange a few words and she tells me there are almost 400 runners signed up for the races. They were doing a 1 mile fun walk, 5k, and 10K. This is a pretty big number for a local race. We talk about how the race is going to be a challenge and talk about the HILLS. She tells me that the race directors actually had to change the course due to some construction and there will actually be MORE HILLS than first thought.
We line up and wait for "Beethovan" to tell us when to start. This was a benefit for the Reading Youth Symphony. Music was a HUGE part of my life growing up from the age of 8 years old when I started taking piano lessons through high school where I was involved in ANYTHING music and made it to the State Band festival playing the alto clarinet. I played multiple instruments and was the Drum Major (the one that conducts/leads the band NOT twirls the batons as some people think) my senior year. I was really excited to be helping out a great organization. The down beat of the symphony started us..and we were off!
I could tell from the beginning of the race it was going to be a LONG one. It usually takes me a while to get warmed up but today felt extra hard. My breathing was fine, my pacing was fine...I just felt heavy. That's the only way I know how to explain it. There are times where I feel "light on my toes". You just go and everything falls in place. Something was just off today from the start. I had set my time goal extremely high due to knowing there were going to be HILLS and based on how I'd been feeling this past week. I ran my 6 miles at the marathon relay in 1:13 there was an extra 0.2 miles added onto today and the HILLS. I set my goal at 1:30...yes it's high, but I'm one who would rather set a lower goal so I'm not really down on myself if I don't achieve it. I've always been my own worst critic and I've learned to deal with this by setting reasonable or MORE than reasonable goals for myself.
I started cramping (those side stitch cramps) at about 2.5 miles. REALLY?? I'm only 1/3 of the way done and I'm cramping. I do the whole, throw my arm over my head move a couple times, and finally decide mind over matter is going to have to kick in. I kept feeling twinges in my back and tried putting that as mind over matter too. The course was crazy....since they had to change things around, they had us going all kinds of crazy loops, repeats, out and backs it was rather maze like. They did have a TON of signs with lots of volunteers to help us along. Janet had passed me at this point, checking to see how I was doing, my response, "not good, I'm really hurting." Somewhere around mile 4 I think..might have actually been before that, I lost all sight of Janet and anyone else. The race went down a small hill, out to the street (off the college campus) up a hill turned left and up another hill which led to another hill, came back down that hill and up another hill and out to a portion of a gravel trail which again...you guessed it...HILLS! I was passing people going back the other way at this point and it was on the gravel path that Janet passed me again (going the other way) and told me it's not much further down the trail. I was SERIOUSLY hurting at this point. I made it out to the turn around where the volunteers cheered me on, and kept on my journey. I realized as I was on my back portion of the out and back I wasn't passing ANY other runners. What I did pass was the sweeper of the race on his bike. I realized at this point, and was quite dumbfounded, that I was the LAST person...last place. I've always been at the back of the pack but NEVER in last place...and I had a LONG way to go! "OK, I told myself...it doesn't matter that you are last." I checked my time and I was still doing ok. I was still well on my way to meeting MY goal. Not anyone elses.MY goal, MY time. At this point I had already taken SEVERAL walk breaks and was past the point of trying to push it up the hills. I realized that my "running" had become a sort of limp-like shuffle letting out a little "uggh" at each stride. I decided this was quite ridiculous and I might as well just walk when I need to walk. I made it back out to the road that went...yup...up a HILL and I actually was able to get a small quick stride pace going up the hill. This took me back into the town that led back to the college campus. There was NO ONE around at this point and even some of the volunteers were starting to pack up their things. Luckily I had remembered the one turn from before and knew to turn onto the street that led me back to the campus. (the old man that was at the intersection was messing with the sign that was supposed to be there and was fumbling to get it into his car). I kept hearing the sweeper pass the volunteers along the way and his respone to their inquiries, "nope I think this is it." As I came into the campus I eventually saw John standing with the camera ready along with 2 volunteers.
At this point Janet was way ahead of me and John was able to capture some shots of her apparently "chicking" a guy up the hill! whoohooo
I shouted out to John as I was passing him, "Hey, dead last finish is better than did not start right??". I knew I had to have a good attitude about things or I could easily get really down on myself. I checked my time and regardless of being last, it was still looking like I should have no problem making it under my time goal. I ran up the hill that Janet is on in the above picture and had to stop and walk again. I could hear John yelling, "C'mon honey you got this. You're almost there!" I get to the top of the hill and have NO idea which way I'm supposed to go. There are some people standing there (who didn't look like they had run the race) and I'm shouting to them, "do you guys know which way I need to go?" No one is answering. I think this was the worst point of the race. I just wanted to be DONE, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and no one was around. I was stopped dead in my tracks trying to figure this out and no one around to help. I finally look back down where John had been and I see him frantically waving his arms to the right. I turn to my right and finally see a lady frantically waving HER arms in a come here motion. The route took me back out and around the parking area (where a TON of people were already leaving) and the volunteers out there were all really nice and helpful cheering me on and one girl even gave me my time..telling me, "You're almost there!" At this point, probably a few yards from the finish line I hear a little girl say to her mom, "Mommy is that lady still running?" HAHA....OUCH! Kind of a punch to the gut. YES this lady was STILL running....but it's better than this lady STOPPED running or better yet this lady NEVER ran. I sucked it up and continued on to the finish line getting a time of 1:21 which was BETTER than the goal I had set for myself. So even though I was last, I was still under MY time and was pretty proud for embracing the suck and finishing out amid feeling horrible. Janet gave me a big 'ol high five across the finish line. I have to say I still feel pretty accomplished. It's kinda hard to feel that way sometimes after a "bad" run where you just feel completely spent physically. There was NO sprinting in at the end. It was a nice trot across the finish line.
After the race Janet found me to let me know that at the end of races she's at with her books, she always gives the person that comes in last a free copy...and she was really excited that she got to give that free copy to me today. She wrote on the inside, "First place! In determination! Keep on keeping on! Because you can!-Janet". I was really glad I got a copy of her book, been wanting to read it, but obviously no funds to purchase at the moment...so it worked out! :-)
I was really glad I got to share my first 10K with her. It's people like Janet that keep me going. I may have some health problems and aches and pains that limit me sometimes..but there are other runners out there just like me. We just keep on keeping on and embrace the suck. You push through and don't give up, and while last place may be a horrible place to be in some people's minds...I'm ok with it. I'm not in competition with ANYONE else except for myself, and I met MY goal for the day. Not only that, I ran my first 10K, 6.2 freakin miles and I'm not even to the year mark of when I started running. Dead last finish is greater than did not finish, which trumps did not start!