Yesterday I ran my first 10K at the Spokane River Run. It was a beautiful course, and I ran my best, so I think it was a pretty successful race day.
The race started at 9:45 AM, after every other event (the 50K started at 8:15, the 25K at 8:45, and the 5K at 9:10). Even though I was a little bored having to stand around for two hours, I had plenty of time to hit the bathroom, stretch, and talk to people. Mostly, we talked about races that we had participated in and what gear we like. Of course, I talked up Brooks and felt for a moment like I was both a Brooks expert and a salesperson as I mentioned my experiences with the Brooks Adrenaline as opposed to the Cascadias that I was wearing. I even pointed to another racer's Adrenaline ASRs. I'm pretty sure I made three new Brooks customers as we stood around waiting for our race to start.
When I wasn't talking to others, I had some time to think about how I was going to run. My legs felt pretty good, the weather was nice and cool, and even though I have never raced on trails, I feel comfortable on them. So, in the few minutes before the race, I felt confident and even made goals for myself. For one, I was going to run the first 3.2 miles; after all, I had run over three miles the weekend before, and I still had energy in my legs. Two, I wasn't going to look at my Garmin unless I had to; I know what an 11-minute pace feels like. And three, I was going to finish strong.
The gun went off shortly after 9:45, and I was feeling pretty good even though there were people crowding all around me (which is very different from every other trail run I had ever been on). After only about .3 miles, I broke my second goal, looked down at my Garmin, and saw that I was running at a 12-minute pace. Because I didn't want to fall too far behind, I tried to go up off of the trail and into the woods to get around the slower joggers. (And I was not alone; lots of us had the same idea.) Unfortunately, we all quickly realized that this was a bad plan. We used lots of energy trying to hop over small logs and dodge trees without gaining much ground. I quickly made my way back onto the trail and into the middle of the pack.
The first mile was good. I ended up running an 11:08 mile, and my legs and lungs were happy. The next few miles, however, were kind of a blur. I don't know when it happened exactly, but I realized that my "run the first 3.2 miles" goal was unrealistic for me. The trail turned hilly, and I knew that I was going to need to walk. I did and made up for most of my lost time when I zoomed by people on the downhills.
At about the three-mile mark, I passed up my one and only water station because even though my legs were definitely working, I didn't need water (and I was avoiding my tendency to chug too much water).
After the water station, we hit a quick downhill, and a woman in front of me hit the dirt. Immediately, the woman directly in front of me ran to her aid. As I jogged by, I didn't see any cuts or scrapes and assumed that she was going to be fine. "Be careful, Annie. Don't fall," ran through my mind.
Wouldn't you know it, though... I didn't take my own advice (again). In about a half-mile, I tripped over some root or rock, too, and found myself falling to the ground. And it must have been a pretty spectacular fall since I found a way to hit my left thigh, hip, elbow, and hand on the trail. Folks behind me ran to my assistance, and I quickly waved them away saying that I would be fine. (I know that falling happens while trail running, and I know that I shouldn't have been embarrassed. That said, I knew that nothing was twisted or broken, so I really just wanted them to run past me and give me space to stand up, assess the damage, and get back on the trail.)
Back on my feet, I ran as I brushed the dirt off my body. Thankfully, nothing was bleeding, and the only pain I felt was in my neck (I think I must have strained it in an attempt to keep my head from hitting the trail).
The fourth mile was my slowest but also probably my best. By this time, the pack had thinned out, and I was running alone next to the river. I felt my feet striking the dirt below me, and my breathing was timed with my stride. I looked to my right, and I saw the river flowing beside me. For a few minutes, it was like I wasn't even racing; I was just on a Sunday morning run. A smile spread across my face, and when I noticed it, it made me smile even bigger.
The final couple of miles were okay. The lady who had fallen in front of me passed me, and we chuckled about our (lack of) gracefulness. I was glad to know that we were both okay. I was, however, a little bit discouraged when I looked at my Garmin and realized that I was going to finish more slowly than I had hoped. That feeling didn't last too long, though, when I assessed how my body was handling the terrain and the distance - my knee didn't hurt, I had no side aches, and my neck didn't hurt me bad enough to slow me down.
At about 6 miles, I could see the finish line, and I felt myself speeding up. I ran past a couple of people, and my legs felt faster and lighter than they had all race. I didn't worry about smiling for the photographer and kept my eyes focused on the finish. My legs carried me all the way there.
After a volunteer cut the timing chip from my shoe, I walked over to the Gatorade table and enjoyed two glasses of blue deliciousness. I knew that I hadn't accomplished all of the goals I had made for myself, but I wasn't too upset. I ran when I could and walked when I had to. I fell, picked myself up, and kept running. I finished strong. And I had just run my longest race to date. Not too shabby for a Sunday morning.
My official time was 1:14:03, which means that I ran at an 11:55 pace. Since I finished 375th out of 460, I could be kind of disappointed. Instead, I am going to concentrate on the 85 people that are probably sitting at home right now wondering just how I got to be so dang fast. :)
Upcoming race: Bloomsday on May 2.