Not A Race Plan

After months of watching friends and strangers race while I was sidelined,  and consequently dealing with a bad case of FOMO, I was able to finally toe the line at the Hamilton 10K.  I had kept quiet about this as it wasn’t really suppose to be a race.  I wanted a fast paced run, faster than I had been doing on my own but not at a true race pace.   I wasn’t ready for that yet.  I hadn’t done any kind of speedwork at all and I wasn’t physically or emotionally ready to put myself out there.  But psychologically, I needed to start racing.   I needed to see where I was at in terms of my own fitness – to establish a baseline to build on – and I needed to rebuild some confidence in my running again.

On the morning of the race, Dave was about to put Zeda on a leash when I asked him to stop.  “Can’t we just leave her at home this time?”  “Well, what I am suppose to do when you’re running?”  “Wait for me.  Cheer me on.  Socialize.  This is my first race in over a year and a half.  It’s my first race since I’ve been injured.  I just want you there for me.  I need you to look after me today.”  And he did.  We got to Confederation Park and Dave kept me company while I warmed up, walked me to the start line, held my bag and gave me a good luck hug.  The rest was up to me.

I had what I thought was the perfect race strategy.   I was going to start at an 8 minute/mile pace, bring it down to 7:50 for miles 2 and 3, and push towards a 7:40 pace or whatever felt right for the last half of the course.  Based on my training, I figured that I could run 10K around 48 minutes so that was my goal.  If I could get between 47 and 48 minutes, I would be happy; if I could go under 47, I would be really happy.  As luck would have it, the wind picked up in the days leading up to the race, resulting in a particularly chilly and windy morning.  Regardless, I still felt that a 48 minute finish was a reasonable goal.

Picking up the pace as I get closer to Mile 6.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I ran my first mile in 7:11.  “Slow down, Cynthia.  That’s too fast.  You’ve got to fight the wind for the last half.”  So I did -by a whole second; I ran my second mile in 7:12.  I wasn’t tired; I felt good.  But I knew it was too fast and I didn’t want to blow up in the last half of the race.  I was able to pull the pace down to 7:21, then to a 7:23 for miles 3 and 4.  Perfect.  I knew that I had lots left to give for the last two miles, even with the wind.  Mile 5 was my slowest (7:33), exactly as I expected, but I changed gears again and ran mile six at a 7:25 pace, finishing the last 0.2 miles in 6:54.  Pacing was all over the place but I was thrilled with my result – 45:26 for a 12th place finish on the women’s side and 1st in my 50-59 age group.   I did not expect that at all.

Thirteen months ago, after tearing my hamstring, I didn’t think I would ever be able to run or race again.   But I wasn’t going to give up easily.  Instead, I spent hours each week cross-training, mostly cycling and yoga, to keep my cardio strong and develop different groups of muscles.  In the summer, when I started running again, everything came together and now I feel fit, really fit.   I feel ready to set some goals.  But the logical side of my brain takes over and tells me “Wait!  You’ve been through a lot.  You need to slow down a little.  You need more recovery time.   You need….”

So I listen.  But the bar has been set and I am physically and psychologically ready to lower it a bit more, even if it means doing so slowly and cautiously.  I have everything in place – a solid level of fitness, time to take a deliberate and cautious approach,  help from my coach, chiropractor and physiotherapist and, most importantly, support and encouragement from my husband.  I am not just going to chase my dreams; I am going to catch them.