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.
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.