Popping The Race Cherry...

How apropos that this morning's Runners' World 'Daily Kick in the Butt' quote would be a commentary on race performance made by Jack Daniels: "Most mistakes in a race are made in the first two minutes, perhaps in the very first minute." Truer words were probably never spoken.

Sunday, September 20 marked the popping of my race cherry. Long ago I decided that I would run the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure 5k on October 24 as a prelude to the Two Cities Half on November 8. I felt I needed to get a race under my belt before the big race so I would have an idea what to expect. When I learned that there would be a local 10k benefitting cancer research at St. Agnes Hospital to be held on September 20, I decided that there was no time like the present to get that 'first' under my belt. I was told that I would "have a blast" by a friend who ran it last year.

I'm not sure I would characterize what I experienced as a blast. Not that it was bad, mind you. Maybe surreal is a better word. I had my race strategy down--back of the pack, go out slow, maybe run that first mile at 11:00 to get warmed up and then gradually increase my pace to around 10ish, and finish strong.

The starting gun went off, the pack began to move, and before I knew it, I was swept up in the large crowd, jockeying for open space and listening to the sound of all the footsteps hitting the pavement. Bottom line, I made the rookie mistake of going out too fast. Not that it felt too fast. I was feeling good. The morning was relatively cool. I latched on to a group and kept pace with them for about three miles--at about a 9:30 pace.

Next big mistake I made was at the water station at mile two. I didn't see it coming and blew right past it. My mouth was dry and I could have used a quick drink. I surmised that water stations would be at miles 4 and 6 thereafter and decided I would just have to hold on.

Mile 4 was a little slower at 9:58. And then Mile 5... The first three quarters weren't too bad, that is until I turned the corner on Stanislaus and saw this giant overpass in front of me. Not that I wasn't forewarned, but sheesh! Straight up hill over the freeway for what seemed like an interminable distance. I ended up walking about the last third before the crest. I had company though, so I didn't feel so bad. The ride down was swift, but not enough to salvage the lost time on the way up. Mile 5: 10:44. Mile 6 was mostly in the sun and it was getting quite warm by that point. I walked through the water station as I slurped down another cup. 10:24 pace. That last little bit as I ran into Chukchansi Park to the roar of the crowd (well, there was clapping and encouragement at least) was at a 10:14 pace.

Total race time was 1:01:26 with a 9:58 average pace. I was hoping to break 60 minutes, and probably would and could have had I not walked up that damned overpass. Oh well, live and learn. That's me coming into the chute with the bright pink top and sunglasses.