Writing up this race might be as wacky as running it. The constant refrain of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” plays in my head whenever I reflect on today’s event. “Shake it off” has to be my theme for this one:

“I never miss a beat/I’m lightning on my feet/And that’s what they don’t see/…I’m dancing on my own/I’ll make the moves up as I go/And that’s what they don’t know/But I keep cruisin’/Can’t stop, won’t stop grooving/It’s like I’ve got this music in my mind/Saying it’s gonna be all right…I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake…shake it off…”

I could spend this time cataloguing all the variables that made this 10K a wackier (apparently this is THE most apt word I can concoct, since I keep using it) race even than the notorious Bay to Breakers, which at the seeded front line was quite professional and clean, last Sunday. I could. I could talk about how it rained right beforehand and sprinkled during. The streets were so slick they made the trail portion of the course seem like a easy desert trek.

The craziest part happened within the first mile. To start with, the course followed a markedly different route than it did last year, so none of us knew it. All of us out in the front line followed the course biker…who then proceeded to bike us half a mile (that’s significant in a 10K) off course. YEOWZA, baby. I knew we were in trouble when the first few people turned without cones, and we started doubling back.

Even crazier? The lead man, pegged to win this easily, did another mile or so and then stepped off the course. He might have sustained an injury, but he also seemed none too pleased about the course issue.

To see the course front man step off, and to have the Garmin clicking off miles a full 800 m before the mile markers…well, it turned this into a huge mental battle. I felt rattled; I think we all did. Whereas last week I celebrated feeling a mental triumph, this race felt like constant mental patching against the dam of shaken thoughts that accompanied the start of the race, even though my first mile was identical to Bay to Breakers at a 6:08.

I should be professional enough to have a mental procedure for this, but this off roading marked my first experience with such a thing. I went into this race with a certain imagery pattern, and nothing was similar at all (course, weather, etc). It was pure grit and trying to adapt as quickly as possible to variables I did not predict. I imagine we were all facing that, to a degree. One man who caught me toward the end responded to my “Good job!” with the commentary, “This has been a hard race.” Indeed.

Bizarrely enough, this was a USATF regional championship event (like they will ever come back to that course, ha ha!) for San Diego-Imperial. I really wanted a solid run, not only to PR, but also to have an official 10K regional championship time.

But because the course was supposed to have some heft, some talent came out. I ran with some awesome, world class women at the front today. Two were Olympic trialers with amazing PRs at various distances. One maintained fitness from hardcore collegiate days. Another is a nationally ranked triathlete.

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The morning began with kisses for my babies. Mama bear, first and always.

Pre-race routine: Clif Bar nuts and seeds bar 2-2.5 hour before. Coco Vita mango peach coconut water (sip alternately with water). Power Crunch bar 45 minutes before. 1 caffeine tablet 1 hour out. 1-2 mile jog in sweats. Take off warm-ups and hit full strides until legs feel bouncy. Stop water 15 minutes prior.

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Susan and her family came to race this morning, and I loved seeing her again. We were both teachers at TVHS in the English Department back in the day. We are both mamas of two, and Sue is fierce. She is completing the Triple Crown for the first time this year. It was a difficult race for both of us (we prize a good mental game), but we took two of the top five spots in our division. It will take more than weather or a funky course aberration to knock down the Golden Bears! TVHS English Department RE-PRE-SENT!

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Ready, set, go!

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Seriously, these women. From left: Rachel is a super collegiate runner, who totally went after the first place woman. (The first place woman is not pictured here. It was her first race back after a two-year drug suspension. She is an Olympic level marathoner. I was about 2:00 behind the female winner. Rachel came in second. Megan, the woman in bright yellow, is a rock star. This Olympic trialer looked familiar. Only when I was home did I realize who she is… I had an OMG moment in my bedroom. Months ago, in one of my running magazines, there was a La Jolla woman profiled as one of the fastest “mother runners” (along with Kara Goucher in that list).

That woman talked about her approach to hills. Do you have any idea how often I have remembered her words to myself alone in the dark at 5:00 AM, 4:30 AM? Doing hill sprint repeats on Fridays? IT WAS HER!!!!! How could I not have connected that?? OMG! I just wasn’t connecting it… I have quoted her to myself so many times. It’s ridiculous. I should have asked her to sign my bib.

The third woman in this picture is a national level triathlete. She came in 6th, and she was on me for quite awhile. Last year, she kicked my butt, and I couldn’t catch her then. An amazing athlete.

All of them are. Unreal to be in this field. Unreal to be chatting with them at the end, feeling a sense of belonging. What a plot twist in my life, huh? When I told myself three years ago that I was going to try my best to be something I never thought I could be, I meant it. Try my best. Commit. Work. I have a way to go before I can hang with these 6:11 and 6:16 women, but I am working on it. My pace today was 6:28. One day, one day… I will be better than I am now.

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So, results: 4th woman in, this year. 13th person overall. 2nd in division. I did end up with a PB at 1oK.

But it’s unofficial. Bill had to talk me off the ledge in the car when I was getting in the mind to pursue any 10K within striking distance from Temecula as an “unfinished business” race. That would be quite a new narrative: the “axe to grind” race. And even though I PB’d, I was 7 seconds off what I WANTED to PB. At least in the online results, the timing company has notated that our calculations and reported times are based on a 6.7 mile (instead of 6.2 mile) course. It added 3+ minutes to my time.

Looking positively, though, I maintained my fitness from Bay to Breakers last week and didn’t backslide. It may not have felt like the same breakthrough that I experienced during that race, but I maintained what hopefully will be a new “normal” with room to grow before Butte to Butte.

Still, phhhtt. My narrative this time was to run thinking about the love my husband and I share. I wanted to dedicate this run to him, and to post a time we’ve been dreaming about and working on. Instead, both of us were reeling from the course business. Bill knew within 4 minutes when the first man should have gone by at Bill’s position that something had happened. Instead of focusing on our love, I had to fight off annoyance and anxiety. I did start running my positive scripts and trying to write a new story as I went. I don’t dwell long in the negative; I’ve got the training for that. Still, it was hard not to be mentally focused on the race in the way that I had expected to be. Not my favorite race, mentally. I came home and watched footage of Bay to Breakers (Bill purchased some of the race package as a gift a few days ago) to cheer myself back up, ha ha!

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Blowing kisses to my babies. I make the most dork-tastic faces when I run. I could be the poster child for the statement, “Running is HARD!” Looks like I am in a constant state of torment, LOL!

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Then Katie and Eric had their races (a 1 mile and a 1/4 mile, respectively). So proud of my girl. I have been crushin’ on her sprinter hands. She said her legs “felt like bicycles.” She went into race mode and seemed to finish this more quickly than her work on the track lately.

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Eric in full stride. Love this person. He was hilarious—he got away from me (I ran with him), weaving by other participants. He told me later that he paid attention to the cones and knew where to go. He wanted space to go fast. I got pinned back away from him for awhile. He was like a rocket!

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Eric finishes happily.

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You know, their races made it a good day. Every race is its own story, a runner friend of mine once advised. Indeed, that is true. We grow when we take the right lessons away from a race, whether the best or the worst. I am sorry but not sorry for the many variables today: I know I will turn them around and use them to grow myself as a runner and as a fighter. In the meantime, I get to be proud of these two and to share this amazing journey with them. What could be better?

Look for the good. It’s almost always there. Until then: joyful legs, everyone!

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