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Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

Don't look at your watch don't look at your watch. Just try to keep Emily (workout buddy from the Sunrise Striders training group! Hi Emily!) in sight for as long as it feels 'comfortable'. The pace doesn't matter. DON'T. LOOK. AT. YOUR. WATCH. Just get to the top of the hill without red-lining! Stay comfortable... You want to hold an effort on the hill that you can maintain...Phew top of the hill, now to see what kind of downhill speed is left in these legs.

(I'd avoided running hard on downhill pavement for the last year, there never was a reason to risk the extra pounding on my back on such a hard surface in training runs. And my downhill speed on trails during an ultra wouldn't/shouldn't ever be sub7's anyways...)

Woah the legs feel weird... but here comes a bunch of people passing me. Their legs are moving so fast! Ok now, try to match that cadence. Holycrap I didn't think my legs could turnover that fast!

Bzzzzzz. That means we finally finished a mile... I'm allowed to look now, to see what kind of pace I might be able to hold today. Maybe. 

10 years ago I don't remember what I was thinking during the first mile of the Garden 10 Mile. The software that I used to upload runs to (long before the days of Strava!) wasn't connected to any websites that I can access now, so I only know my finishing time was over 1:40, and can assume that I was struggling with a 10+ min mile on the steep uphill to Balance Rock that started the old course. 

Today I was hoping to average 8's or less. If I was over 8min on the first mile, I'd spend the next 9 miles telling myself that it's ok if your finish is slower than 1:20. You're a dirt runner now, that's where your passion lies, just enjoy yourself and keep pushing to get in a great workout. 

Woah. 7:38. Well that's a little surprising. Ok keep up the tempo-feeling effort and let's see where it goes. 6:48?! Ohhhcrapppp. That was a lot of downhill but can your legs really keep up that type of effort on the descents?! Can I get off the crazy train?? Nope. I can't. 

 

Unlike 10 years ago when I was content just to survive this race (or the Ascent. Or the crazy Fall Series #4 in Palmer Park!), my racing has changed too much since, such that I can't. I Just. Can't. Slow down to make it easier. To make the pain a little less. I used to start races muuuuch much more slowly compared to my overall goal pace, feeling happy to finish a race with energy to spare. But after almost 15 years of racing (many of those years were just the occasional 5 and 10k!) , I've learned that I can push my body juuuust to that threshold, where I'm breathing hard but not gasping for breath, and stay there for a few hours.  Now I want to finish a race feeling completely depleted. Drained. No matter the finishing time or place- I'm content with my race when I know I had absolutely nothing left in my body when I cross the finish line. 

 Miles 3, 4 and 5-  I have tunnel vision and have a hard time looking at the beautiful rock formations surrounding us (anyone see the abandoned smashed car? Yeah I totally missed it!). All I can think about is how unsustainable this effort seems to be for 10miles.  But I can’t do the smart thing and pull back a little bit now. I’ve gone so far already, how can I not just see… I just have to know how long I can hold this effort for! Uh oh, starting the climbs back north through the park, I can tell my stomach isn’t being too agreeable. I always worry about the downhill ‘jostling’ when I’m trying to run fast, but today the extra bit of effort for climbing was causing some nausea to crop up.  I’m not your special-diet-for-a-week-before-a-race type of girl… I have my daily serving of ice cream and just hope for the best  :) . And so today was another reminder that the iron stomach I thought I had 10years ago, when maaaybe I wasn’t pushing my body to its limits (though dammit I knew it still felt really REALLY hard back then too!!), doesn’t behave quite as nicely anymore.

I’m counting down the miles until it’s just downhill to the finish. Is the top of the last hill at mile 8 or 9? I can’t think straight with so little oxygen but it’s a nice distraction from thinking about the pain!  Just keep following the speedy legs of Abbey who recently joined Striders- she’s half your age, so keeping her in sight is an accomplishment right!? Uggghh last climb… so nauseous but you’re almost there! Yaaay downhill to the finish- oh here’s some 10k boys to race to the finish line with! This is awesome! Perfect way to finish!

Oh crap where’s the finish line?! Oh no it’s not downhill anymore. I’m going to vomit. I’m going to vomit. Please don’t vomit. Sigh ok slow down a lil bit… just this tiny bit…The finish line is in sight! But I can’t speed up or I’m going to vomit on these other friendly racers passing me right now… PHHHEEWWWW I made it without being ill on anyone- yup the race was a success :D

 

And the benefits of turning 40 a month before this race-  I placed 1st in the Masters Female category and still pulled off 10th Female Overall!  (Frankly any podium finish in a big race like this still shocks me because I’ll never forget how hard it was for me to be racing in Colorado 10 years go.  2008 edition of this race- 66th in F 30-34 and 363rd Female. A full 30 minutes behind my 2018 finishing time)

(running picture photo credit: Dionne Randolph)

Thanks to Dionne for being out there taking photos all day and all the other volunteers at the aid stations and on the course and finish line!! 

And extra mad props to my co-worker Daisy and her hubby Alex (in the group pic above) who finished this race as their very first 10k!! I'm so proud of them and loved seeing their excitement at finishing such a challenge!

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