But first, let's take a minute to laugh at this finish line photo of me:
|Every day I'm hustlin'|
First of all, this is a hometown race for me. The course goes past my living room windows, my very own Birmingham Track Club is the major sponsor, and it draws a huge crowd of local and regional runners. The race is run on a very popular running route through the various downtown neighborhoods of Birmingham, including the scenic Highland Park Historic District. Since moving to Birmingham in April of 2014, I have been running all or part of the course as part of my regular training runs. To say the course is familiar would be an understatement...I know every hill and crack in the sidewalk.
This 10k is a loop that starts and ends at Linn Park in the heart of downtown. It has about 200 feet of total elevation gain, with a long, slow climb over miles 2-3, and a quad-busting downhill that starts around mile 4. Things level off pretty well after this long straightaway, and the chute is on the western side of Linn Park. It is an ideal race for spectators, because it draws some elites and close competition, it is amazingly well produced and supported, and it takes place in the South's famously mild late fall weather. Okay, I should totally work for the Birmingham board of tourism.
I had a baby almost exactly a year ago, and running is something I have become interested in once again since his birth. I've always been interested in staying fit, and I was a college athlete. I have even at various times in my life been a several-times-a-week runner. I've always been pretty casual, though, and done it in order to stay fit for other sports. Starting this July, I have been making a real effort to speed up. More on that stuff later. Here's what my training looked like in the weeks leading up to the race:
|Strava should pay me for this.|
The week of October 27 was a bit strange, because I had some last minute business travel to South Lake Tahoe (poor me, right?). Fortunately, the hotel was part of a swanky casino with a luxurious gym, so I did a few treadmill workouts (ew). I really tried to take it easy the week of the race. I ran the course on Monday, did a speed workout on Wednesday, and just shook my legs out a bit on Friday morning.
Before the Race
This race begins just blocks from my apartment, so I didn't have any issues with driving, parking, or finding the start (you laugh, but it has happened to me before...). I picked up my packet at Trak Shak the night before, and made plans to head over around 7 for the 8am start. Things are always a little rushed and inconsistent in the mornings, since I have a toddler I am still breastfeeding. I just try to stay flexible. I woke up at 6, ate a peanut butter Clif Bar with some super sugary coffee and a quart of water, got dressed, nursed the baby, and left on foot.
Once I got out the door, the weather felt unexpectedly cold, so I ran the seven blocks to the staging area at Boutwell Auditorium. I hung out inside with the warmth and crowds, wearing a hoodie on top of my race clothes.
|Ask me about my Resting Bitch Face Syndrome.|
I got caught up talking to a nice man named Dean, who was running Vulcan for the fifth time. He is 64 and a cyclist who uses the annual Vulcan race as a way to measure his fitness. It was so inspiring to hear him talk about his love for the running community, and how he tries to be a good fitness role model for his children and grandchildren. I wanted a bit of a warmup, so as I shook his hand to say bye, I told him I would cheer for him by name if I saw him later on the course. Foreshadowing!
The Race Itself
I did some quick strides around Linn Park, and texted my husband to meet me near the start. I kissed my baby, left my hoodie with them, and tried to find a good place in the crowd. I tend to start too far back (some sort of inferiority complex maybe??), so I tried to estimate the crowd size and stand near people who looked about my speed. It's weird, but my pace group is always full of middle aged men who take fitness seriously...I can usually spot their Under Armor shirts and gray New Balance shoes, and think, "these are my people!"
|Seriously, ask me.|
I started my music and the Strava app, and barely heard the start. It took me about 16 seconds to cross the touch pads (at least that's what they call those things in swimming...do runners call them touch pads, too?). I just tried to stay to the left and not get hung up behind anyone too slow. I almost immediately regretted not standing closer to the start. Oh well. The first mile was a hustle, and I found myself running inefficiently to go around slower people. We passed the buildings of the loft district, went through the Light Rails tunnel (which always smells like pee, GROSS), and turned on to Second Avenue South. I checked my split for the first mile - 7:49. For the second mile, I just focused on running a very consistent pace, staying to the right, and enjoying the flat stretch of road. After the next turn, I saw the lead pack crossing out of view onto the first hill of Highland Avenue.
At the water stop, OF COURSE I accidentally grabbed yellow Powerade, and OF COURSE I spilled it all over my head. I took my gloves off and stuffed them into the butt region of my compression shorts in a less-than-graceful-or-modest manner. By that, I mean 1) I almost fell, and 2) I exposed portions of my butt. "That's right, guys, enjoy the view," I thought.
As I hit the downhill stretch on 20th Street, the crowd had thinned out a lot. I only saw one other woman, so I had some disjointed thoughts about gender bias in running until I was like, "FOCUS UP, SELF!" I'm not gonna lie, when I saw my splits at mile five, I was pretty pleased with myself. I knew I would make my target time if I just kept running consistently. Then...out of nowhere, I saw Dean! I started saying, "go, Dean, go, Dean!" as I caught up to him. He high-fived me and we ran most of that stretch together. I felt a little remorse once I left him behind. At the corner of Park Place, I saw my husband and baby, and they were both cheering for all the runners. After seeing them, I basically sprinted through the finish. My official time was 48:24, and the Best Times rep cheerfully informed me that I had missed the cutoff for Top 200 by about two minutes. Thanks, lady!
|I'm sure the fact that the race name is incorrect is a reflection on someone's computer illiteracy.|
After the race, Waffle House and Cahaba Brewing were serving various free items in the auditorium, and I enjoyed drinking beer and coffee simultaneously at 9am.
|This is why I run, people.|
Overall, I was pleased with how the race turned out. I finished 4th for my age/gender (BTW totally wish more "middle aged" women would take up running). After adjusting for hills, my splits qualified me to work as a track club pacer. But mostly, I have so much respect for the people who can run a 6:00/mile pace over a 10k distance. The swimming events I trained for were only 2-5 minutes long, and maintaining that type of cardiovascular output for an hour or more is still very new for me! I love the running community in Birmingham, so I am definitely going to make an effort to do more races like Vulcan. And, of course, I'm already planning how I am going to shave more time off my 10k (addicting, right?).
|I didn't get a top 200 shirt, BUT I WILL NEXT YEAR!|