Boy, was I nervous before this race! I spent the prior evening skimming through my running books, reading scary things about the aging runner's muscle fibers and neuromas in the foot, and listening to the chinook winds bear down from the mountains like judgment on our little valley. All day Friday these winds had blown. In the afternoon, my kids and I went for an exhilarating walk in the tumult. Sticks and leaves tumbled by us, and when we reached the park, the gusts gave extra oomph to some "flying" on the swings. Playing in the chinook winds is fun. Running is not. Would the winds still be blowing on Saturday morning?
I also still felt spooked by my slow time in the prior week's Turkey Trot, discussed in last week's post. Was that the best I could do? I wondered.
Saturday morning began the way most of our days do, with Will and Ruthie's invasion of our bed at around 7 a.m. Ruth was chatty in the way of almost-4-year-old morning people everywhere, and Will was sullen, having misbehaved at bedtime the night before and lost the privilege of opening the next window on his Advent calendar. Lying there, with a little over two hours until my start time, I felt the butterflies in my stomach begin to flutter.
I got up and, following the advice of Nancy Clark in the sports nutrition book, I ate a much bigger breakfast than I would have done in the past before a race. It was just Cheerios and milk, washed down by some Nuun water, but even that was a lot more than the single banana I would have had in the past. Then I stepped outside to gauge what I should wear. It was overcast, much colder than the day before (temps in the 30s)....and still as stone. The winds had moved on. Whew!
At this point, I made a couple of decisions about the race. The first decision was to leave my Garmin at home. I love the Garmin. It's fun and useful to see my paces and the altitude profiles of my training runs. It also takes the tedium out of planning long runs (because I don't really have to plan them). But during the Turkey Trot I found it distracting and worrying. So for this race, which mattered more, I just put on my old Timex digital watch. It was time to be a grown-up, and try to feel my race pace without technological help.
The second decision was that I would run with my iPod. I had been on the fence about this ever since failing to meet my goal of going under 2 hours in the half-marathon in October. I used the iPod during that race, and I felt the music made me push the pace too much in the middle, perhaps contributing to my major bonk at the end. But since the 5K is so much shorter, and speed so much more important, I figured having some super-fast tunes going couldn't hurt.
The kids and Dan were headed to the Christmas pageant rehearsal at church at about the same time as the race, so I wasn't to have any spectators. That was OK with me this time. I was still feeling nervous and fluttery, and wanted to be alone. I said goodbye and rode my bike up to the University of Colorado campus, about a mile from my house. Bike riding is a great warm-up for me. It gets some of the jitters out, gets me used to being outside and helps me break a light sweat.
The packet pickup and finish area for the Colder Bolder are in Balch Fieldhouse, which has an indoor track and bleachers and an old-school running feel to it. Heats for the race start early, with the fastest Bolder Boulder finishers going first at 8 a.m. My race was at 9:10 a.m., so I got to watch a few of the finishes while putting on my number. I also saw the awards ceremony for the fastest finishers' race. Then I went outside to do some strides, and then...it was time.
There were 52 people in my wave, which as I've mentioned before was for people who finished between 54 and 55:59 minutes in the Bolder Boulder 10K. The start, which leads you downhill for about 1/4 mile, was fast. But I felt warmed up and good, with the BoDeans singing "Fadeaway." I also imagined I heard my friend Angela's dad, a track coach, telling me to "use the downhill." The course then turned up for the first climb. I am very familiar with this hill. I passed the first mile, according to my old Timex, in 7:39.
That probably should have worried me, but it didn't. All of the prior night's fears and my disappointments over the half-marathon and the Turkey Trot seemed to fade away. I knew I would slow down a bit on the second mile, which is up and down (more up, I think!), but I pictured the flat stretch at the end, on which I've accelerated at the end of several 10 milers, and told myself, "I'm going only 3 today, and I've felt good there at 10. I can do this." There were some small changes in the course from last year, but that didn't bother me either.
I ran on, through two repetitions of Mumford & Sons' "Little Lion Man" (love that song--apologies if its f-bomb offends anyone; for me hearing it makes me feel tough and angry, good things when you're trying to rip it) and one of their "Roll Away Your Stone." And still I ran, through Uncle Tupelo's "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" and Man or Astroman's "Philip K. Dick in the Pet Section of a Wal-Mart" (couldn't find a video for this; think surfer punk).
Finally, I turned that corner onto the flat, and Men Without Hats' "Safety Dance" came on. I knew I was almost done. Which was a good thing, because I was hurting. A group of three people running together, whom I'd passed early in the third mile, repassed me. I wish now that I had tried harder to re-catch them, but I just trailed on behind them, trying to hang on to my pace.
Then I entered the field house and saw the clock. The first two numbers on it were a 2 and a 4. That was enough to help me find my kick. And so...I did it! My goal had been to finish in 24:51. My official time was 24:24, a 7:52 pace overall, a post-pregnancy PR in the 5K and good for 14th in my heat (which was won by a trio of male sandbaggers who all ran faster than 21 minutes). I was so happy about this that I almost cried on the massage table ten minutes later.
Nothing like a few disappointments to make a small victory sweet. In the evening, we went out with a big group of friends to celebrate Dan's 40th birthday. I had one glass of champagne for Dan (may we celebrate his 80th and beyond together!) and one glass....for my race.