It’s kind of a weird feeling when you go to a race all by yourself. You notice things, about yourself and others, you wouldn’t otherwise. You have no one to talk though your pre-race jitters with, no one to consult on last minute outfit changes (should you or shouldn’t you?) and no one to give that final fist bump and “push well” cheer to. It’s weird.
Such was the case when I decided to run the Stockade-A-Thon 15K in Schenectady, NY last Sunday. I have run this race three other times (I think?) with my SIL. She had the audacity to put running on her back burner this season, and I was left with the decision to race alone.
My first thought was “hell yes!” followed quickly by “wait, what?” I have raced alone before. I train mostly alone though out the year, so what was the big deal?
First off, we were traveling to NY. Second, I felt like I was putting the rest of my family out by having them obligated to wake-up, get all the kids ready (4 in total) and get out on the cold race course to watch their almost 40 year-old sister/wife/mother/daughter/aunt run yet another race. I think they’re kinda over it. At least I thought they were.
So, I decided to do it, mostly because I love this race. My husband, the night prior, asked with a look that was equal parts disgust and confusion “What do you love about this race?” So I told him:
The course (a historical route through the stockade, down by the river and though a park). The small but mighty field (2400 runners, USAT sanctioned) and the manageable 9.3 distance. Although he still looked confused, I think he was surprised I had an intelligent answer.
The morning of the race, I was in the kitchen, alone, eating a multigrain English muffin with natural peanut butter and a banana with a chaser of Robitussin. That’s right, I was sick and I was still going to race. I have issues.
Because no one was there to temper my type A anxiety, I arrived at the race with an hour and half until the start. I parked right in front of the YMCA packet pick-up, which took exactly seven minutes to pick up. In the remaining 83 minutes I:
– changed my outfit and shed a layer
– took a bunch of pictures
– parked my car in the lot
– used an indoor bathroom twice
– warmed-up for a good 10 minutes
It was great. Anytime I don’t have a small human calling “mommy” 57 hundred times a minute, is pure bliss.
The starting line was adjacent to a park and I spied a fellow Oiselle teammate. We hugged, talked and laughed like old friends, although we had just met.
When it was time to line-up, the men were separated by a divider, from the women. It was kind of cool to start with just the ladies but you should have seen how reluctant we all were to get right up to the start line! The men? They practically rushed it and, some of them looked like they may have been better off spectating the race…if you know what I mean. We ladies really need to #WomanUp on this one!
When the gun went off, I was trying not to think about my cold and I wanted to see if I could hang with a 6:30 pace. That would put me at a 1:00:00 finish and that has been my goal since I started doing this race. My best up until this year was 1:06:00. Yes, I know shaving 6 minutes off a race time is incredibly hard, but I thought I was up for the challenge. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t.
After mile 3, I realized I wouldn’t be able to remain conscious and keep hitting 6:30s so I toned it down, felt instantly better and tried to hold on to a 6:45 and a PR.
I didn’t know exactly where my family would be on the course, but there was some discussion about them being in the park, so the kids could stay occupied. I came zooming into the park at mile 6 and there may as well have been tumbleweeds there. No kids. No family. Keep pushing!
During the later miles, I started to pass all the women who look really fast and are wearing team singlets and underwear. Yes, I have the singlet but I have yet to achieve underwear elite status.
I know this race is super competitive so I was hoping to maybe, just maybe, come in third in my age group. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
In the final mile, I came flying down a huge hill toward the finish. I heard my Dad’s signature whistle, saw my brother with my nephew on his shoulders, and my heart swelled! They were clapping and yelling and my brother shouted “everyone else is up ahead!” as I whizzed by. Sure enough, I saw my kids next. They were mesmerized! No need for a park, they were completely enthralled with the athletes in front of them, and when they saw mom, it was over. Hands shot out for high-fives, my husband, stepmom and SIL were screaming and as I passed by I thought “they’re so not over it,” followed immediately by “I hope they never are!”
I crossed the finish in almost exactly 1:03:00 (6:46 pace). A PR by three minutes! If I were four months older, I would have come in second in the ‘masters’ division. Damn.
The overall female winner finished in 51:09 (5:30/pace). She’s 26. She set a new course record by 25 seconds. She is most definitely an underwear elite.
Although I was struggling through some of the race, and had to abandon my goal pace, I still really enjoyed the atmosphere, my family, and the huge and delicious brunch (complete with a celebratory mimosa) we all enjoyed afterward.
I may have gone to the race alone, but with my amazing family support, I’m really never alone.
Regardless of a race, who is in your support crew?
What have you done, when you’re sick, that you really shouldn’t have?
Do you race/train alone?