Hello Everyone. I'm letting my friend Kim take over the blog today. This is HER version of the Quick Chick race where I paced her. You can read my version here. Enjoy!
It’s almost unbelievable to me that I went from running my first 5K in March to racing my first 10K in October. I’m pretty sure that if someone had asked me at the beginning of this year when I started my C25K program if I would one day run races to race I would have looked at them like they were crazy. Um, no thank you. My standard go to answer is, “My goal is to just finish.”
I started training for my first half marathon over the summer. I struggled. A lot. For many, many weeks. And just when I thought I was getting over the hump I would struggle some more. Eventually with amazing support from my family and friends as well as this burning desire to accomplish my goals I was able to push through and hit some major milestones in this fairly new adventure of mine.
My half marathon training plan had me running a 10K as my last long run the weekend before my half. This isn’t just any 10K. It’s the Quick Chick 10K set up by Jenn and her fabulous crew at Mojo. In case the race name itself isn’t obvious enough, this race is for the chicks only. And do we ever have some awesome chicks in our community! It’s a challenging course (from my rookie running perspective). But it’s manageable, and at the finish line you will find an awesome celebration with live music, dancing, awards, beautiful women celebrating each other and mimosas. I mean who doesn’t want to run for a mimosa?!
I had been texting with my friend, Susan, a couple of weeks before the race and mentioned that I couldn’t wait to see her at the finish line holding my mimosa for me. A perk to having a friend with a much faster pace is that she can be at the finish line cheering you on. That’s when she told me she wasn’t going to run the race. She had too many family obligations that weekend. I was bummed, but I completely understand.
The week of the QC I decided to do my runs at Northpark (the location of the QC). I do a large majority of my training runs at Northpark. I pretty much know the loop like the back of my hand. I set out on a beautiful Tuesday morning to practice the entire 10K. I wanted to see what I was capable of in terms of timing, not just putting the miles in. I had a goal in mind. It was a rather aggressive goal for me as I’m not a fast runner. And the longer the run the slower I get. Around mile 4 I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal time for this practice run. It got into my head and the remainder of the run became a mental game. I let the mind game win when I shut down at mile 5. I didn’t complete the entire 10K that day. I was bummed. Really bummed. I kept thinking about how I have been running since January yet my pace doesn’t ever really get any faster. Sure I have good runs sometimes, and the pace is a bit better. But I don’t see a lot of consistency with that faster pace. Looking back now, I’m thinking that I was holding myself back from that faster pace. Every time I would run with a faster pace I would lose steam quicker, have trouble breathing (to the point that I had a couple of minor panic attacks) and I would eventually just settle for that comfortable pace that I know will get the miles in. I mean that’s really what it’s all about, right? Getting the miles in.
After my practice run on Tuesday I texted Susan. I had to vent. I knew that I needed to get my feelings out there to someone who would understand. I had no idea just how well she would understand. Her response was perfect. She knew exactly what I was going through that particular day. Susan lifted my spirits that day.
On Wednesday afternoon I received a text from Susan asking me if I am running the Quick Chick WITH someone. I was not running WITH anyone. So, she asked me if I wanted her to run with me. I responded by telling her I knew she had family obligations and that comes first. Over several more text messages she explained that she needed to get her last long run in before she races the half marathon the following week. We talked about how nervous it makes me to run WITH someone. I don’t want to be that runner who holds someone back. She assured me she wanted to be there to support me. Susan didn’t want to overdo it at the QC race, because she’s saving it for the PR she’s going to get at the half marathon. Settled! Susan is going to pace my first 10K race. I wasn’t just going to finish it. I had a pace goal of 10:30 per mile. This scared the crap out of me. I can hold that pace for about three miles and then I lose it. She assured me that she is the queen of pacing, and she would make sure I held onto it for the entire 6.2 miles. I told her she better be prepared to talk a lot. And I mentioned that I tend to swear. A lot. She said she expected one eff bomb. (Oh I knew she was going to be hearing those.)
I had another practice run before the race. I went to a flat area and ran as hard as I could for 3 miles. I managed to average a 10:12 pace. I was pretty sure that I was going to die. After my run, I texted Susan with my concern about keeping a 10:30 pace.
Her response was that there’s a huge difference between 10:12 & 10:30. Oh and she “ain’t skerred.” We were going to do it!
By Friday afternoon my nerves were really getting to me. I texted Susan with several questions about what time she planned to arrive before the race on Sunday, where she was going to park, etc. She responded with a simple, how about I pick you up? Perfect! One less thing for me to think about!
Susan and her amazing running buddy, Tracey, picked me up Sunday morning. We weren’t more than a couple minutes down the road, and Susan asked me if I was nervous. I said I was so nervous that I thought I might throw up. That’s when Tracey said she was feeling like she might throw up as well. I was shocked! Really?! Tracey is an amazing athlete and an even more amazing woman who along with Susan inspires me daily. How could she be nervous? She had this! So I asked her, and she was racing the Quick Chick. She had a goal to beat her time from last year’s QC. She was going to have to run super fast as it was an aggressive goal. Oddly enough it comforted me to know that someone who has run countless races over the years could also have the same nervous feelings. Susan was as calm as a cucumber. She was running to get her miles in, but also to make sure I met my pace goal. That would be a comfortable run for her.
Funny little story. When we arrived at the parking lot I asked if we were supposed to pin the bib on the front or the back of our shirt. Of course it was supposed to be on the front of my shirt, and I had pinned mine onto the back. Nice! I got that all squared away, and we set out to walk around for a bit before the race started. We chatted with several women and just soaked up the beautiful day. And I may have mentioned several times that I was nervous and just wanted to get this race started already.
Soon enough it was time. We settled into the crowd and off we went at 9:00. I don’t particularly care for being in the starting crowd. I feel a bit trapped by the swarm of runners. We started off a bit faster than we needed to. Susan kept telling me what our pace was and that I could slow down if I wanted to. I told her I just wanted to get into a more open space and then I would slow down. She completely understood. Once we settled into a more spacious part of the crowd we slowed to a decent pace. I felt really good throughout the first mile. This was a nice change as usually when I start off running my calves kill me for about the first two miles. I don’t know what it is, but they take a while to warm up. The excitement that day must have taken over.
As we started into mile two I was still feeling good. I knew what I was up for in terms of the small rolling hills since I run at North Park all the time. I believe we held our pace for most of mile two. I should have mentioned that I decided not to use my phone or track my mileage or time. I didn’t want to worry about it. I relied on Susan to tell me whether or not we were making good time. Susan did a lot of talking, which I really needed. Normally I listen to music and run in my comfort zone pace. Since I was running at a faster pace I was happy to have her chatting and just respond here and there in between my insanely loud breathing.
My friend, Beckey, ran near us for most of the race. We had a few laughs along the two to three mile stretch. Girl talk you could say. Well, except for my dropping an eff bomb. Not very lady like of me, but it just happens. Susan had said she expected at least one from me. Somehow I don’t think she was expecting it quite so early in the race. It was in more of a joking around context rather than I think I might die now from running so fast. I also don’t think she was expecting me to throw it out so frequently. Beckey and I got a kick out of that as she has run with me enough to know it tends to slip here and there. What can I say? So sorry, Susan. Thanks for looking past my potty mouth. J
As we were getting close to the three mile mark I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. I knew we had been keeping a good pace, but I didn’t know how I was going to be able to keep this up for another 3.2 miles. And the kicker coming up at the start of mile three is a hill. This hill always kicks my butt. It’s not a steep hill, but it feels like it will never end. Ever! I tend to let this hill get into my head. I told Susan about my troubles with this hill, and she talked me through it. She had banked some time for us to take it a bit slower and just get through it. Eventually we made it to the top, and not a moment too soon. It was a beautiful day, but this stretch has no shade and I was getting hot & thirsty. I kept talking about how I just wanted some water. Where did she think the next water station was? Susan did a fantastic job of keeping me going. She kept telling me to think about how good I was going to feel once I finished, and to think about my kids. She told me a really good story about how someone once asked her how many goals she had set that she didn’t meet. It turns out her track record is pretty darn good and there is something to be said for that. I appreciated her sharing this with me as it really does help mentally when you feel as if you are struggling.
Finally! We could see a water station. Yay! Water!! I told her I wanted to stop this time and drink my water. No problem, but it needed to be quick. The water station wasn’t too far from the four mile mark. We had a bit of a flat section to run right after the station before a couple more rolling hills. I was losing steam. Big time. And I was struggling mentally. I knew I finish. I just didn’t think that I could finish with the overall 10:30 pace anymore. I thought I might die. Susan knew what was going on with me. I don’t think I was talking all that much, but I’m sure my fear and struggling was written all over my face. She told me to remember that pushing myself through these difficult races will help me reach new fitness levels. It’s kind of hard to believe that when you are in the thick of a race, but I knew deep down she was right. I’m thankful she shared this with me while I was racing.
More pep talks from Susan and here come those darn rolling hills. I know these hills very well. Usually I take these hills on, because I know after the hill you can pretty much use your downhill momentum for complete the five mile loop. There’s an exception to today’s run. Actually a couple of exceptions. We aren’t stopping at the five mile mark AND the very last mile has an enormous hill. Oy! I was moving so slow. It felt like I was barley moving. Susan was running in front of me a bit to keep the pace moving along. I was so relieved when we got to the top. I definitely picked up the pace on the way down.
Then we started getting closer to the enormous hill. I think at this point my mental game wanted to make me throw in the pace goal towel, but Susan wasn’t about to let that happen. She was talking a lot and really keeping me going no matter how bad I felt. And I was complaining a lot. I must have sounded like a huge whiner! I eventually told her that I had to walk for thirty seconds. She told me ok and she started timing it. I remember thinking I was actually just going to walk for what I thought might be thirty seconds. I didn’t know she was actually going to watch the clock! She’s so bossy! I think it was near this part of the race that I told her I hated her. She told me she wasn’t really sure what to do with that. I’m thinking she knew I didn’t really mean it.
Before you know it thirty seconds are over (in what felt like ten seconds). It was time to run again. We look ahead and there’s Tracey! She had finished the race and was at the base of the enormous hill to cheer us on. She snapped a couple of photos and away we went. It wasn’t too far up the hill, and I lost it. My breathing was out of control. I didn’t think I could run up the hill, and I started walking again. I was walking as fast as I could, but I was also really mentally struggling. Susan knew it. She kept telling me I was going to take on this hill. I had to do it. It didn’t matter if I ran, walked, crawled or whatever but I was going to do it! I didn’t want to give up, but also lost the mental capacity to concentrate on racing at this point. I was walking, and she was coaching me. She pointed out a sign that was to be my starting point for running again. I remember saying, “That sign?” I was thinking about a few more signs up the road. Tee-hee. No way! It was time to get my butt in gear again. So at the sign I had to start running again.
I was never so happy when we reached the top and could pick up the pace on the downhill slope. I did it! I climbed that enormous hill. It wasn’t pretty from a physical running perspective nor was it from a mental perspective. But it was over. The rest of the race was flat. I was so tired. Susan had asked me if my legs were tired, but it wasn’t that. I was just tired from all of the insane breathing. I definitely need to learn to get my breathing under control. (She had been helping me with that as we went up the hill.)
So there we were. The very last part of the race! I made it this far. Susan told me that if I wanted to make my pace goal I had to give it all I had left. I really needed to kick it in and run fast! She told me not to give up. I remember getting snippy and telling her that I wasn’t trying to give up. How rude of me! She was so patient and calm throughout this entire race. How could I get snippy? Sorry, Susan! She knew I wasn’t giving up. And she wasn’t giving up on me. I just wanted the race to be over. Done! So I gave it all I had and ran as fast as I could. I could hear the cow bells, the loud music and lots of cheering. I could see the finish line. It was time to cross that line! I heard lots of cheering for everyone. I couldn’t look at anyone though. I just wanted to hear that beep as I finished the race. Not a moment too soon we were there! As soon as we crossed that line Susan showed me her Garmin. It had a pace of exactly 10:30. I couldn’t believe it! We did it! I met my pace goal for my first race. I gave Susan a sweaty post race hug and told her I didn’t really hate her. I think she knew that already.
After the race was over, I just walked around and soaked everything in. As I came back from the bathroom I told the ladies that I was on a serious high for reaching my goal. Tracey told me to ride that high all day long! I took her advice. I learned that for me experiencing a runner’s high might not just be the high one refers to while they are running, but also that feeling of accomplishment when it’s all over. I also loved seeing so many beautiful and familiar faces. So many women running that day have touched my life at different times over the years. I loved seeing everyone being so happy and celebrating each other.
I enjoyed sipping on my mimosa while some very amazing women and girls were recognized with awards. It was so much fun celebrating their accomplishments with them, and the atmosphere was so uplifting.
Shortly after the celebrations, Susan, Tracey and I left to head home. I will never forget racing my first 10K. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful women. I am blessed to have a friend willing to pace me, to coach me and to believe in me. I think Susan believed in me more than I believed in myself that day. She taught me so much that day. Susan, from the bottom of my heart I thank you! You are such a wonderful friend. You are teaching me to believe in myself, and I think that’s one of the best gifts a friend can give.
Shortly after I was home Susan texted me with the official time from the race. My overall pace was 10:29! Woot-woot! What an amazing accomplishment!
The back of the Quick Chick shirts say, “She believed she could so she did.” I love it! I wore my shirt (after the race) proudly that day.
Here’s an exciting afterthought. I ran a 6.1 relay in May at the Pittsburgh Marathon. My pace was 10:53 and my leg of the race was fairly flat. I was pretty pumped to see how much my pace has increased over the past five months!