D.N.F. Did not finish.
In the end, it was just too hot for me. 89 degrees, long stretches without any shade, no breeze.
I ran the first half feeling okay. I kept myself pulled back the first mile, but then panicked a bit when I saw just how slowly I'd run it. So I picked up the pace and ran my next two miles progressively faster, feeling okay, and steady, slowing a bit when there was some shade to enjoy it, then running a bit quicker through the hot bits to get through them.
In retrospect, this was the exact wrong strategy, because then we ran out of shade and there were only hot bits left. But I'd already gotten myself hot trying to make up for lost time.
I have trouble with overheating, and once I got into that sun I realized I was uncomfortably close to my limits. I ended up completing the course - first giving up trying to best my previous time, then on finishing the second half faster than the first, and then I gave up on running altogether. I took off my timing chip and walked the rest of the way in, passing, along the way, the ambulance picking up those who didn't stop quite soon enough.
Overheating is such a frustrating experience. My legs felt fine, my breathing was fine, but my head - oh, she was not quite right. I've had enough experience with heat and with migraines to know that when my head is "not quite right" I need to immediately pull back, re-group, and get outside assistance if need be. Especially since that feeling usually comes with its playmates: bravado and stupidity.
So, I finished. I gathered up my gear bag. I ate my salty snacks and drank my Gatorade. I started the long walk back to the train stop. At my transfer station I had a long wait: long enough to feel completely fit again, long enough to feel completely dissatisfied with my morning's experience, long enough to doubt my decision and wonder why I left my darling child on a Sunday morning and why I bothered to race at all.
And then I got home, to my nice, shady, green neighborhood, and I decided I wanted to go for another run.
I went out for three miles, assuring The Dude that I would be careful (sort of). A few blocks in I realized what I really wanted to do was take it easy for the first half, pick up my pace for the second half, and finish with a strong kick for the last 400 meters. That I just hadn't gotten enough oomph in my day and I was going to get it now.
And so I did. And it was great. And once I finished and was walking around cooling down I realized this was exactly what I had visualized for myself as I trained for the race, for weeks now, and what I hadn't gotten from the race itself. And also that it was this feeling (starting steady, picking it up, picking it up, picking it up and then kicking. it. in.) and not the time, that I was really looking for in my race experience.
So, going forward, that's how I want to train and race. By feel more than by the clock. It makes sense - I'm never going to be fast - and weather conditions (and how much I've been sleeping) are always going to be out of my control. And that's okay. I loved running when I was super slow and getting faster has opened up some lovely new possibilities for me, but if I want to become like that "running granny" I wrote about last week then I've got to love the experience of it and not the results.
I got so excited by my new insights that I signed up for more races, just for fun. Next up, on June 6 - a 10K at the zoo with Buddy and some friends, untimed. And then July 18 another 10K at my favorite race location, Montrose Harbor, for pre-marathon practice in "racing by feel" - and dealing with the heat.
The day - redeemed. The excitement - back. The times - well, we'll see.