Good grief, this whole race has felt like a comedy of errors, though one with a happy ending at least. First I got the date wrong and only realized my mistake 13 hours before the start time, necessitating a complete change of plans for the weekend (luckily it actually worked out better for us this way). Then I left my watch at home, and with no clock at the start that I could see I wasn't able to keep track of my mile splits until I was two miles in. I somehow managed to lose my beloved ear warmers during gear check, and it was COLD. I needed to pee right from the start but the course was woefully lacking in porta-potties and I didn't want to lose time standing in line, so I ended up running the whole thing wishing I could just go pee against a wall like guys do. The course was crowded the whole time with a number of bottlenecks, so I spent much of the race running on the very edge: on grass, on rocks, in ditches, and hopping back and forth over curbs. I lost time running to a fieldhouse only to find the restrooms were locked up for the season (and as a Chicago resident I knew better than to have tried, but I saw people coming back from it and they didn't say it was locked so I went, hoping). I barely saw the view or heard the music, so focused was I on getting through and around people and not twisting an ankle on the slopes/grass/rocks/curbs.
(I am so very grateful for all my trail running and balance exercises in yoga, busy strengthening all those little stabilizing muscles in my feet and ankles so that I could trust my footing in this insane course. Did I mention we spent a full mile on grass and rocks?)
Despite all the obstacles, I felt really good about how I was running (once I got past the first couple of miles of "it's really cold," "I hate all these people," and "we're running on highway, why am I even doing this"). First, my pace was really consistent, something I have struggled with in races, gradually accelerating over the first two miles to a 10 minute pace and then staying there for the next three miles. Then, once I got past the 5 mile mark, I let myself go faster, and was able to steadily accelerate again over the next couple of miles until I was really running at capacity, and then kept it there for the rest of the race. I was way more aggressive about passing then I've ever been (and have the elbow-shaped bruise on my breastbone today to testify to that) --- that was fun. Plus, there were a number of hills on the way back (the first half had been a gradual and consistent slope), and I love hills. I practice on them as much as I can around here, so yesterday I could take them steadily going up without losing much speed, and then really FLY on the way back down, trusting in my ankles and sense of balance and my training, loving the feeling of flight and also trying to make up time lost in bottlenecks and that failed toilet stop.
That last mile and change I just kept pushing myself, making myself chase people down and just. keep. going. I hit the 9 mile mark and realized I was pretty much at my limit but there were only 400 some meters left to go and I just had to keep going and then I hit the last 50 meters and pushed harder and crossed the finish line. And immediately felt like throwing up. Yes! A perfect race.
I didn't even know what my time was until this morning, I was just hoping to have broken a 10 minute pace overall. And I did! Final time --- 1:32:30, for a 9:56 pace, finishing 507 out of 1192 for my age group (women 35-39). To put that in perspective, last year I ran this race at a 10:42 pace, and earlier this year I ran a 10k at a 9:54 pace. I am moving on up.
Now to figure out what my goals are for next year's races and devise training plans for them. Yum, yum, yum.