Sunday, April 14, 2013

Race Report: Monument Avenue 10k

It's truly a miracle that I survived high school. Not only was I the biggest band geek you ever saw and the Valedictorian, I was a massive Star Wars nerd to boot.

Now I'm all those, plus a run nerd. Good lord, it's a wonder I don't get beat up now!

I'm telling you this because I want to start this post with one of my favorite lessons from Star Wars:

Image Source
Forgive the pun, but today the force was definitely with Greg and I as we set out upon our mission to break 49:00 at the Monument Avenue 10k. Here's how it went down, strategy by strategy.

Strategy 1: Choose a very visible race day outfit to maximize ability to stick together in a crowd.

Hello neon pink.
Race Day Outfit: Head to Toe
Headband: BIC Bands Big Bling Sparkle Silver
Tank: An old Adidas Run Tank
Sports Bra: C9 by Champion Molded Cup Racer Bra in Neon Yellow
(Honestly I shelled out the $60 for the stripe)
Calf Sleeves: Pro Compression Marathon Calf Sleeve in Pink/Black
Shoes: Brooks PureCadence 1

Greg went with orange.

This strategy worked beautifully - we never really got separated, but if either of us was a few steps ahead of the other, it was easy to quickly glance over a shoulder and spot the other person without a hassle.

Strategy 2: Proper pre-race precautions.

Step one: We were both very good and did not run on Thursday or Friday. I stretched whenever I thought about it and took the dog for a walk on Thursday night. 

Step two: On Friday, my pre-race dinner was pasta-based and I drank what seemed like tons of water. Greg tells me he ate an Italian sub... not what I would be able to handle but hey, whatever works.

Step three: Get the Big Man on our side. We each arrived at the race site with ample time to drop off bags, stop at the port-o-potties, etc. In fact, we are both so chronically early that we actually made it to Monroe Park in time to go to Sacred Heart Cathedral for the short "Blessing of the Runners" service held at 7:30 am. I figured we needed all the help we could get, so asked Greg if he wanted to go and he was on board.

I had never actually arrived with enough time to partake in this before and I have to say it was a nice yet surreal experience: here were all of us runners decked out in our race gear, sitting in one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in all of Richmond, singing hymns and listening to a homily about running. 

Even if you aren't particularly religious or Catholic, it is a nice experience and I'm glad we did it.

Strategy 3: Start as far to the front of our corral as possible.

We made our way to the corral area at 8:00 am; a full 30 minutes before the start of the race. As a result, we were the front of the corral, literally holding up the rope that divided Corral C from BB.

Greg demonstrates his holding-the-line skillz.
This really helped us. I have never been at the front of the corral before and it was a big rush to see nothing but pavement ahead of us as the race announcer counted down "3...2...1...GO!" Because they actually stop and give some time in between the start of each corral, we were not overcrowded at all and had nothing but empty Broad Street ahead of us, with the folks from corral BB already yards away. 

The traffic that we had both been pretty worried about simply didn't exist!

Strategy 4: Choose a designated pacer/leader. 

Greg was our official leader, but we really didn't end up having to run one behind the other very often. We spent most of our time side by side with each of us keeping an eye on the Garmin. Strangely, I ended up being more of the pace-keeper, probably because just into Mile 1 I realized that we were running way too fast and that if we kept it up, we wouldn't last. So, I kept an eye to the Garmin to make sure we were on target but not killing ourselves.

However, at the end, I have to give all credit to Greg who literally grabbed my hand and pulled me forward during the last bit. It was the boost I needed to finish strong.

I think we make a pretty awesome team.

Strategy 5: No Facebooking, picture taking, bathroom breaks, or water stops. 

Phones were securely zipped into our running belts after I took the holding the line photos in the corrals. 

There were no bathroom breaks, but it got warm pretty fast and we did end up taking water at 2 water stops (I believe at miles 2 and 4). Because we were not in heavy crowds, I don't believe that it slowed us down very much at all and when you need to drink, you need to drink. 

Strategy 6: Have fun, like we always do. 

I was so excited about meeting this challenge that I basically jumped out of bed when my alarm went off at 5:45 am. On the way to the race, I pumped up my Run playlist and had a dance party in my car as I made my way to Richmond. By the time I met Greg at Monroe Park, I was literally skipping and hopping with excitement. 

I was HYPED.

The service at Sacred Heart calmed me down a bit, but by the time we were at the head of our corral, I was all energy, literally bouncing in place. 

But as soon as we took off, this race felt different. Greg and I are usually very chatty during our runs, but our conversation was kept to a minimum as we both concentrated on the matter at hand. Actually racing the Monument Avenue 10k was such a strange and new experience for me... usually I can tell you about the funny spectators, the music the bands are playing along the way, the cheer stations, the costumes I saw. This time, none of that sunk in. 

I'm not saying I didn't have fun. I definitely had a great time. I hooted and hollered for the elites as they passed us on the other side of the street. I cheered back to my favorite bands and cheer squads and waved for the cameras. I smiled at signs, grabbed a free high-5 or two, yelled my thanks to volunteers, and urged on a young boy who stopped to walk just ahead of me during mile 4. 

But my main focus was my run. Continuing to put one foot in front of the other. Watching the Garmin to be sure that we were on pace. 

At the 5k turnaround, we were 24:05. I said to Greg, "I think we have this, man."

At Mile 5, it truly dawned on me that all we had to do was run for 8 more minutes and we were going to completely blow our goal out of the water. I think I was in shock. I said, "Greg... holy crap... we are going to do this."

As we crossed the Mile 6 marker, I felt like I was losing steam. I wanted to finish strong, but wasn't sure if it was in me. I knew we were going to make the 49:00 and that was enough. Then I saw the finish line and the realization of what we were about to accomplish really came to me. Greg pulled ahead and I said, "Don't leave me, don't leave me!" and pushed my tired legs to just keep going... just a little bit more.

About 100 yards in front of the finish, I was one or two lengths behind Greg. That's when he grabbed my hand and raised it above me. Back at mile 5, we had planned our finish line pose. He was employing it early - and it gave me that extra jolt I needed.

Once we finished and saw our results, I can tell you that this race quickly earned the title of "most fun ever."

Strategy realized: End result

So how did it turn out? 

Friends, not only did we make our goal... we exceeded it.

A few minutes after we had made our way through the chute and parked ourselves in the grass for much-needed stretching and consumption of water, our text alert with times from our tags came in.

Somehow, both of us finished in exactly 47:49.

Here are the splits:

This gives us a 47:48, but official results gave us each the 47:49.

Do you see that average pace? A full minute less  that my average pace at this race last year. 

I still can't quite believe we did it. I have to admit that this morning when I got up, I was excited about the race but in the back of my mind, I was preparing myself not to break 49:00, but to just get a PR. Some part of me didn't really think that we'd be able to pull this off. 

Even now, hours and hours later, it still feels like some kind of surreal dream. 

I can't say that I've ever had a "perfect" race day before. I have a feeling it doesn't happen very often to very many people. For me, it's either raining, or too cold, or I get to the race a little later than I wanted to and feel rushed and nervous, or I lose my running buddy, or it is windy, or my [insert body part here] starts to hurt - you get the picture. 

But today was perfect. I basically waltzed into a parking spot exactly where I wanted to be and had an hour and half before go time. That hour and a half was spent in comfort, as the weather was (for once) absolutely perfect. There was plenty of time to drop off my bag and make a trip to the port-o-pottie just because, not really because I needed  to go. We were in our corral and happily hanging out up front with just the perfect amount of time to stretch and then get pumped up. During the race, nothing on me really hurt. I didn't have any wardrobe malfunctions (until I lost my bib in the chute afterwards which we somehow miraculously recovered almost 30 minutes and thousands of people later after I realized it was missing), I didn't get elbowed or stepped on.

It was just perfection.

Afterwards, we walked to Lift to obtain the iced coffee and bagel with cream cheese that I had been dangling in front of myself as a reward since the first step of Mile 1. 

It was heavenly.

My runner's high lasted well into the afternoon, until about 3 pm when I finally crashed on the couch.


As I've said before, I'm not a big fan of clichés. But darn it, running just keeps making them all come true. This time, it was "Dream it, do it." 

I think so many of us will never know what we can truly accomplish because we are too afraid of potential failure. Or because we have become jaded. I know that I often fall into the latter category. A lot of us just don't end up where we thought we would in life, even if we did all the things we thought would get us there. 

Today, as I had a second private dance party in my car on the way home, I realized that maybe the reason I love running so much is because I have been able to set ambitious goals for myself and then see them realized where other life dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Have I been scared along the way? More times than I can count.

Have I failed? Abso-freakin'-lutely. 

Have I wanted to quit? Hell yes. After the Army 10 Miler, I swore I would never run that far again. Ever.

But this sport has taught me so much about what I really can do if I can just convince a little part of myself to believe that I can. That I can still make things happen if I really want to.

It's crazy, really. Something that I used to detest with every fiber of my being has now give me my ambition back and become part of who I am.

Mind. Blown.


  1. Congrats you two awesome running rockstars. I was on the lookout for you guys but missed you speed demons. What's next on your running agenda? I'm doing Zooma Annapolis ... against my better judgement.

  2. Holy Cow! How amazing. You are the woman with the plan and the goods to put that plan into action. Congrats!

  3. Congrats on the PR and the even faster goal achievement. I loved the "conclusion" of this post. It is so much of why I run and what I am still finding out about myself as I log those miles. Great read.

  4. Love that you made the Sportsbackers email. Go K and G!

    1. Uhh... whaaaat???? Am I famous and didn't even know it??