Saturday, April 9, 2016

Monument Avenue 10k - Well That Sucked

I love the Monument Avenue 10k. Of all of the races I've done, it is my absolute favorite. Richmond Marathon is a really really close second place, but Monument Avenue wins because it is where this whole journey started for me and because it is where the journey starts for so many people in the metro-Richmond area. My friend and fellow fantastic runner/writer Chris once called the Monument Avenue 10k a "gateway race" and he is exactly right.

Monument Avenue 10k is also the only race that I have a streak going on too; I haven't missed one since my first in 2010, making this my 7th in a row. I am very determined to keep this streak going.

Not only that, but after running the hell out of the Marine Corps 17.75k last Saturday and then having another speedy negative split 4 miler with Kit on Monday, I was thinking that maybe I could PR my 10k. 

So imagine my irritation when, on Tuesday night, I started feeling ill. For the third time in the space of five months, I've got myself a pretty awful cold. That night at yoga, I arrived early and actually fell asleep on my mat waiting for class to start. In denial as usual, I laid out my running clothes and was looking forward to running through Bryan Park to see the spring azaleas the next morning but woke up feeling even worse.

I slept late and took the morning off, but went in to work that afternoon. I stubbornly went to work all day on Thursday too, and picked my bib for the 10k that afternoon. On Friday I went to my gait analysis appointment with BFF Steve, which required me to run on the dreadmill for 10 minutes. I felt like I was going to die.

That evening, Kit and I met for a "shake out" run. The problem with Kit and I going on a shake out run is that we are VERY BAD AT SHAKE OUT RUNS and we ended up doing 4 miles at a sub-8:00 pace.

Besides being slightly crazy, all runners are also more than slightly boneheaded. This morning I woke up thinking that I still might PR this race. That feeling lasted until about three blocks into the race, when it became all too obvious to me that I was not going to be able to run a 7:00 pace for 6.2 miles. I stayed in step with Kit for Mile 1 and then told him that it wasn't my day and that he should just go ahead and go for it.

The next 5.2 miles sucked. The Monument Avenue 10k is such a spirited race with so many bands, cheering squads, spectators, and runners that it should have been easy to just slow down and enjoy myself. But I couldn't enjoy myself at all. I felt horrific. The thoughts going through my mind were:
  • "Oh my God, am I finished yet?"
  • "You ran a BQ marathon 3 weeks ago... what is wrong you, pansy?"
  • "This is the longest 10k of my life."
  • "I kind of just want to stop at the med tent and quit. I've heard you get to ride a golf cart back to the start. I love golf carts." 
  • "There are a lot of people passing me and I don't even care."
  • "Am I finished yet???"

GB snapped this photo of me looking grim on the course, around mile 4ish.

 My lap times tell the tale of a steady crash.

Mile 1 - 7:00
Mile 2 - 7:25
Mile 3 - 7:44
Mile 4 - 7:48
Mile 5 - 8:12
Mile 6 - 8:05

3 and 6 aren't accurate; during 3 I saw my buddy Lauren and Coach Scott in the median cheering and, knowing that I wasn't PRing, I stopped to say hi and chat for at least 30 seconds. Same during mile 6, when I was looking for any excuse to stop for spell, I saw my friend Mark taking photos and stopped to chat with him. Out of habit, I cut off my watch each of those times but of course the race clock kept ticking on. My Garmin time was 48:04, but clock time was 49:07.

After I crossed the line, I found Kit and then went directly to the med tent. (Kit killed it after ditching me, running a 42:25 and missing a PR by seconds.) Thanks to my cold and the fierce wind, I had been not quite able to catch my breath along the course and had felt some tightness in my chest. I figured I was ok, but I always try to ere on the side of caution and wanted a medical professional to take a quick listen to the old ticker to make sure I was ok.


I'm super bummed about today; not because I didn't PR, but because I really didn't enjoy any of the time that I spent running. I've run this race to PR it and I've run it "casually." Either way, I always have an overall good time. Until today, I thought it was impossible to not enjoy the Monument Avenue 10k. So that sucks.

Thankfully, it's a rare day indeed when I completely hate every second of a run. And even though it sucked, I'm thankful I was able to continue my streak and for the lessons that this experience taught me: that it's pretty foolish to expect to PR three weeks after a BQ marathon and while in the midst of an illness. I've asked a hell of a lot of my body over the past month and it decided today that it would remind me that despite my desperate attempts to convince myself otherwise, I am not super human. I am the "Delicate Beast," as Kit calls me, and the Delicate Beast needs some rest.

(... at least for the next two weeks because maybe I'll try to redeem myself and PR at the Carytown 10k on the 24th...)

Despite my crappy race, I have smiled much and been able to revel in the happiness of so many others who had a fantastic race this morning. I got to shepherd my coworker Laura through her first Monument Avenue 10k experience (you guys know my soft spot for first timers). I saw local visually impaired runner Antoine Craig on the course with his guide and got to tell him he was doing great. He was so sweet and thanked me, then told me I was doing great too - before promptly taking off and beating me to the finish of course. He is so inspiring to me and it really lifted my spirits to see him. So many first timers have been proudly posting on our RVA Runners Facebook page, saying they're already signed up for their next race. My newsfeed has been filled with smiling faces of friends who ran and friends who cheered others on. Marcey crushed her goal time - on her birthday!

That's the thing about the Monument Avenue 10k - it is an event that has become so much more than a road race for this community. It is a joyful day that brings together people of all kinds, all ages, and all abilities. I'm so grateful that we have it. 

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