My goal for the Surf-n-Santa 10-Miler on Saturday was to have fun and run strong, hoping that such a race would purge from my emotional system the darkness and chaos of the Philly Half in November. I toed the start line no better trained than I was for Philly (I assumed that 13.1-miler would count as my last long run of the training cycle; I assumed wrong), but still, this was a drastically different race.
I promised myself I’d be disciplined enough to run slow, easy, 10-minute miles until the last 5K of the race to avoid a physical blowout, and I adopted a race plan borrowed from, of all places, a handout about surviving the holidays I received from hospice (check out my race-plan post from last week.)
Here’s how it worked out for me:
I ran perfect 10-minute miles from the start until about the four-mile marker, feeling chill and happy and strong. Then, I spotted two of my running buddies, and ran along with them for a bit. They seemed to be running 9- or 9:30-minute-mile paces—would that be so bad, I wondered? I remembered my No. 1 goal—know your limits, and pace yourself accordingly—and repeated it to myself as I let them run on ahead of me, explaining that I was trying hard to stick to 10-minute miles.
For the next couple miles, every time I looked at my Garmin, it said, stubbornly, that I was running 9:30-minute-mile pace. After the first few times, I heard my dad’s voice: “SLOW down.” He’d usually say this after watching me bump into the corner of a table or stub my toe on a curb while in a rush, infuriating me even as I knew he was right.
Then, another memory of my dad surfaced. We are sitting in the basement, he with his guitar, me with a young-adult book about a camping trip gone wrong. It’s a rainy Saturday, and my mom is out running errands. The basement feels dim and cozy, and the guitar chords my dad plays hang softly in the air. I look up from my book and watch him, smiling, as I recognize the opening chords of one of his favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs, 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy):
Slow down, you move too fast.
You’ve got to make the morning last
I hang back, letting a few runners pass me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.
Once that mental picture occupied my mind, the rest of the race was a piece of cake, mentally. “Don’t argue with reality,” I told myself at the six-mile mark, when I started feeling twangs of pain in unfamiliar spots. My left glute? My right calf? What? Whatever. This is my current reality. Slow down a bit more.
“I will do what I know is best for me, not what others have told me to do, or what I think others want me to do,” I whispered out loud to myself as I started wondering what my running buddies would think of my slow time (as if they’d judge, or care!). The race that was best for me involved high-fiving a spectator in a gorilla suit; stopping to hug and high-five Steve every time I saw him on the course (except for the last time, when I merely grunted at him and wheezed: “I hurt.”); walking through water stops; and making sure every course photographer caught me smiling and giving a thumbs-up. It had nothing to do with time, but everything to do with love, and strength, and happiness, and all sorts of other schmoopy things you can’t put a number on.
I’m not going to lie: Schmoopy or not, the last three miles really hurt. I’m not going to dissect my training plan and remind myself of all the runs I missed while I was busy doing pre-ski strength, agility and plyo workouts, but am instead going to accept that while it wasn’t my prettiest race, it was one of my happiest. Plus, no matter how much I hurt as I crossed the finish line (I may have actually been limping a little bit at that point), I managed to smile as I did so.
5 responses to “Surf-N-Santa 10-Miler: Mission accomplished”
Amy, I love those goals and I love the smile.
Yay!!! I loved reading this race report. You had a great attitude going into it and kept it throughout. You ran smart and enjoyed the experience. Awesome!
Great post Amy. I love how you describe your feelings and challenges throughout your races. Very inspirational to someone like myself who has been injured most of the year.
high five, friend. LOVE reading reports like this. THIS is why we run.
Hurrah! You do look sooo happy. Those really are the best races. Yes, there are times we need to feel like we killed it, but those are few and far between. Way to go, Amy!