To celebrate both Independence Day and my first birthday as a true runnerd, I ran the Cazenovia 4th of July 10-mile course around the lake.
Since my dad signed up to run the 5-K that started at 8 a.m., we headed to the school around 7:20 a.m. to pick up our t-shirts and race bibs.
Getting this “super odd” number put my mind at ease!
Aren’t these greyhounds the cutest?
They make Zelda look like a pocket-friend. Which, as the runt of her litter, she kind of is.
One of my favorite parts about local (and holiday) races is running into (pardon the pun!) people I know: I saw Alex, one of my Seneca7 teammates, two of my former basketball coaches, a bunch of teachers and family friends, and MB, who was running the 10-miler, too. I jokingly asked her if she’d pace me, but let’s be real—there’s no way I can sustain 7:00 splits for 10 miles!
The 5-K started at 8 a.m. Looking good, dad!
This is when my stress level started to rise. We drove to the high school, so I held the car key while my dad ran; we planned to hand it off when he finished the 5-K. Even though I saw my dad nearing the finish line, I couldn’t find him anywhere once he was done.
It was getting dangerously close to 8:45 a.m., so I ran back to the start line with the key and hoped he would find me. I made it back with two minutes to spare, and my dad grabbed the key shortly after. Talk about cutting it close! This stress affected my mental game big time. Instead of stretching out and reviewing my race plan, I nervously looked around for my dad. I did manage to stretch my calves for 20 seconds or so. I hoped it would be enough.
For the first two miles, I ran “naked”—sans music—and I felt really good. My splits were 8:30 and 8:20, respectively, which were in my goal-pace ballpark and totally sustainable. However, after I hit mile two, my calves immediately cramped up. I was expecting and mentally preparing for this to happen, but I was anticipating it much further into the race—like maybe mile five or six. As soon as they tightened up, I slowed down and tried to talk myself through it: I am acknowledging this pain, and I am dismissing it. I can run through it. Mile three passed, and it didn’t relent; in fact, it only intensified. Taking up iPod out of my running belt and popping in my ear buds, I hoped the music would help downplay the pain. Might as well let Kanye do the swearing for me, right? Unfortunately, my calves remained tight during mile four and progressively got worse as mile five approached. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I slowed down even more, grabbed water at every available station, and hoped the cramping would subside.
Speaking of water stations, the volunteers were awesome! It was great to see so many people out on a holiday morning cheering, handing out water, and spraying the runners with hoses. At mile five, volunteers handed out ice, which was amazing—I grabbed a handful, stuffed it in my sports bra, and immediately started to cool down.
As miles five and six passed, and the cramping was still an issue, and I started to channel my inner yogi: Let it be easy. In hindsight, this is not an ideal mantra for a race, but at that point, my mental toughness was completely shot, and I was simply trying to cross the finish line without walking. Needing an extra burst of energy, I slammed a peanut butter energy gel at mile 6.5 or so, which was about 56 minutes into the race. (Energy gels should be taken for every hour of exercise, and I figured four minutes wasn’t a big difference in the grand scheme of thing.)
The final two miles followed Route 92 into town. Although flat, this straightaway sat directly under the sun and boasted little shade. During my training runs, I knew this stretch would be tough, but running this path at 7 a.m. does not equate to running at 10 a.m. Around mile 7.5, my calves finally started to loosen up. It was about time! I increased my turnover, picked up the pace, and I finished the race strong—my official time was 1:32:54 (9:18 splits), which was good enough for a fifth-place finish in my age group.
Although I’m OK with my finishing time, the race itself was very unsettling. I was able to find and settle into my goal pace relatively easily—I’m a horrible pacer—but it was frustrating having to change my race plan because of my calves. It’s normal for them to give me trouble during long runs—I know I “hit the wall” around mile seven, so I mentally prepare for it—but I’ve never experienced tightness like I did yesterday. Usually, it lasts one or two miles, so I can run through it, but yesterday’s extended cramps surprised me. I hydrated appropriately for the race, but maybe the heat and humidity played a role.
Aside from my calf issues, I feel unsettled from a cardiovascular standpoint. Because I listened to my body and slowed my pace so much—approximately one minute slower than my goal pace—I didn’t feel tired at any point during the race. Thirsty, yes; exhausted, no. In fact, if I had to run three more miles—which I will on Aug. 9—I definitely could’ve done so without a problem. This is most likely the result of running slower than I’m accustomed to, but it’s frustrating to know that I have run the course faster.
After all, this was my first “long” race, and I have nowhere to go expect up. (And by “up,” I mean my times will go down!) This was a crazy tough race mentally, so I now have this experience to drawn on during future runs. Looking forward, I know I will need to adequately stretch and strengthen my calves so this level of cramping will not be an issue during my half-marathon.
What was your first “long” race like? Did it go according plan? What do you do when you have to change your race plan mid-race?