Friday, September 30, 2011

Over The Narrows 10 Miler

Over The Narrows 10 Miler
September 3, 2011

Last year was the inaugural running of this event and I knew it would be on my list of races to run again.  It's close to home and on a weekend that normally is guaranteed to be game-free for my daughters' sports. 

My goal was to race it and attempt to run a 7:15 average, the pace needed for a 3:10 marathon.  Not that I thought I could run a 3:10 at the the time but it was my goal nonetheless.  The course starts at Uptown Gig Harbor along Point Fosdick Drive and finds its way across the Narrows Bridge before returning to the start.  The first mile is a gradual downhill and I wanted to go out faster than 7:15 to make up for the elevation gain over the bridge and in the last mile.  

I arrived at the start in plenty of time to warm up with a slow mile around the parking lot.  Lots of running friends helped the time pass quickly and soon we lined up to start the race.  I'd been getting so nervous before races lately and was feeling nauseous again.  This was a new race day "symptom" for me.  You know how when you're getting sick, you start to feel tired, have a scratchy throat, etc.?  I always know I have a race because I have symptoms:  restlessness, poor night's sleep, predisposition towards clumsiness, stomach "issues".  So let's add nausea!  

Finally we took off and I knew within moments the female race was on between two other women.  I kept my goal wrapped securely in my mind and pushed onward.  If I was having a perfect day, I would aim for a 1:10 finish.  The possibility was there but it would require perfection from my body and mind.  

We headed out along Pt. Fosdick and I had a 6:41 first mile.   We made our way to the bridge, having to climb one "big" hill.  The last aid station before the bridge gifted me with my friends, Lori and Bill, and I'm sure there were more friends but I get a little bit if tunnel vision when racing.  Here we go to the bridge!
***Now I'm wondering if I am thinking of the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon where I saw Bill and Lori!  Doh!!***

The thing about this bridge is it is a gradual uphill to the center, gradual downhill to the end.  And then we headed uphill to the end of the offramp after the bridge before turn around to the start.  The wind can be ferocious on the bridge but today, it held off and we made our way without fighting the invisible element.  I was feeling strong but not at the top of my game.  Once again the slight elevation gain sucked the life out of my legs and I had to pull myself out of the whining zone.  Running back toward the start gave me a boost of energy as I saw friends cheering me on and I tried to encourage others.  Honestly when I'm racing, I've found it takes too much energy to do more than give just a little raise of my hand.  I see you and I love you cheering for me!!  It helps!  I'm just focused on keeping my cadence and not letting my breathing go out of control...unless it's the last mile or two and then it's do or die time.  

I've run the bridge many times and I knew it was just ahead.  The.  Concrete.  Devil.  It's so deceiving and you don't know what is in store until you are upon the uphill coming off the bridge.  I gathered my courage, gave a little prayer for strength and oxygen and tackled the short section that can make or break a runner.  The top of the hill couldn't come fast enough and the term "sucking eggs" seemed appropriate at the time.  7:51 at mile 7.

As I rounded a corner, I saw a female runner who was currently in third place.  This seems to be my predicaments lately.  I'm close to the front, sort of, and close to another female runner, sort of.  We had about 3 miles to go and she seemed to be running my pace.  Which means, obviously, either she had to slow down, I had to speed up, or both.  Once I spit out the proverbial eggs and could breathe without my lungs hurting, I set my sights on her and focused on a quick cadence.  7:19 and 7:15 for miles 8 and 9.  I wanted to hit a 7 flat but it is what it is.  I was making progress and by mile 9, she was in front of me by 10 feet.  Scott Gaines passed me around this mark.  She heard him approaching and I saw her speed up for about 30 seconds before she realized it was a man.  Thank you, Scott!  I pushed onward and soon could hear her breathing was labored.  With less than a mile to go, I decided I could breathe later and took a chance by passing her.  This has crushed me in past races but it also had proven successful.  After seeing how she fell apart when Scott passed her, I KNEW I could stay in front of her.  

Go go go!!!  I remembered a quote:  Never take the lead unless you really want it, and if you take it DO SOMETHING WITH IT.  (Tom Courtney, Olympic Champion).  I wanted it!

The last mile is the same as the first mile but in reverse.  A gradual uphill and my mile split was 7:28, fast enough to stay in 3rd place.  I rounded the corner into the parking lot and gave everything I had because she could have a bigger finishing kick than me and it's not over until the finish line.  I finished in 1:13:28, slower than last year by about 2 minutes. Others also were slower this year and I assume it was the slight change in the course which added a little elevation.  My Garmin had the distance at 10.12, a little long but not much.  That easily could have been me not taking the shortest distance around corners.

This is another race I would love to run again.  It's hard to say no to races that are so close to home and you know I love my sleep!  I was the third female overall, coming in long after the top two were finished.  

It was time to enjoy the post-race food, friends, collect my award and get home to start planning Monday's half-marathon.

Me alongside the top 2 females.  I'm honored to stand next to these women.

Finishing all alone...notice the finger ready to stop my Garmin?