I wasn’t even supposed to be here today.
Well that’s not quite true. I was most definitely supposed to be at the Lockport Y10. It’s my hometown race and one I’ve run a handful of times. I missed last year because of work obligations so as soon as I saw my schedule free for the 10-mile race, I was in. Only, Mother Nature had other ideas. The Saturday for which it was scheduled brought severe windchill warnings and the race directors took the unprecedented action of postponing the race.
To non-runners, this seemed like a no-brainer. To runners, it was curious and also a sigh of relief. No need to have to make the call yourself. No need to feel a wimp for wanting to bail. Then again also no glory in being a badass running 10 miles in brutal cold. I was happy and sad at the same time. Multiple things can be true.
As luck would have it, my work schedule still afforded me the opportunity to run the race on its rescheduled date, one week later. Temperatures were in the 40s. Woot! Wind speeds were sustained at 22 miles per hour. Wait, what?
Let’s set my personal scene for this race. I was in no shape to “race.” This was a training run for me on my first week of marathon training. It was longer than I needed, so I did a little massaging of my training plan because (A) it was the first week and (B) your marathon is impacted by consistency, not one random day. I had just started back into some speed work and wasn’t quite sure the last time I ran 10 miles. This was a run on fitness and experience. It was a run to challenge to myself.
It also was an opportunity to remember how lucky I am to be healthy enough to do the things I love. My fellow sports-writing pal, Meghan, had just arrived home after a month in the hospital for serious blood clotting issues in the entire lower half of her body. Her recovery continues. I sent her some love before the run and relished the opportunity that was before me. Even though it was going to suck. Hard.
The course for the Y10 is basically a big box with a stick. The stick is Market Street — a ginormous hill that you run down to start with and run up to finish with. While running downhill is glorious it also poses the problem of pace. How do you pace yourself down the first hill? The course rolls slightly after that but there’s still a bit more downhill through the first half of the race. And on this day the first five miles also included the wind at our backs.
How to attack this? I decided to take what the course gave me. I didn’t hammer through the first five miles, but I did allow myself to run faster than I normally would have planned. The second half was going to be hard with the hills. Add in the head wind and the second half was going to be brutal. I might as well get as much in the bank as I could — within reason.
I felt great the first half. I ran with a high school friend, Gretchen, for most of the first mile, chatting for a bit about the joys of strength training and the difficulty in holding a reasonable pace down the hill. Eventually I got my pace to even out and I ended up playing leapfrog with a gentleman for the first five miles. He was using the Galloway method — a walk/run ratio program. I passed him during one of his walk intervals and asked to make sure everything was OK. (I like to make sure runners are OK. It’s what I do.) On his run intervals he would catch up to me and pass me, then I’d pass him back during his walk intervals. That lasted until the five-mile mark.
My parents drove out to the halfway point to cheer. (If you were on the course and wondered who the guy with the cowbell was, it was my dad.) I found myself just a smigde overdressed for the first half and tossed my gloves to my dad. I took some water and a gel and powered on. Then came the right-hand turn onto Harrington Road.
And … cue the headwind. OK, at this point it was more like a cross headwind. Which was kind of worse. Staying vertical was a challenge. My pace dropped by a minute. Yes, you read that right. A minute. But I knew this was coming. Just keep running. That’s what I told myself. Just keep running.
Mile 6 sucked. Mile 7 sucked. Mile 8 was bad but I knew I was closing in. We turned back on to Market Street. The hill loomed, but that doesn’t come until the end of the Mile 9. You see it. It’s coming. The key is not to psyche yourself out. How should I attack the hill? I would run as much as I could. I kept my legs moving, kept my arms pumping. Then came the time when a power walk would be just as fast as my run. So I walked. Once I got past the steepest part (which probably lasted about 30 seconds) I started running again.
Then comes the cruel part. You think the hill is done. But it’s not. It keeps going up. You turn left. Only two more turns until the finish line. Only about 200 meters until the end. But could the uphill just end? A fellow runner who had finished was on the corner of the last turn. He started yelling at me to pick it up. “Don’t let her beat you!” he yelled. There must have been someone behind me. I didn’t care about beating anyone but I wanted to be done. DONE! So I dug in and gave whatever I had left, crossed the finished line, grabbed my knees and searched for feeling in my legs.
In the end, my time was four minutes faster than the last two times I ran this race. Results? Yep. I was pretty happy. More than that, I loved the chance to challenge myself. I loved showing up and doing the best I could with where I was.