Oh, it was going to be a tough race. It always is. It's one of the tougher 10Ks in the state, if not the country, and it was already warm, despite the 7 a.m. start.
But I love this race. It's the largest 10K in the country. It's a race that sparked my running, and this was my sixth. I could call myself a veteran. I knew the course. I was excited to run fast, and I was in a fast wave, the fifth-fastest, so I was with some damn good runners, most of them, I have to admit, better than me. I was probably really suited for a couple waves back. But that's not what you want to think about right before a race.
I told people it may not work out. That I may bomb out. That I may not be ready to run a tough race not even three weeks after a marathon. But I didn't believe it. I never do. I'm terrific at handing out advice about rest and tapering and accepting the fact that racing so close after a tough, long race may not work. I'm terrible at accepting that advice on my own.
So the gun went off, and sure enough, I was feeling good. I ran the first mile in 7:22, and I thought that was smart. I thought I was fine.
I started feeling it by mile 2. The troll was already at work. Slow down. Walk. It's OK. I still hit the mat at 15 minutes, and I thought a PR was possible.
That's when the bottom dropped. More realistically, that's when the hills began to wear on me.
The BB is a tough course, with hills, hills and more hills. They're gradual, but they're also constant, and I've yet to find a good way to tackle them.
Let's make it short. I ran 8:25 for the third mile, somehow managed to hit 8:20 on the fourth, but then I puked, and mile 5 was 8:45 or so, or the pace I ran the first 20 miles of my marathon.
I crossed the finish in 50 minutes, my worst time in four years.
My friends, who are all experienced runners (and all of whom turned out their usual great times), told me that it was too soon. This was, to be honest, the first week where I even remotely felt myself, and even last Monday that wasn't true. I'm still surprised how long it's really taking to recover from the marathon. As I said, I'm great at dishing out advice and not so good at accepting it for myself.
But there's another form of acceptance, and it's one I may have to face soon.
I'm just not an elite runner. I am not my friends. Not even close.
My running partner finished 9th in her age group, which is amazing, considering there are 50,000 runners. Another who met us at the start finished 15th, and she's 31. I have friends who have done Ironmans, qualified for the Boston Marathon (no small feat) and ran 100 miles in a race.
Me? Well, I guess when you compare me to the average person, I'm good, and the average runner, I"m not bad. But I have to admit something. I am famous for climbing mountains even when I'm not feeling my best. That's something I can do. I've done it hundreds of times, and that's how I finished all of Colorado's 54 14ers (I'm only one of 1,500 to do that). But I'm not an athlete. Not really. I feel like today, with more guts, and more oomph, I could get past the marathon blues and turn out a good time. I didn't do that. I can't do that.
I may just have to accept the fact that I'm not in their class. It should be fairly easy for me to accept. I never was an athlete. I played in the band in high school and in college. It's only recently that I transformed myself. And yet I put in the work, and I'm seeing mediocre results, at least compared to my friends.
Should I accept that? I'll know in a few weeks. That's when the marathon becomes a memory. And no longer an excuse.