Charlotte 10-Miler 2018 Race Recap
I'm gonna be honest with y'all: lately my heart hasn't been beating for running quite like it has in the past. I've lost my mojo, and my flame for Saturday morning long runs hasn't been as bright. Therefore I've slacked on logging my miles and haven't signed my name on the dotted line for any new races.
But when Start2Finish offered me a complimentary entry to their Charlotte 10-Miler, I obvi couldn't say no. Plus, when I ran this race last year, I earned an unlucky 13th place finish in my age group. Another reason I had to go back and claim my top 10 finish this time around.
However, when I woke up on race day, my vengeance was replaced with an overwhelming sense of dread. I felt undertrained, sore from Wednesday's leg day, and flat out sleepy, so I wasn't exactly a happy camper when my boyfriend Matt ushered me into the car. After a 20-min. car ride and a considerable amount of complaining, I made the noble decision to think of this race as nothing more than a training run for my half-marathon coming up in three weeks. That meant running no faster or slower than an 8-8:30 min. pace, focusing on my form, and listening to my body each step of the way. None of my usual wannabe-Shalane shenanigans.
But getting to the race start was a bit chaotic. When we were about five minutes out, a crossing guard stopped us in the middle of the road and informed us that traffic was already blocked for the race. Very reluctantly, I hopped out of the car and sprinted the remaining 1/2 mile to the starting line, thinking I was going to miss the starting gun entirely. Serendipitously, that lil' scare made for the perfect warm-up, and I showed up to the start with exactly five minutes to spare.
Instead of obnoxiously marching to the front of the pack (like I usually do), I wiggled my into the middle, hoping that being sandwiched between two middle-aged, beer-bellied men would force me to hold my goal pace of 8:30 for the start (rather than trying to race the local boys' cross country team... like I usually do as well 🙄). Sure enough, when starting gun went off, my newfound pacing buddies unknowingly disciplined me into the perfect stride which kicked my race off with a nice leisurely start.
I gotta admit, my ego took a hit when about a gagillion runners passed me in the first mile, but the good angel on my right shoulder reminded me that my goal was to maintain what I like to call a "fun pace": if I'm not having fun at my current speed, slow it down. So I snailed my way over the hills and through the woods, snapped a couple of pics along the way, and even stopped to enjoy the water stations! Who knew this slow-and-steady thing could be so fun?!
Around mile 4, we turned off of the Greenway and ventured into the surrounding neighborhoods. The jolly lil' homes with all the friendly neighbors standing in their front yards seemed super welcoming, but they didn't fool me one bit. Because I remembered from last year that this cute community hid some of the most evil hills in Charlotte. And by mile 5, I was feeling the burn. My chronic case of runner's knee had awaken from it's three-week slumber and I was in some real pain. I couldn't believe I was feeling so lousy this early in the race, even while enjoying my slower "fun pace"! 🙈
So I did something I've never done in a race before: very talentedly, I whipped out my phone mid-jog and texted Matt, "This sucks." Disclaimer: I normally scoff at people who text while running, but I was being a total hypocrite. I felt like 💩 and I needed my best friend to remind me everything was going to be okay. And sure enough, seconds later, he responded with a calm, "You can do it! Nice and easy. No need to race."
So I kept trucking on. Around mile 7, I excitedly remembered that I packed a nice lil' ziploc bag of dried fruits in my sports bra. (Normally, I race with Sport Beans, but I'm on this health kick, so I decided to go au naturel.) As I scrambled to pull out a super appetizing, slimy fig without coming to a stop, a curious runner to my left removed her headphones and asked, "Is that a date?" The way she said it made me laugh then nearly choke on the gooey fruit, but I managed to cough out a "no, it's actually a fig." Then she made the good-for-you-that's-gross-AF face and sped off. This unusual encounter about my unusual race eating habits lightened my mood and made the next mile not-so miserable.
With only two miles to go, I knew it was all downhill from here. Well, not really. Because then I recalled that the Hill of All Hills was hiding in the neighborhood ahead. Y'all, I've seriously had nightmares about it ever since last year, and as soon as I turned the corner, I was instantly reminded of it's horror. We're talkin' an elevation gain of 104 ft. for over a 1/2 mile. And for the second year in a row, it was the purest form of torture.
But when I finally mounted the monster, I was met with a gloriously flat 1-mile stretch to the finish. Oddly enough, my legs took on a mind of their own and zoomed into a 6:30 pace. My head kept yelling, "This ain't your fun pace, Nat!" But my heart decided that after restraining myself for 9 miles, it was my new fun pace. My legs wanted speed and rewarding them with a 1-mile dash felt so sweet.
The wind was blowing through my hair, I was passing folks left and right, and I was reminded of the glory of racing. When I spotted the finish line and heard the roars of the crowd, I kicked it into high gear. And for a brief moment, I didn't feel any pain or anxiety: all I felt was power. So I gave it everything I had until I crossed that blue finish line and heard my name proudly announced over the speakers.
Truth is, it took a lot of discipline for me to hold back in this race. It wasn't like I just woke up feeling lazy and decided I needed a day off. I actually spent the whole week weighing the pros and cons of whether I should be competitive or not. But in my opinion, I made a mature decision to save my strength for my next big race, the BB&T Corporate Cup Half-Marathon.
This race reminded me how important it is to listen to your body. It's cheesy, I know, but sometimes your body knows better than your mind does. After all, being a successful racer is about knowing when to give it your all and when to rest up for the next time you'll shine. So don't worry #CLT10Miler, I'll definitely be back next year to shine even brighter.
1:24:17 finish time // 8:25 average pace // 11th F25-29 out of 55
73rd female out of 484 // 267th overall out of 930