Isle of Palms Connector 10k Race Recap
For the second year in a row, I decided to road-trip down to Charleston for the scenic Isle of Palms Connector 10k. Well, it was really a no-brainer, because this race was hands-down the most beautiful race I ran in 2016. How could I miss another chance to run under a golden sunrise illuminating the Intracoastal waterway!?
So I marked my calendar a solid 6 months in advance for this run and reminisced about the goosebumps I got from the salty breeze blowing in my hair. The only difference this time around: I set my sights on a sub 47-minute finish and planned to take home a first place medal in my F25-29 division. A challenging feat for sure, but obtainable, given that the course was pretty flat.
But the morning of the race didn't go quite like I envisioned an award-winning race to go: I woke up to my new puppy barking like a maniac, I had to swap the energy gels I forgot with some last minute gummy bears, and I mistakenly packed the wrong shoes (which hadn't even been broken in yet). It was madness and I didn't have one second to even think about the race. The one thing I did have time for: a quick glance at the forecast, which called for 100% humidity...😒. Clearly, I wasn't too pumped for 6.2 miles that morning.
But regardless, I packed the pup in the car, gulped a swig of water, and scurried to the starting line with 5 minutes to spare. Since this race wasn't chip-timed, I snaked myself to the very front of the pack. I plugged my headphones in, took a deep breath, and looked over to my right, where I saw my boyfriend and our puppy thrilled to cheer me on. 😍
Knowing they were watching my every move, I sprinted out the gate with lightning speed. At the 1/2 mile mark, my Runkeeper app warned me that I was running a 6:26 pace and I needed to slow the F down. Of course I stubbornly ignored this alert, and fell in line with the local boy's cross country team instead. Feeling like I was part of some badass wolf pack, I optimistically rounded the first left turn of the course with them, and was greeted with the first monster hill of the race.
Actually, I wouldn't even call it a hill. It was a mountain. But either way, I naively maintained that same speedy stride, and when I was midway up the climb, reality finally hit: my Belvita bar breakfast was working it's way up and this unrealistic pace was going to make me puke. So I swallowed my pride, slowed my roll, and took my time to the top, which allowed me to really soak in the beauty of the Intracoastal waterway.
I expected the second and third miles to be a bit easier, given that they were partially downhill. But even though they were as flat as a pancake, the humidity was out of control (as expected). So I huffed, and puffed, and crawled across the remainder of the bridge, praying that as soon as I chugged some water at the turn-around mark, I would find my second wind.
Ironically enough, as soon as I rounded the 3.1-mile mark and turned back to face the bridge once more, I was literally greeted with the most glorious gust of wind. It was as if the big guy upstairs knew I was losing steam and he wanted me to show this bridge who's boss. So I took the biggest sigh of relief and used that high to propel me into the fourth mile.
Unfortunately that winning streak didn't last. A wicked combo of pain, hunger, and doubt took over all at once and I caved into a walk. Pain: I've dealt with it before, and hunger: it's no fun at all. But as a runner, you absolutely can not let doubt creep into your mind, because it will completely extinguish your fire. My best tip for a rough race: channel all of the positive thoughts you possibly can. Think about the finish line glory, the post-race pizza, hell, even the insane calories you are burning, but just keep your mind happy.
So that's exactly what I did: I envisioned my precious pup and my handsome boyfriend excitedly waiting for me at the finish. I daydreamed about how happy they would be to see me, and how awesome their kisses would feel after the race. And these positive vibes fueled me up the final climb of the bridge and rewarded me with one last scenic gaze over the Intracoastal waterway before it was time to sprint to the finish.
When I reached the peak of the hill/mountain, I turned on my turbo boost and I soared down towards the final stretch of the race. So many people were cheering, but I was honestly too exhausted to sport a smile. But then I heard a faint "YEAH NAT!" over to my right, and sure enough, there were my boys: Matt with a huge grin and Pharaoh with his tail wagging uncontrollably. My daydream had come to life and I couldn't contain my excitement: I sprinted across the finish line as hard as could, then sprinted back in the opposite direction into their loving arms.
Looking back, I didn't reach any of the goals I set for this race. In fact, I'd say I crash-and-burned with my WORST 10k time ever. Though somehow, fate was on my side and I still walked away with a 2nd place finish in my division, earning me some shiny hardware. But more importantly, I also took home a hunger to train smarter and to come back stronger. I learned that race day conditions won't always be on your side, but running is about testing your toughness and seeing if you can push through your obstacles. Thanks for another memorable race, Isle of Palms. I'll promise I'll be back for you.
53:15 finish time // 8:35 average pace
2nd place F26-29 out of 15 // 66 place overall out of 327