Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K

I ran in my first real road race this past weekend. It was the Monument Avenue 10K, held each year here in Richmond, and it was so much fun!

It took me a few days to really process the whole experience before deciding to write about it, and now I want to capture some of the details before I forget, so some of this will be poetic musings about me, and running and conquering personal goals, but some will also be race details and training information so I don't forget it for the next race.

Having not run this (or any, really) race before, and knowing there were going to be 42,000+ people downtown, I knew we'd have to get a decently early start. Thanks to our awesome friends, the little kids were able to spend the morning at their place, rather than be subjected to getting dragged all over the Fan and the VCU campus, waiting for Mommy. Kira opted to stay home and be a teenager (i.e., sleep in).

I got up really early (6:00) and got dressed, making sure I ate breakfast and had my coffee by 7:30, so I wouldn't be full by my 10:03 start time. Yogurt with honey and walnuts, and a toaster waffle was all I could stomach. I wanted that waffle really badly, and as soon as I ate it, I wished I hadn’t. Interesting side note: When I was getting dressed early in the morning, I looked out the bathroom window and noticed my neighbors' lights were on in their bathroom and downstairs. I guessed they were running the race, too, and I was right, as we met up with them after the race.

On our way down to the start line, it started to rain a little, which wasn't terrible, but it was chilly, and I didn't have anything to wear before the race but my well-loved black hoodie. Next time, I will remember to pack a trash bag just in case. I knew Travis wasn't going to be able to wait with me at the start, so he dropped me off a couple of blocks from the finish, and I walked, with a couple hundred other people, over to the starting area on Broad Street.

In my long shorts and short sleeve technical shirt, I wasn't totally frozen, but it was definitely chilly. I'd left my hoodie in the car, as I knew the only thing I could do with it would be to ditch it at the start, and I knew I would need it for afterward. It wasn't terrible, though, and I wasn't the only one without a jacket.

Getting close to the start area, I could hear the other waves getting on the course. The music was blasting, there were hundreds and hundreds of people all in a party mood, and I was walking into the midst of it all. I have to be honest and say that I was already starting to get all emotional. It was very powerful. I made my way down to Broad Street, and did get out of the rain for a while, both at the VCU bookstore, and in a small storefront church that had opened its doors to runners waiting for the start. The heat was on in there, and the company was nice; I spoke to two ladies for a while, and we talked about running and about the Disney marathon series. :)

I got into my wave group (WC) at around 9:30, so I could get a good position on the right side of the road. Originally, I was supposed to be *walking* this race with a group of therapist friends of mine, but it happened that each had developed issues along the way that prevented them from participating. I still looked around, though, in hopes of finding someone I knew. No luck. A sweet lady standing next to me offered to take my picture and text it to my husband, which was nice.

Before I knew it, it was time to go. The announcer was getting the crowd pumped up, and we were all jumping up and down to Van Halen's 'Jump'. It was still sprinkling a little bit. I set my stopwatch, and remembered my plan to walk the first mile, made sure my energy gels weren’t going to fall out of my sports bra, and off we went, cheering as we crossed over the start line. All I could think was, "Oh my God, now I *have* to do this!" I turned my music down a bit to listen to the people cheering, but as I rounded the corner and got out to Monument, I turned the music back up.

I walked the first three-quarters of a mile, until we got out on Monument Avenue, and then I started my (slow) run. I spent the first 2 miles frustrated by the number of people walking who were blocking the way. The rule is, only two people across, and stay to the right if you're slow, but there were lines of people four to eight across the road, all walking, and those of us slow runners were zig-zagging all over the road to get by. It made for a really irritating experience, but there was nothing I could do except be polite and try to get around. I would say that in the first three and a half miles, most of the walking I did was forced on me because of the crowd. No help for that, except to register for a faster wave next year. I think I ran about 7 miles total, though, with all that shifting back and forth across the road.

Miles 2 to 4 were good. My legs did not hurt, my pace was decent, and I was able to take a Gu (energy gel) and get a sip of water without any trouble. It was nice to feel good. I ran most of that distance. At one point, I debated taking off my music, but I opted not to, ultimately. As much as this race is one big concert and party, it was still going to be a physical challenge for me, and I needed to be able to deal with that. Music helps me crawl into my head and keep my focus away from the physical effort. The ability to dissociate is a powerful skill to have, and I haz it.

The mile distance between marker 4 and 5 was an ETERNITY. So much so, that I was wondering where the hell the 5 mile marker was, and then was thinking I somehow missed it! I walked more here than I wanted to, just because I was having trouble with cardio endurance at this point. My legs still felt great, so that was frustrating. Usually it's the other way around.

FINALLY, I came upon mile 5. I had been looking for my photographer friend, who had stationed himself at the intersection of Monument and Belmont, and I wanted to try to get him to take a picture of me, but as I struggled with mile 4 to 5, I lost track of the intersecting streets, and passed him without realizing it. He didn't see me, either. :(

At mile 5 to 6, I was just hoping I had enough in me to finish at a run. I let myself walk just a little to catch my breath and get re-organized, and by the time Monument turned into Franklin, I was running again. My iPod put on Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)", which was perfect for the end of this race. The run down to the finish was incredible! I could hear all the people cheering even though I had my music up loud! What I didn't know was that Travis had made his way to the finish, and was yelling for me all the way over the finish line, 'Go, Chris!' poster in hand! It was awesome. Really really awesome. I really had to work to keep from crying as I ran over the timing pads and into the finish area.

I was completely unprepared for the emotional feeling of "I can do ANYTHING!!" that came over me after I got through the finish. It was incredible, and I felt really overwhelmed. I know I said to myself, "I am SO doing this again!", and I am pretty sure I also made up my mind to try for the half marathon in the fall.

Not expecting Travis to find me right away, I went off in search of food and water. Yay for Ukrop's White house rolls and bananas! Food in hand, I wandered back over to the family meeting area, and Travis found me easily after that. He took some great video of me exclaiming over what I thought was my race time, only to found out later I was off by ten minutes. But he told me over and over how proud he was of me, and I almost cried. Of course I know my husband is proud of me, but this really felt like I did something big. We wandered around for a while, debated on whether or not I should eat a funnel cake (I wanted one but opted out), and then we headed toward the parking garage. Along the way, we ran into our backyard neighbors who both had run the race! By this time, I was really starting to get sore and stiff, particularly in my low back and left leg. Not horrible, but not comfortable, either. It was tough to slide into the car, and my ice packs were there, but not as cold, and it had been a while since I stopped running.

Travis dropped me off at home so I could shower and unwind a little while he went to retrieve the little kids. Kira, much like most teens, hadn't even gotten out of bed yet. I, however, had run six miles!

The rest of the day was full of kid activities (Easter egg hunt at our church), dinner out (MmmmMexican!), and me trying to avoid eating ALL THE THINGS!! I finished up the day with a celebratory beer, got briefly teary-eyed over my official time (which was ten minutes slower than according to my watch), but then reminded myself of the huge thing I had done, and resolved to be faster next time.

I still don’t like to run. I love what it does for me, and I love feeling as powerful as I did when I finished that race. That’s good enough for me right now. I learned a lot while training for this race, and I know now just how helpful it is to have experienced friends and other runners to help figure out what to do.

I know that there is nothing more comfortable than ‘real’ technical running clothing when you’re running.

I know that I really CAN do this running thing.

I know that racing is so much fun, even if there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m going even come close to winning.

I know that most runners are incredibly friendly, helpful, and supportive, even to 41 year old, slightly pudgy beginner runner moms.

I know about the incredible power of the ice pack/ice bath immediately after a run.

I know that there is strength in numbers. And in me.


  1. YEAH!!! I love your story. Thanks for sharing. I truly am excited for you :-)

  2. :-)Got teary eyed reading this. Thank you. byram