It was race day. My first ever timed race. I got up and left Erin and Noah in the motel room with instructions to vacate themselves to the café across the street, and thence to the van, packing the rest of the luggage in, by 11:30. I had my doubts -- they looked like a couple of teenagers hankering for a good, late lie-in, which I guess they were. But they managed to get out by check-out time.
It was a chilly 1 degree C, but I had an awesome new mid-weight long sleeved running shirt with integrated mitties to use, so I wore my shorts and set out for the 15-minute jog over to the start.
I had bestowed a single dishwater motel coffee upon myself an hour and a half before race time, after two and a half weeks of no caffeine. I was jittery and feeling weird and half nauseous about an hour later. I think it was the coffee, because I didn't feel the slightest bit nervous as far as I could tell. To think I used to drink two or three double cappuccinos in a morning and not notice a thing!
It was so much easier to keep up a decent pace with people running all around at a similar pace. I had set my Garmin to give me kilometre splits -- measures of the pace of each kilometre in succession. I needed my splits to average around 5:35/km to make my goal time. Early on I was running at about 5:10, which was probably partly due to the caffeine. I tried to slow myself down a bit, but 5:10 felt comfortable and easy. By about 4 km I had burned off the caffeine jitters and was feeling great at that pace. The course was super flat there, so I decided to just run semi-conservatively by feel and gave up checking my pace. By 8 or 9 km the course became more rolling and my pace slowed a bit. I had started out a bit behind on fluids, since I hadn't brought any water and there wasn't any at the start line, and that started to catch up with me by half way through the race. I drank a bit at every water station, but it took a while to absorb and for a while I was a little dry. For a few kilometres of rolling hills the dehydration took its toll and my pace fell back to 5:35-ish. But then by the last few kilometres I was better hydrated and picked things up to below 5:25 again.
So I finished in 1:53:55, well under my two-hour dream goal, and 16th out of 97 in my age-group, 172/967 overall. Not too shabby I guess for a first race by someone who has felt like a total non-athlete for most of her life.
The volunteers were all super friendly and the race had a nice feel to it. People were nice and smiling. It was pretty well organized (except that there were no kilometre markers from 11 to 19 kilometres). And it was awesome to be running with all those people! But still, it was weirdly lonely being there in a sea of runners and spectators where I was totally anonymous and didn't recognize a single face. So many people had friends and family running and cheering. The 20-minute walk back to the motel, all by myself, was odd and anti-climactic too. As was jumping in the van with two bored teenagers and driving for 8 hours to get home. The dead battery in the no-phone-zone at the ferry line-up was certainly no fun. Missed two ferries, but a nice guy boosted us and we got home without further incident, though the cause of the problem remains completely mysterious. It died last week too; at the time I had assumed a door had been left open. Bad wire? Alternator? Battery? That's a mystery to sort out tomorrow.
All told it was fun, but I don't think I'll do too many races unless I can register with friends and/or run somewhere closer to home. I think I just like running. A race is nice once in a while, but I don't think that races will ever be what really motivate me to run.