When I signed up earlier last week for the Franklin Classic 10K, I checked the weather report for Labor Day. All clear. Slight chance of showers but cooler and sunny. Perfect Labor Day weather. But then Tropical Storm Lee happened.
The rain started Sunday afternoon and kept on through the night, rarely pouring or storming but always steady. Even in the early morning darkness of Monday morning, I could hear the rain pitter-patter away. Well, I thought, maybe the rain will scare everyone away from the race, and I’ll come away with an age group prize! Wishful thinking.
In my having-woken-up-too-many-mornings-at-5-o’clock haze, I pointed the car towards downtown Franklin, got myself parked in the garage, and realized I had no idea where I was going. Fortunately, I was able to follow some runners to the mass of people in City Hall getting race numbers, t-shirts, and chips. I found my mom passing out chips, and even though she had to get up early to volunteer, she didn’t seem too upset about not running. I had not looked up the course, and she warned about the one big hill between miles 1 and 2. Having weaved my way through the crowds, I went back to the car, which was on an unknown floor of the parking garage. By sheer instinct, I found my car again and ditched the race t-shirt, jogged a few steps, bounced around while I stood in line for the bathroom, and headed to the start line.
This race actually had us line up according to expected pace, which was really nice. There wasn’t any second-guessing about whether I was in the right spot, trying to judge by how people looked if I would be trapped behind 5 people walking side-by-side on one hand or getting mowed over by cross-country team members on the other. After a gun misfire and a false start, we were off through the still-steady rain. With a good-sized crowd, I was trying to focus on running my own race and not getting caught up in the people passing me, and I hit the first mile at around 9:30. Not as fast as I would’ve liked, but it wasn’t feeling too tough either. I was holding back a little for the hill that was coming, and I waited and waited but no hill. Finally, right at the 2 mile marker (9:05!), the uphill began. Chug, chug, chug, I think I can. I know I can. Up the hill followed by a few more rolls in the terrain. Can I get a downhill? Mile 3 (9:28) and an aid station that I successfully ran through without dumping water all over myself. Not that it would’ve mattered with the rain.
By this point, the people around me who were obviously out for some kind of leisurely stroll while chatting with their friends were killing me. They’re holding a conversation, and I’m huffing and puffing, while we’re running the same pace. Not cool. Trying not to be miserable or stop to walk. Trying to focus on the last half of the race. Mile 4 in 9:17, definitely feeling my PR dreams slip away. Oh well, We did a little out and back where I saw that a guy juggling while running and an old guy in a track suit running barefoot (not in Vibrams, literally, BAREFOOT) were in front of me. Screw that part about running my own race. I picked it up. Mile 5 in 9:03. Unless I found some rocket blasters, a PR is definitely not happening. One more mile of pain. 10 more minutes of pain. Ching-ching-ching-ching Why did the guy in front of me decide to carry change in his pockets? Blast by him. Why does this course have an uphill into the finish? Finally I started to recognize the names of the streets and know we’re close.
Main Street downtown! The church where I got married, stores, people lining the streets cheering. I see my dad and wave to him as he takes a picture. Good dad of a blogger. I kick it in to pass the stupid guy juggling and stop my watch. 57:33, over a minute slower than my PR, but given the 11 miles two days before, the rain and the hills, and the bottle of wine I drank the night before (Oops, didn’t mention that), I’m pretty happy with my tune-up race. I was 18/46 in my age group, and I’m always pleased when I’m the top 50% of finishers. I felt strong and totally ready for the Women’s Half in 3 weeks!