Sometimes how you feel during a race is inexplicable. I've gone into races well prepared and sometimes something great happens, other times things go as planned, occasionally the wheels fall off. When I know I'm unprepared the result is usually as expected, but every once in a while something unexpected happens. This is one of those inexplicable races. It wasn't the best 10k I've run. I was almost 2 minutes slower, however considering the shape I've been in over the last couple of weeks it should have been 10 minutes slower.
It started about 10 days ago when I was taken to the emergency room having a hard time breathing, with a high fever and some other not so fun symptoms. I found out I had the dreaded H1N1. It was one of the most unfun nights I've had maybe ever and I've had my share. I did have the good fortune to leave the hospital that night with a prescription and orders to stay at home away from the rest of the world. I spent the next week taking Tamiflu, cough medicine and Advil while waiting for it to pass. As luck would have it I did get the vaccine which probably helped my recovery.
I was able to get out for my first "run" on Thursday. I couldn't take sitting in my apartment anymore. I went out for a slow walking, shambling run in which I had to stop every now and again to have a coughing fit. At least I was outside again.
By race day I had gotten in a couple more runs including a slowish interval session the Tuesday before the race to get my legs warmed up. I didn't have high hopes for the race, but I was determined to show up. To add to the odds against a good race I had to work Wednesday night before the race. I had been on my feet for 12 hours. I've run on mornings after my work shifts before and it's usually not good. My legs are usually tired and stiff.
So I rolled up to the starting line Thursday morning with conservative goals. If I could I wanted to hit some 7:30 minute/miles, and if things weren't feeling good I would just back off and enjoy the morning. And a beautiful morning it turned out to be at race time. It was clear, sunny and cool, a perfect day for racing.
The gun sounded at 9 am and 15,000 plus runners and walkers were off! The first few miles were all about being conservative. When you're running in such a large crowd it's very easy to get caught up in the excitement and take off too fast. I didn't want to get caught up and then pay for it late in the race. I found a pace where I felt comfortable and stuck with it. For those first few miles I tried to keep it around 7:15 minute/miles. You know...conservative. I felt good. I mean I felt really good, but I forced myself to hold back. I always felt one breath away from a coughing fit with the cool air.
The course starts in downtown Cincinnati just outside the football stadium up through the city and back across the river into Newport and Covington, Kentucky looping back around to the stadium. We hit the halfway point in Kentucky. Everything still felt good. I held a steady pace. I watched some pull ahead and others start to drop back as they were worn down by that early rush. Damn I feel good. Is this possible? The other shoe is going to drop soon. I know it.
It wasn't until mile 5 that I let myself believe that I really was going to pull this off. The proverbial shoe never dropped. This was really going to happen. With 1.2 miles to go I finally opened things up. That last 1.2 miles were amazing. I clocked my fastest mile during the final stretch as I let loose and smiled to the end enjoying the sunshine, the crowd, the feeling of my legs pumping and the cool air in my lungs. It may not have been my fastest 10K or my fastest Thanksgiving Day Race, but it felt really great. It has me excited about racing again.