The last post I shared was about my leg injury from a softball collision and I had no idea where my running would be come these Fall races I had scheduled. Thankfully, I have come a long way since then and am officially healed up, cleared to train as I please, and in Physical Therapy to ensure I a) don’t have any lingering imbalance due to the injury and b) can work on some strength deficiencies and inefficiencies in my running to keep me strong and make me a better runner!
With that, I ran my first race since the Birthday Bask 5k back in July! I opted out of a Labor Day 5k due to injury recovery, and that brought me to the Navy 5 Miler. It is a race tacked on to the larger Navy-Air Force Half-marathon each year. I came into the race feeling good about running just under a 7:00 pace but was not expecting much more based on current level of fitness and recent training runs. But, as many know, races change everything and training runs are not always indicative of race day performance!
The race started at 7:45am and race conditions were 69, cloudy/foggy, and 94% humidity. You could barely see 30 feet in front of you. Luckily, the fog parted within the first 15 minutes of the race and the sun started to come out, burning off some of the humidity.
I ran by myself for the first two miles, got myself in check after going out faster than intended (per usual), and logged 6:28 and 6:42, respectively. I was hanging out in 5th place and didn’t expect to do any better than that with the distance between me and the women ahead of me. Right around mile 2.5, when we started running into the half-marathoners who started about 30 minutes ahead of us, a tall lean woman passed me and settled in about 6 feet in front of me. She seemed to be running a little faster than I was, and I felt like I could keep up with her…so I did. With all of the half-marathoners around us I couldn’t tell who was who. I locked onto this woman and became her shadow for the next 2 miles, running 6:39 and 6:40.
Around 4.25 I pulled up next to her, thinking about when I would make a surge, probably 1/2 mile to go. Suddenly, a Naval Academy runner came up on our left and started to pass us. Innately, as though my legs took over and my brain was their prisoner, I took off. Guess the move was coming with 3/4 mile to go. I ran ahead of the the Midshipman until we hit the “hill” going from the tidal basin up to Independence Avenue. I realized I was losing steam and might have made a stupid decision. Suddenly I heard someone yell “Go Navy!” and she responded “Beat Army!” as she passed me! At that moment, Army veteran that I am, I decided ‘Fine, you can get me on the hill — I need some hill work — but I WILL get you on the kick.’
We came out of the hill with her about 20 feet ahead of me and 1/10 mile to go. I dug deep, and kicked it in. With 100 meters left I started to dry heave! I did something I’ve been told not to and looked behind me to see where she was…I had a solid 15 foot lead and I was not going to lose it. While holding it in I dry heaved across the finish line (passed another midshipmen) and a few steps later, puked. My husband was there to both take photos of me making the ugliest faces imaginable (see IG) but also to walk with me and keep me upright as I proceeded to puke AGAIN, and more, some on my shoes. I didn’t realize until later I smashed my goal of sub-7:00 with an average 6:37 pace. I was also damn happy I beat those midshipmen, represented the Army, and women in our late 20s against college students — or so I thought….
And in case you were worried about me getting sick, I immediately felt better 🙂 Note to self – no more Picky bars before races, I’ll stick to after. I haven’t puked during or after a race since maybe high school? I think I told the story about the pepperoni hot pocket and my first cross country race.
The Plot Twist
*Cue suspense music* Upon looking up the results and AFTER my bold Instagram post…despite the finish… the Naval Academy runner had bested me by six seconds according to chip time! I was actually 6th overall woman, and 2nd in my age group with a final time of 33:09. The results page is still a little screwy as far as placings and age group results, but my temporary nemesis definitely ran a faster time. The woman I shadowed told me afterward that she appreciated me pushing her and loved seeing me surge at the finish (and I think I was mouth breathing heavy so she was really nice). Ultimately, it was a lot of fun to have a hard fought, puke-inducing finish, and as far as the photos are concerned….I crossed the finish line first! 😉