It’s 6:30 a.m. Sunday and I am having a wardrobe malfunction in my bathroom – about 30 minutes before I want to be leaving to pick up my bib and chip. The Rotary Run 10K at Issaquah Salmon Days starts at 8:45. I only live about 25 minutes away, but I want to have time to warm up, go potty, etc.
I planned on wearing my crimson WSU logo Nike Tempo shorts and Dri-fit tee, but when I put a little too much lube on my thighs, my shorts soaked it up. It creates two dark, wet spots in front, which makes it look like I peed my pants. Not really a good look before the race. After, well…it happens.
I make quick wardrobe decision and go with my purple RunningSkirt and RunLove socks, but decide against a white shirt. It just looks to UW-ish (WSU’s rival). I opt, instead, for the girly-girl look and throw on my pink WSU-logo Nike Dri-fit tee. I braid my hair (six times), put on my hat and then run downstairs to make my peanut butter and jelly sandwich – my magic pre-race breakfast.
I still end up getting to the race with plenty of time to spare (around 7:45 for an 8:45 start). I park about 75 yards from the start/finish area, visit the Honey Buckets, get my bib, then return to my minivan to eat my sandwich and be warm. It isn’t too cold outside, but it’s fall-like. Better yet, it is dry and slightly overcast. Perfect.
This was the first race I’ve gone to alone in a long time. I knew of one other blogger running the race: Jen from Runner…Maybe?, who I didn’t see till we were already on the course (but we did chat afterward – and I’m a moron because I forgot to get a picture with her!). And, there was a possibility Mr. T would bring T Junior for the kids 1K at 10:20, but that all depended on how the morning at home went. Still, I arrived alone, got ready alone and then went to stand in line for the Honey Buckets alone. I actually didn’t mind this. I was focused on my sub-50:00 goal.
As I’m standing in line for the Honey Buckets (round 2), I hear my name, look up and see a woman running at me. It’s Kim W., from Nuun, and my Van 2 Nuun Platuun teammate! We stand in line together and reminisce about port-a-potties of the past (Hood to Coast), and just catch up on stuff. Turns out Casey, from Nuun (Nuun Platuun Van 2 driver) is there, too, Kim tells me, so we go over to meet up at the Nuun tent before the start. We tattoo ourselves with blue Nuun logos (I put mine on my thigh – inspired by NP teammate T from Racing with Babes), and then I meet Casey’s lovely family and friends – most of whom are running the 5K!
We head over to the start line and find a spot up front.
Since I knew I’d be cutting my time goal close and I didn’t want to weave around people. I decided to let people weave around me for once — ha!
At the start line, Kim gives me a shoulder massage, and I return the favor (but, honestly, I don’t give many of these and so I feel hers was far superior to mine). A race photog asks to take our picture, so we smile once and then have her get our Nuun tats in the second shot.
After that, we stand around waiting. “Three minutes,” yells the announcer.
I say, “That’s too much time,” then sigh. “Why do we do this to ourselves?” I ask nobody in particular. (I always do that: question the point of things about 30 seconds before I do them. It’s how I cope with nerves, I guess.) I don’t know what to do, so I stick my earbud in my right ear.
Finally, 30 seconds till run-time. And then an air horn signals the start and we are off. Being only a few rows back from the race leaders (who finished in 32 minutes), I start off a bit too fast. I look down around the quarter-mile mark and see 6:46 and say, “Whoa!” I try to slow down. I look down again a minute later: 6:50. Okay, I think, I have GOT to relax and get into MY pace. Finally, I am able slow it waaay down.
People (including Kim and Casey) zip by me on the left and right on Gilman Boulevard. It is hard not to want to stay with them, but I know I’ll never make it to the finish if I run too fast at the start. Finally, I calm down enough to stick near an 8:00-minute pace (give or take a few seconds).
My legs are tight, though.
I needed to have warmed up a bit more than I did. It’s just so hard for me to find the balance of socializing and putting on my game face. I mean, it’s just running. I’m not going to win any races here, so I tend to lean more to the “have fun” side of things.
I struggle to find my legs. I feel like they are tied together with a rubber band at my ankles. There’s a slight decline around Mile 2. It helps a little bit, and then we run through the Salmon Days vendor booths. I remember loving this part when this was my first race in 2009 and so I take it all in again.
The vendors are just getting ready for the festival, and many of them stop, clap and cheer. Some of them sit in their chairs with coffee to watch, some are busy firing up vats of grease or stirring sugary kernels in cast iron kettles. All the smells blend together during this short pass up Front Street and through the booths. It’s delicious and noisy.
We are almost to Mile 3, and I think, Already? Then, I’m half-done! We wind through a tree-lined trail. The trees are thick and the low-hanging branches have dropped yellow leaves, so they are scattered on the pathway. Then we up onto a wide road and back toward the finish line. There’s a small incline, but it’s gradual and short.
I am relieved to be heading back toward the finish since my brain keeps trying to get me to slow down. I’ve been keeping it fairly close to the planned 8-minute pace, but my mind keeps saying, “This hurts. Let’s stop.”
I also think A LOT about NOT making my goal and how “I’ll be totally fine with that.” But then I think, I gotta at least try. And then: But what if I try and then I don’t get it? That would suck.
But that’s the whole point of running races, isn’t it? You don’t know if you can do it. You just push yourself to see if you can. To prove yourself wrong. Right?
We go back through the vendor area now. There are more people milling around the booths – early festival-goers, I guess. The way back is a little different than the way out, and I’m glad because I know it is all flat till the end – not that there were any real hills, more like bumps.
But I also remember that the 10K racers get dumped into the 5K racers at some point, and I know it’s coming up soon. I just can’t remember where. In 2009, this frustrated me. Most of the people I had to weave around that time were walkers, and I had to yell, “On your left!” so I could get by them.
Soon enough, I see where the two courses merge. And. It’s. Jam-packed. I think, Holy crap. I cannot yell at people this year. I’m more than 5 miles into this thing and I’ve been keeping my pace in the low-8’s, high-7’s. This is fast for me, and it’s hard. I wish I’d been good at keeping up with my strength training, I think. I could really use some power right now, as I dodged
kids running with parents, dads pushing double-joggers (wow!), runners abruptly coming to a walk.
All of Mile 6 is like this. It’s frustrating, but I find a man with crazy-big calf muscles who is just a little faster than me (although it doesn’t look like he’s trying that hard – he looks like he’s out for a jog) and I follow his line as weaves around people.
I don’t have the ability to look at my watch anymore. I’m just trying to keep my legs moving as fast as they can without running into someone. It’s thick with people. And I know we will all have to turn left soon onto the road that acts as the finish chute.
Luckily, it thins out as we come to the turn and I’m able to stay on the inside. I have a about .1 till the finish line. My eyes scan for the clock and I see 49-something. It’s low 49. I can make it. Maybe. Maybe. If I run hard.
I dig deep and use every muscle, every breath to its fullest. I make my legs turn-over faster and I can feel my stride is now bigger as I reach with my feet for the finish line. I pass a person, and another person, and another. I’m passing lots of people. I feel as though my feet are barely touching the ground. As I get closer, I realize I’m really going to make it. Barely.
Gogogogogogogogogogo, is really the only thing I’m thinking. I have tunnel vision. I cannot look up, just at the blacktop in front of me. I hear cheering and pretend it’s for me. Maybe it is. I feel like I’m flying!
I cross the blue mat and stop my watch afterward, which says 49:51! I did it! I’m smiling as I wobble over to a young man on an upside milk crate. He cuts my timing chip off. I’m done. I’ve accomplished another goal.
I wander toward the Nuun tent, but it’s crowded and slow. But Kim finds me. “You did it!” she says and gives me a sweaty hug. And we find Casey and Kim brags for me.
I cannot say enough about the kindness of runners. Not only do we get to be happy about our own times, we get overjoyed when our friends do well, too. Kim won her age group, and she finished two minutes before me. She’s a rock star. Casey also rocked the race.
I decide I better find out if Mr. T and T Junior are coming for the 1K, so I text him and they are on their way! I register T Junior, then head to the Nuun tent where I try to help pass out water and sample tablets (and I totally forget to get a picture with Kim and Casey).
Mostly, I’m keeping an eye out for my family. At least, with the Nuun tent, they know where to find me. Mr. T put T Junior in his WSU sweatsuit (as instructed) and T Junior is excited to get his number pinned on him. “What number are you?” I ask.
He looks down. “Number One!” We laugh. I try to introduce him to Kim and Casey, but he’s 3 and he does this acting thing where he pretends to be shy. He also won’t let me take his picture. This also is a phase I could do without.
We have about 20 minutes before the start of the 1K, so I decide to just hang out near the start line. I check my time in the Rogue tent: 49:48! I glance at my age group place: 20. Twenty?! I hoped I’d be a little higher up than that, but there were a lot of fast people at this race apparently.
I spot Jen as we hang around waiting for the kids race to start. We chat for a bit, and after she heads home, I glance at my watch: 10:19. Oh no! I panic. He’s going to miss it. They came for nothing. I suck. “Where is the kids race?!” I yell at Mr. T and look around frantically. I see a mass of cheering people at another start/finish line that must’ve been put up while we were racing. “C’mon, T Junior, we’re going to miss it!” I’m pulling him along. Mr. T tells me to calm down. I stop, pick T Junior up and hold him diagonal across my body. And I run, clutching my kid to my chest, across the parking lot toward the mass of people – the kids race, which has already started.
Luckily, I remember they are having wave starts for the different ages and he’s in Wave 3. We hadn’t missed it after all, so I settle down a little. Still, I’m nearly pushing people out of the way to get him to the start line, and we get there just as Wave 3 begins running.
There’s a little congestion at the beginning, but it thins out and T Junior is running and grinning. Except, when a kid slows down in front of him, so does he. He doesn’t understand how to go around, so I direct him. “Go around, buddy!”
The kids race is a little loop around the parking lot. Unfortunately, the parking lot is potholed, cracked and scattered with loose rocks. I worry he, or someone else, will fall the entire time. As we come to the other side of the loop, T Junior says while running, “Daddy can’t see us anymore.”
“He’ll see us at the finish line, bud,” I promise. But then we see Daddy right up ahead and T Junior sprints, arms pumping, huge stride. Please don’t fall, I pray.
The finish line is crowded, therefore uneventful since we have to walk across it. Toddlers and preschoolers are going every which way. It’s hilarious and cute. All the kids receive a little bag with a dog tag-style medal, and I place T Junior’s around his neck. He still won’t let me take a picture of him. I tell him he can’t have kettle corn (our reward) until he gets his picture taken, so he grudgingly poses with me. (top photo)
But he’s more than happy to take a picture of me and Mr. T.
After the race, T Junior and me head to the festival for our sugary popcorn. Mr. T has plans and heads home. Before we get our treat, though, we go to the hatchery and watch the salmon climb the fish ladder. After a half hour or so, I drag T Junior away — he wants to stay, but I’m woozy from no food (except for a banana) or water post-race.
After we get our kettle corn, we search for water, but I can’t find any at the booths. I am walking, holding the side of a bag of popcorn in one hand, and T Junior is holding onto the other side with his hand (the other one shoveling the treat into his mouth). He stops chewing long enough to say, “Mom. Let’s just find a curb so we can sit down and eat our kettwe corn.”
He’s 3. How does he know “curb”?
I finally decide I will not find water, and we get an orange dream smoothie from this little Hawaiian-themed booth. It’s the perfect complement to the kettle corn, surprisingly. We plant ourselves on a curb and stuff our faces with kettle corn. We share the “smoovie,” but T Junior keeps accusing me of trying to “drink up it all.”
We sit and eat and people-watch. Then, T Junior says, “Mom. It’s a beautiful day.”
And it was.