It's hard to believe that Emily and I have actually completed the five Km race we had set out as one of our goals for the end of the year. We've been only training for triathlon just over a month and I am so impressed with our progress. If someone had told me when we started this back at the beginning of November, that I would be running a five kilometre race being guided by a shoelace, I would have laughed at them.
I rolled out of bed groggily this morning, listening to the Scottish wind howl. The route that we would be taking was laid out right along the ocean and even though the ocean is one of my most favourite places, I knew that if the wind was whipping here then we were going to be in for a real treat once out in the open by the shore. I dressed accordingly to the weather; three layers of shirts, Under Armour pants (or trousers if you are from the UK), running pants, hat and gloves. There is no point trying to warm up for a race only to freeze the instant you stop moving. One of Emily's friends had agreed to drive us to the race and back and for that I was truly grateful. I knew we'd both be sweating during the race and sitting in the wetness on two different buses and then walking to our respective flats could be asking for it.
It was quite obvious that we were in the right spot when we arrived. There were a lot of people in fancy running gear jogging to warm up and bright yellow markers indicated the start line. We jogged along the path a bit to get our heart rates up and spoke briefly with a volunteer who explained the logistics of getting our time when we were done. There wasn't a lot of hype before the race, but I think that is good for our first race experience. I was a bit nervous, knowing that I was the weaker of the two of us at running. We had both agreed that our goal for the race was to finish it without stopping to walk and to keep a consistent pace throughout the whole five kilometres.
One of the nicest surprises was that L, one of the coaches from Edinburgh Road Club, showed up on her bike to cheer us on. She had also brought a video camera to record our run to later analyze for technique. When I first heard her voice a small warmth bloomed in my chest: here was this woman I had met twice before giving up part of her Saturday morning to support Emily and I. L followed us along the whole race and I am really glad she was there.
The start of the race really didn't have much in the ways of organisation. People jut lined up where they felt they could run and we started. In fact, the only reason Emily and I knew that the race had started was because the wad of about a hundred people started surging down the path away from us. Emily and I started our slow but steady pace. The runners in front of us pulled away and Emily expressed her concern, but I reminded her that our goal was to finish the whole thing without stopping and that our concern was our time. She conceded and fell into a comfortable run. I also told her that not all of those people would be able to maintain that speed and that it was more important to have consistent times for each kilometre rather than burn ourselves out on the first kilometre. Right around the 1.2 K mark, my prediction came true. We closed the gap on one woman who had stopped running three times already.
Just shy of the half way mark some of the leading men were coming back towards us. Sure, I felt a little jolt at being that far behind, but I reminded myself that I am a blind woman, running five kilometres consistently for the first time. A triathlon is a long distance event and aerobic fitness is way more important to build in the next eight months or so than anything.
That wind I had noticed earlier was a bit brutal out there. On the way out, the wind was at our backs and every time it gusted I would take a few quick steps forward, slipping out of sync with Emily's steps. I worked really hard to stay in sync with her foot falls and arm swings, despite the wind slamming into my back. The funny thing is, that was almost as hard as running into the wind. At the halfway mark, we turned the bend and all Hell broke loose.
The wind whipped into our faces and the gusts that had once pushed us along, threatened to stop us completely. It was about at this half way mark that I began wondering what I was thinking. Here we were running our first race ever together, fighting gale force winds, at the beginning of December in Edinburgh Scotland. The sky had been trying to spit rain at us the whole time, but at least that held off. The only thing I could think was that old saying:
"whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
We pushed on, battling the wind and fatigue. At one point, I leaned out to my right and spit the thick saliva collecting in my mouth out and L, who was riding her bike right behind me laughed.
"Not very lady-like am I?" I asked laughing and gasping for oxygen all at once.
Just over the three kilometre mark, I felt my legs wanting to stop. My quads were beginning to complain and they felt as though they may seize. Through sheer will, I forced my legs on, still pushing through the wind. It was just beyond this mark that my body seemed to cease to exist to me. I tried focusing on controlled breathing and although I was not completely successful, I think that is what got me through; that and L shouting at me.
When we reached the four K mark, I wanted to high five Emily the way we had at the one K mark, but my body just wouldn't break it's pattern of swinging arms and pumping legs. I gave her a smile when she told me and buckled down to reach the end. I was determined to finish running. I had a stitch in my right side that had traveled up from below my lower ribs to the front of my shoulder. I started forcing air in and out of my lungs in long breaths, even though the effort was exhausting.
As we moved along, other runners came into sight.
"I told you." I grumbled through gritted teeth.
Emily pulled ahead of me a bit, the competitor in her wanting to catch them. I wanted to catch them too, but we had come to run our own race and establish a time for ourselves. We needed to finish the whole five kilometres without stopping and I was worried that if I put in too much effort to catch the people in front of us, my legs would give out for sure. The last little bit was a bit more broken up than the first and Emily had to keep telling me "uneven" and then "clear." When she says "uneven" it means I have to focus on my feet and lifting them higher to avoid broken pavement or roots. I didn't know if I could lift up my feet and catch others, so I asked her,
"where are you going missy?"
She slowed down back to my side and we pushed on. We passed a few runners and I could hear a few more in front of us. I told Emily we could pick it up and we did with about 600 metres left to go. All in all I think we past about a dozen others struggling to the finish line and I was so happy that my strategy had worked. It won't be a strategy we use all of the time, but today's race was part of our workout cycle for this week and so it was important to stick to our plan.
I think Emily and I have a good partnership in that she has the enthusiasm and competitive hunger that drives her to push, or at least ask if we can push it and I have the hard earned wisdom of knowing when and where to go hard.
Retrospectively, I don't think I would have done anything differently. We definitely weren't last, even though we started dead last, and we posted a good time-31 minutes-that I think we can both be proud of. It's not super fast or anything, but it's a good starting point. What's even better is that we ran the whole race using the tether and our communication was flawless. L told us that if we could run this race in those conditions, then we could run in anything. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but we're definitely on the right track.