Surprise! I jumped into a race on Saturday.
The Backstory
On Friday afternoon the S.O. sent me a text letting me know that there was a local 15K on Saturday and I could always give that a whirl. I immediately responded that I didn’t think Coach Jon would approve. But, I’d text Coach Jon anyway and get his thoughts.
To  my surprise after a bit of text discussion, Coach Jon told me to go for it if I wanted to and to see if I could hold the BQ pace (8:18-8:20). I wasn’t too sure about that BQ pace, but I definitely thought I could hold an 8:23 which would put me at a time of 1:17.
Of course after this I had a decision to make. I went back and forth on it until about 8 PM that night. My legs felt fine as I had a rest day on Friday and I had eaten really well all week. I also wanted 15K redemption. I really didn’t have anything to lose, I figured even if I just ran sub 9’s I could hit a PR. I finally decided I would go for it and I would do something I don’t normally do, run with music. I figured that would help me follow my new motto of “don’t think, just run.”
The Race
I headed to the race, which was 45 minutes away, very early so I could do race day registration and have ample time to warm up and hit the porta potties. I immediately saw my friend Lyle, who is always a calming presence. I told him I came alone and he told me where I should move my car so I could exit early for my 10:30 AM hair appointment. Priorities.
I saw a handful of other friends and was happy to see them. The S.O. couldn’t come because he had cycling plans for the morning so seeing other smiling faces was really nice. I did a tiny warm up and headed over to the start line.
With a race start of 7:15 AM it was just getting light out and it didn’t feel super hot or humid. I was quite thankful for this. As we stood on the start corral, I noticed it was a small race but it looked like a very solid group of runners. I spoke with my friend Jacki, a local elite runner who wins almost every race I see her at, and she mentioned this course could be tricky and people have gotten lost. I told her that she would have to worry about that more since she’d be in the lead. Cue foreshadowing music.
After the national anthem and the RD telling us the course was “very well marked with white arrows” we were off.
My plan was to start at a comfortable 8:30 and work my way down. Which I did…but I may have gotten a bit too crazy on the second mile when I hit an 8:14. Oops.
The course was more challenging than I had expected. It had lots of hills, not huge, but enough elevation changes that I could feel it in my quads by the third mile. I tried to hold on to the 8:23 pace and was feeling pretty good about until about mile seven. At mile seven things started to really fall apart. I kept telling myself to hold on to it but my legs and lungs were not having any part of this conversation.
Mile 1: 8:30
Mile 2: 8:14
Mile 3: 8:24
Mile 4: 8:20
Mile 5: 8:26
Mile 6: 8:26
Mile 7: 8:45
I knew I was falling off hard but I also knew if I just kept running I could PR. There were only a few 15K runners in front of me that I could see because the course had so many turns. There were in fact many white arrows on the road, but we seemed to cross over the same loops so many times that I had no idea where I was. Plus, not being familiar with this area I was just following the people in front of me. At around mile eight and half we hit a hill that felt like Mount Everest at this point and I huffed and puffed my way slowly up it.
I knew I was close to finishing and when I saw the 9:12 for mile 8, I thought oh lord I gotta keep it together. At this point the 15K and the 5K started to merge. I was sucking wind and needed a boost. Fortunately, I saw my friend Caitlyn from behind and knew she was running the 5K. I had to push to catch up to her to give her a little tap on the behind. It helped me more than she probably knows.  
Just after I saw Caitlyn, I came to a fork in the road. There was a sign that said “5K” that appeared to tell the 5K runners to go right. There were white arrows to both the left and the right on the road at the fork. There were only three 15K runners in front of me and they all stopped at the fork. None of us knew which way to go. One of them said, “Let’s go left.” So we all ran left and saw no other runners in that direction. We all stopped and looked at each other. I desperately wanted to be done at this point and had one of them said, “The finish line is at that house right there,” I probably would have run straight to it. Finally, someone said, “No, I think it’s the other way.” We all turned around and ran back toward the “5K” sign and merged with the mass of 5K runners that were heading to the finish line.
Now, hindsight being 20/20 and my mind a little less muddled from wanting to be finished and end the pain, I would have more clearly realized we should have stayed left and made one more loop. Obviously the 5K runners only had a little bit more to go and at that point we still had the final .3 to get in our full 15K. However, with no other 15K runners in sight and having no clue where I was, I just ran behind the others, like a lemming.
I saw on my watch as I neared the finish line that I was going to finish in 1:17, and I knew this could not be right based on my final death march miles. But again, so tired, so brain dead, I just went with it. I spoke to a couple of friends who said they think they ran the wrong way too but none of us were really sure. I figured the course was just short. I got my medal and grabbed as many cups of Gatorade as I could. I was toast.
I was in a rush to leave because of my hair appointment so I chatted with a few friends, figured I had a PR, grabbed my two containers of delicious Driscoll’s strawberries and headed to my car.
It was only after I looked at my Garmin in the car, that I realized I completely cut the course. My Garmin showed 8.97 miles. Sonofab! I posted this to facebook and had a few friends, some who didn’t even race that day, let me know that this happens every year at this race. I find this both funny and confusing. How does this happen at a race that is going on it’s 34th year!?! My friend Kari went 9.57 miles and said it’s part of the adventure of this race. And that made me laugh.
Even with all the shenanigans of the turns and hills, I really liked this race. It’s small, there’s free strawberries, and like Kari said, it’s an adventure. I will claim this as a PR but while my finish time may say 1:17:30 on the official race records, I’d guess, in using my Garmin time, if I had finished that .3 it would be more of a 1:19. I’m going to go with that since I don’t want to feel like a cheater, regardless of how it happened.
I got redemption and the elusive 15K PR is mine, finally! I know my endurance got in the way those last few miles and I’m excited to hit my long runs to re-build it to match my short run speed. I’m feeling pumped and positive. I can’t wait to race again! I hope you all had great weekends!

I LOVE this medal.