Monday, March 12, 2018

Big 12 12K: Nothing to lose but the entry fee!

The short:
I changed my mind about running this race approximately 500 times, but I'm thankful I decided to get out there and compete.  It is one to run strategically for place, and also to run without looking at your watch due to the crazy elevation variations.  I finished 3rd overall female in 47:02 (6:15 pace), which was also good for a new Missouri single age state road racing record for age 37, since there are very few 12Ks.  Throughout the past couple of months I've encountered some health and personal challenges, during which I've questioned if I should just cancel this entire season many times, but for this race I felt like racing and found joy in the experience, which would have been a victory even if I had run terribly!  This performance wasn't my best, but it also wasn't my worst, and I was probably more thankful for it than any other mediocre performance of my life.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." - Isaiah 43:2

The long:
I included the Big 12 12K in my spring racing schedule, after the event went well for me last year.  I travel to my agency's Kansas City division for work about once a month, and typically I can schedule when the trip occurs, so I planned March's trip for the Thursday and Friday prior to this race.  The past couple of months have been up and down for me, running-wise and otherwise, and a couple of times after I had bad runs in February I told my coach, "Just take my March races off my schedule."  Then I had a good 5 mile tempo run on February 26, and said, "Maybe leave those March races on my schedule."   

Then, I got sick on March 3, bumped my long run to March 4, and said with certainty, "I am not going to run Big 12 next weekend", and my coach made the adjustment.  I recovered faster than I expected from the illness and had great runs on March 14-15, but my mileage was heavier than it would have been leading up to a race, so I was still not planning to race, but I guess I wasn't completely ready to rule it out because Thursday morning I added a singlet, shorts, arm warmers, compression socks, and racing shoes to my packed bag before I headed out of town (related note:  this was not an adequate amount of race gear and I had to warm up in pants I'd been sleeping in and the long sleeves and ear-warmer I wore to run in on Friday morning, and also wore the sports bra I'd run in on Friday morning...don't even ask what dry clothing I changed into after the race!).

Friday morning after a night of poor sleep, I was dragging and exhausted on my short morning run, so I have no logical explanation for why I started to feel like I wanted to race after all.  I wavered back and forth, but when the time came that I had to decide for logistical reasons (around 2:00 p.m., because if I wasn't staying to race I'd start my drive back to Springfield), I suddenly thought, "Well, I have nothing to lose but the entry fee!" and committed.  I registered at the race expo and stayed Friday night in Kansas City.
Race morning I woke up excited to compete, so I knew I'd made the right decision.  I wasn't sure what my body would have to give, but I knew I'd lay 100% of whatever I had out there and that would be enough.  I drove to the race site, started my normal warm up, and found my parents, who'd been planning to watch the race if I decided to run it and to visit my sister's family, who lives in Kansas City.  It was in the low 30's with a very brisk wind, but didn't feel too cold in the sunshine.  I of course did not pack running sunglasses...
With my sweet dad pre-race
I knew I would have a lot of competition in the race, and that the course was not conducive to even pacing, so although I wore my Garmin, I didn't look at it at all during the race.  My goal was simply to place as high as I could in the female field.  The 12K and 5K started together (my dad's video of the start is here), and I didn't know which women were in which race, but I started off with a pack that included the woman I narrowly out-kicked for 2nd place at the event last year, Tara, along with some of her Kansas City Smoke teammates (the KC Smoke girls are pretty much all smokin' fast!).  The pace felt right, and I had a feeling that the women ahead of us, aside from Kim (who I expected to win the 12K), were mostly or all in the 5K.
Laughing on the starting line
A little after the 1 mile mark, the courses split, with the 12K going left and 5K going right.  All of the women who were a bit ahead of our pack went right.  I could see Kim far up ahead going left, but the only reason I could tell it was her was because I'd talked with her before the race and knew what she was wearing.  I could see a couple of other runners near her but couldn't tell if they were men or women, although for some reason I had a feeling one was a woman.  However, I knew that even on my best day I could not run at the pace they were doing, so my race for position was with the female pack I was with.  I was hoping that at some point during the race someone would tell us what overall position we were in, but no one ever did, so I did not know if I was racing for 2nd or for 3rd.

Our pack gradually thinned, and for a few miles I ran side by side with Tara.  We chatted some and I mentioned that it was deja vu to last year.  We follow each other on Strava so had some idea what the other had been up to since then, and I knew she was training for the Boston Marathon next month.  The distance clipped by, and at one point after I mentioned that running together was really helpful, she told me that if I needed to go ahead to feel free, as the pace felt hard to her.  I was hesitant to go, but I saw a male ahead who we'd been slowly reeling in, and I could feel our effort slowing so after awhile decided I would take off after him.

When I caught the male, I noticed he was a young teenager, so I encouraged him to latch onto me.  I told him we were coming up on a huge downhill that would feel great, but also that mile 7 was all uphill so to save some for that.  He stayed close as we accelerated down the hill.  We then had a bit of flat stretch before tackling the final uphill.

To add insult to injury, in addition to climbing around 140 feet in mile 7, you also have to weave around 5K walkers coming into the finish.  To my relief, both the hill and blockage of 5K masses were much easier than last year.  I'd been fearing the hill the entire race, but it really didn't seem that bad this time!  As for the walkers, aside from the one who hit me with his hand when turning and pointing something out to his friend (he did apologize), it wasn't terrible but I did have to run wide.  In the final 1.5 miles, I could tell that I was a bit weak from being sick, but I felt like I had my position locked in and that if another woman came up to challenge for the place, I could kick it up a gear and keep my lead.

I kicked in the final half mile into the wind, and saw the clock ticking just over 47:00 (my official gun time was 47:03 and chip time 47:02, so the big clock was slightly off).  The announcer said my name (my dad's video of my finish is here), but not my place, so I still didn't know how I'd fared for overall placing.  As I walked through the chute I saw a fast-looking woman wearing buns to the side, and then I knew I'd been 3rd, which my parents soon confirmed.  Kim won with more strength than the woman in buns in the uphill mile.  Tara came in 4th after me, and my friend Michelle was 5th.  I was satisfied with my place because it was the best I could have done in that field (1st and 2nd ran 5:45-5:48 pace, and results can be found here).  Michelle and I then took off for a 5.5 mile cool-down, giving me 15.3 hilly miles for the day.
The elevation chart has to be shown with my splits for this one!  Miles 4 and 7 have a lot of climbing, mile 6 has a lot of downhill, and the others kind of even out as far as ups and downs.  This is not an easy course and I expected erratic splits!  My pleasant surprise of the day was that my final 2.5 miles were about the same pace as I ran last year, with my uphill mile 7 being faster this year.  I worked much harder in this race last year due to the competition situation, and my overall time was about 45 seconds slower this time around, but I had a strong finish without having to kill myself this time.

I'm happy with how it all panned out, and glad I decided to race this.  I have been struggling in various ways lately, and I was so thankful to be able to get out there and run, and to want to get out there and race!  Right now I don't think that this training cycle is going to be my best, but I will do what I can, and God-willing there will be another in the fall that builds off of this one.  Any day I passionately want to get out there and compete is a blessing, no matter how I finish.

It's a marathon not a sprint anyway, right?


  1. I love your dad’s videos! Anytime I’m waffling on a race, I pretty much always end up doing it unless someone has a really good reason why I shouldn’t and talks me out of it (like when I had food poisoning the night before a 5k and Ty talked me out of it).

    1. I'm glad Ty talked you out of that one because a 5K after food poisoning sounds horrible! I tend to end up doing them as well, but I've had a few that I wavered on end up not going well (Houston and Dam to Dam being the big ones in that category) so I began thinking that if I wasn't sure that maybe I shouldn't run them. I wouldn't have made a special trip for this one, but in the end I found I couldn't leave KC without running it!

  2. I'm starting to get a real itch to race again. After I start running again, of course.

    1. You can always make a local 5K your first run back, right?