Because I have not yet learned to stop while I’m ahead, on Sunday morning I ran yet another 10K, the Longmont Sunrise Stampede. It had seemed like a good idea when I signed up and I was still fresh from my perceived success at the Bolder Boulder. The race was a mere fifteen dollars and a means for me to keep my mileage going. Shortly after registering, however, I developed a strong sense of foreboding as I realized the throngs of people lining the streets for the fifty thousand runners of the Bolder Boulder would not be present for the three hundred participants in this small town race. I became fearful of a lonely run.
My sister had long departed for North Carolina and I reluctantly resigned myself to running solo. I almost enlisted my friend and physical therapist, Lydia to be my replacement running buddy. She initially said “sure, it’d be great!” and that she would squeeze in the 10K before sprinting off to jostle her kids around to various activities later that morning. My eyes got really big and I reminded her that I wasn’t that fast yet. After a 10K, I feel like flopping down on the grass until someone offers to either feed me chocolate or roll me home. As my sound logic dictates, on the day of a race I block my entire schedule and everyone else’s until at least 4PM, when happy hour should be starting. I love that she briefly entertained the prospect of us happily finishing before darting off to run errands and what not later in the morning, but I remain incapable of that level of craziness yet. She threw her head back and expeditiously tried to recalculate her morning while incorporating a newly established racing curve to account for my speed, but in the end had to abandon the thought of accompanying me due to my generalized slowness.
My sense of dread increased as I learned the forecast for the day which was expected to be cloudy with thundershowers and temperatures extending only into the mid-fifties. I dressed warmly and prepared for the worst case scenario in my pocketed Lululemon running suit, and vowed to skip the race all together in the event of actual rain. As luck would have it, I was unable to will a single drop of moisture out of the sky and I ventured out to the race venue to retrieve my racing bib.
The Stampede was starting and finishing at the Longmont High School, and I followed the signs to parking. I waited in a long line until an attendant walked by and informed me that I had to have my printed registration. I told the woman I had intended to show my phone’s online receipt, and she said that under no circumstances was this permissible. She told me I would have to go home and print it out or I would not be allowed to test. I did not recall reading anything about prerequisite testing for the race, and I could not imagine what sort of test would be required to certify me as qualified to run the 10K, so I inquired if I had the right line. Turns out I had erroneously found the line for SAT testing. How was I to know that the school was simultaneously conducting SAT tests for throngs of students deceptively clad in headbands and general racing attire? And I can understand how easily the attendant mistook me for a teenager, because I love her for that, but the woman behind me had her toddler in tow, and I’m wondering if the attendant should be required to retest. I graciously bowed out of yet another marathon test and wished the other students in earshot well. If anything could make me happy to be trekking off on a redirected route to my dreaded race, it was the fact that I did not have to endure that four hour cognitive torture session again like the rest of those sorrowful students.
After procuring my identifying bib, I took note that there were slightly fewer spectators filling the stadium than at the Bolder Boulder.
I also immediately noticed the other racers were unconcerned with the forecast for rain and chilly weather, and they arrived outfitted in summery tank tops and running shorts. I was the only one prepared for potential snow. My sleeves even had built in mittens that I could flip over my fingers to warm them up should they become too frosty. It was as though everyone had been privy to some alternate forecast and had neglected to inform me of the change in plans. I only really felt ridiculous once the sun decided to break through the cloud cover and shine a steady stream of warmth over the entirety of Longmont.
When the race started I did my best to keep up, but the herd waits for no one and it did not take long before I had worked my way to the back of the pack. For the first two miles I maintained a decent-for-me pace at less than eleven minute miles, but as the sun beat down relentlessly on my insulated suit I lost sight of the pack altogether and watched helplessly as I was slowly overtaken by even the elderly stragglers at the back of the race. I began to wonder if they were offering a medal for the last place finisher, and thought perhaps I needed to rethink my strategy. By the third mile, I had lost all contact with other race participants and I nearly gave up altogether.
I was a lone duck, abandoned by my flock. Although, arguably I was quite possibly mistaken for a penguin and they did not realize I intended to travel with the group. I was doing anything but a stampede and I was frustrated and forlorn in my arctic expedition grade running gear.
Hill after hill taunted my effort and I had to walk multiple times. With the cloud cover nowhere in sight, I cursed my clothing selection and contemplated tossing my beloved outfit in the adjacent lake, freeing myself to streak to the finish in my birthday suit. The people at the water aid stations tried to rally a cheer on my behalf as I shuffled past them, but even they had mostly lost interest by that point. I could tell they didn’t really know what to say and their half-hearted cheers of “you’re doing great!” and “you’ve got this!” were masking their deeper concern as to why this trailing runner had chosen to wear her winter’s best for a hot race in June.
At one point in my solo stint, I crossed the street in front of a fire truck whose occupants smiled and waved politely at me. As I continued up the street, the truck pulled out and actually trailed me. I feared they would follow me for the remainder of the route, turning on their lights and sirens to celebrate the last racer of the day. I was not in need of their services and felt ungrateful for the added attention to my pathetic crawl and unseasonable attire, but fortunately they became bored and left me alone after a block.
I persevered and eventually made it to the finish line, crossing before about 10 other individuals who were nowhere in sight behind me. The only fans that mattered were awaiting my tardy arrival as I entered the stadium.
I was pleased to discover that the organizers of the event hadn’t closed the stadium down altogether. My actual standing was a whopping 265th out of 279 runners, and in my age group I was 26th out of 28. Among female finishers I came in 137th out of 146.
As I committed myself to a walk of shame to the car and debated throwing out my running shoes, my wonderful husband pointed out that my effort had actually been a PR for myself, shaving 3 minutes off my Bolder Boulder time. How that was even possible, I have no idea but I am grateful for any error in timing that may have been made for my benefit. It wasn’t just that I was slow, it was that the residents of Longmont are particularly fast! I will happily embrace this shred of silver lining and continue on my quest for speed. For future races, however, I need to seek larger crowds of both participants and spectators alike. I have not registered to lose any other road races for the time being, but I have signed up for the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon in August, and I am bound to lose that! Finding success in my failures! That’s what I’m all about! 🙂