Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day 15k Run (Troy)

July 4, 2011 - San Diego, CA
Robin Soares

Robin & I line up on an open field for the Coronado Independence Day 15k run. It’s a beautiful park along the San Diego Bay with the grand Coronado Bridge in the background. We’re visiting Robin’s family. Right now Anna is with her cousin, Anika, and Ariel is with Grammy. This is a date for Robin & I… running Smile.

Our plan is to run easy for the first 3 miles and then pick it up and race hard for the final 10k. Robin tells me that San Diego is known for fast runners and that this race will draw many USA Track & Field competitors. In other words, we’re not going to win. But the field doesn’t look that big, or that competitive. There’s a 15 yr old girl and her mom, both wearing large Sony headphones, ahead of me right behind the start line. The announcer tells everyone to move back unless you’re trying to break records. I’m thinking this pair is going to drop back real quick.

Go! We run 200yds across the grass before funneling onto the bike path. During this time it seems everyone is running by me.. instead of dropping back like I thought. They must be going out too fast. We pass under the mighty bridge, along a park and onto a stretch they call the “Strand”. I can’t believe that the girl and her mom are still ahead of me running effortlessly. In fact, it looks like hundreds of runners are ahead. Do they all know that this is almost a 10 mi run? Maybe they think 15k is like a 5k.

I’m running about 7:15 pace and trying to make it feel easy but it’s a little harder than expected. I’m having a great time, though. It’s hard not to when you’re on vacation, running a race in perfect San Diego weather, and knowing your best friend is running close behind you. I look back and, sure enough, I can see Robin’s yellow singlet a few hundred yards back.

I finally pass the girl and her mom. At 3 miles I psych myself up and pretend I’m starting an important 10k. A volunteer is telling us, “you’re almost there!”. A runner laughs at the fact that we’re not. Another runner says, “we’re closer to the finish than the start”. Again I think to myself, “Does he know this is a 15k.. that’s 9.3mi. We have a long way to go”.

We turn onto the military base and see soldiers in formation. Some of us say “thanks” as we go by. Along the water and then back inland. Now I see the leaders coming back. Wow, already! I start counting. I notice my left calf is starting to cramp. This was a serious problem at the marathon. It’s concerning that it’s starting so early. I focus on good form, relax, and use my rt leg more.

At the turn-around (half way) I’m in 92nd place. I set a goal to work my way up to 50th. This really helps motivate me. I high-five Robin going the other way. I start passing people, counting down. Instead of dreading the long straight stretches, I look forward to them because I can see more people to pass.

Thank you, Lord! My calf isn’t hurting anymore. I can run all-out. Among the runners going the other way is a soldier running in fatigues and with a full pack. That looks hard.

At 7mi I’m only up to 65th place and I actually want the race to be longer because I may need more pavement to meet my goal. I keep pushing towards each runner ahead. At 8mi I’m at 51st place. Just one more! There’s a pack ahead but they’re hard to catch. Finally, just before going under the bridge again, I catch them. 50th. 49th. 48th.

We hit the grassy finish area and I can’t catch anyone else. I sprint. I hear people behind me. The crowds are cheering. I finish and quickly pray, thanking God for allowing me to run so well despite a busy week and the calf problem. It’s hot so I quickly get water. I feel pretty good and am able to jog back to see Robin (unlike at the marathon when I immediately had to lay down).

Wow, there’s Robin, so soon. Go Robin! There’s a girl just ahead. I see Robin pump her arms faster and give a huge effort. We both ended up 6th in our age groups. We both raced hard and really enjoy being able to do it together. What a great start to a fun day ahead. We’re both looking forward to a nap first, however.