Ready or not, the racing season is here! I am more likely in the category of NOT READY, as I have fought tendonitis in my elbows as well as a busy schedule of work, travel and speaking in the first part of this year. So, it looks like my strategy for 2010 is going to be to race myself into shape! I decided to start yesterday with the first race of the season and figured I’d start small…with a marathon! What was I thinking you ask? I figured after less than ten times in my racing chair in 2010, why not just go for it. I entered the race less than ten days in advance, made my plane reservations and promptly came down with a cold. Ugh!
Thursday night before I left, I called my mom to tell her where I would be for the weekend and she could tell by my voice on the phone that I had a cold. “Do you ever NOT get sick right before a big race?” she asked. I have to admit she had a point. It does seem to be a trend with me that I get sick before the big events. Don’t know why. I’d sure fix it if I could!
On Friday, I traveled to Salt Lake City for my third crack at the local marathon. I actually really like that race. I find it to be a fast course with pretty scenery and a nice, close trip to Denver. I was fortunate to have the offer to stay with my friend and fellow wheeler, Muffy Davis, who is a Paralympic medalist and skier extrordinaire. She picked me up at the airport and we headed to registration to pick up our numbers. Muffy does the race in a handcycle and I do it in my racing chair so we aren’t in the same category and didn’t race directly against each other. That made our time together very relaxing in that we didn’t have to spend much time worrying about who was going to come in second, but what was also cool, is that both of us have done the race before (this was my third SLC and her fourth) and neither of us has ever placed anywhere but first. So, we were striving to keep the perfect record between the two of us. Friday night my friend Laura, who I met as a race volunteer several years ago, came and took me out for my pre-race dinner.
When I got home from dinner, I was exhausted. My cold was getting me down, I had gone through what seemed like three boxes of Kleenex that afternoon alone, and was coughing up a storm. Not an ideal day for this marathon eve. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take some cold medicine at 10 o’clock when I went to bed—I figured it would at least help with decongestion and maybe I’d feel better for the race. But, when I woke up six hours later at 4 a.m., all I felt was that woozy, tired, blah feeling of a cold medicine hangover. My first thoughts were to just back out of the race.
I got ready slowly and finally after an hour was prepared to head out the door. Muffy and I got to the racecourse in about 20 minutes, but then had to park. Unfortunately, where we had planned to park was blocked off by security and it took almost ten minutes to talk our way into that lot; otherwise we would have had to park much further away and we were running out of time. Our start time was 6:10 a.m. Finally, once we were allowed to park, we had to hustle to our staging area, get ready and head to the start line. The stress of having to get my chair and myself ready in less than 15 minutes, helped snap me out of my cold medicine slump. I wasn’t thinking when I packed, about the early start time and how we’d be racing for almost half of the race in the dark. I had only my dark glasses, so from the start to about the half marathon mark, I wore them on the end of my nose like my grandma used to do with her reading glasses.
The course starts on a really fast downhill with a hairpin turn at the bottom, so I’ve learned that it’s safest just to ride my brake down the hill…no sense in crashing in the first half mile. Once I got past that, my only goal was to make it to the finish. I wasn’t feeling 100%, so my only hope was to survive the race. But I was soon reminded of how fast that course is and how much I love that race and I realized I was cruising! When I got the half marathon mark I looked down at my clock and saw that I was on pace for a PR! With that motivation I started to take the race much more serious and I tried to push myself, despite how awful I felt! I remembered Muffy telling me that there were some changes to the course and that there was a hill in the last mile, so I knew I would have to keep my speed up until then, because that would slow me down. Aside from a close call with a sunken down manhole cover and a cat, things went pretty well. When I got to the final two miles I was going up a gradual grade, but keeping my speed up and I was thinking that maybe Muffy exaggerated the final hill, but finally I looked up and saw it. It wasn’t huge by any stretch, but when you see any hill in mile 25, it’s really not encouraging. My speed dropped considerably and my time was ticking away and I saw my PR come and go. Then at the end of the race, the marathon crosses over the 5K course and there is a little people dodging to do, so I knew it wasn’t going to be the day I set any records. But I did cross the line in two hours and eighteen minutes, only three minutes off my best marathon time! I was pretty happy with the finish, mostly because I actually made it, even though I felt like crap. And I was lucky…all the other female competitors raced in handcycles, so I was the first (and only) female racer in my division. Muffy won her race too, so as we left the finish line we were both in smiles, keeping our streaks alive and having had a great day! Not bad for a sick girl with only a few workouts under her belt. Now I can’t wait for the next workout/race…