The VCU Health 8K was my final race of the 2016 season. It was not a Spartan Race or any other obstacle race, it was just a regular road race.I have completed this race 2 times before and I was really excited to try it again this year. I was hoping to use this run as a way of gauging how much improvement I have made since I started all of this. Being that it isn’t an obstacle race it is a much better indication of how my running is progressing. Also, this course is quite flat. With the exception of the last mile of the race there is very little elevation change, which I also thought would help me do well in the race. I have also been doing some training runs which have been getting better and better. Overall, I was very excited to run this race. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned.
Now I don’t want what follows to be taken as a list of complaints or excuses, because they are not. I realize that most of what I am about to say is my fault so I only have myself to blame. Even still, the events that transpired resulted in a disappointing finish.
First and foremost I got another sinus infection just before the race. If you recall I had this problem with the Virginia Super Spartan. I have been told by a doctor that these sinus infections appears to be allergy related, but I have been too lazy to get any tests done to determine the cause. Due to family obligations I didn’t get to sleep until around 11:30pm the night before the race. The race started at 7am and I wanted to leave my house around 5:45 so that I could get some light breakfast, find parking, and make it to the start line with time to warm up/stretch. To accomplish this I had to get up at 5am. While I got a few hours of good sleep I woke up tired and was moving very slowly and confusedly while getting ready for the race. When I was finally ready I was already 15 minutes late, so no breakfast. I left my house and drove to the event. About 500 feet from the exit I was going to take I had a dreadful realization: I forgot my bib (which has the timing chip)!! Needless to say this was discouraging. I immediately turned around and raced back home. I ended up getting home around 6:30am, the time I wanted to be approaching the start line. I grabbed my bib and hit the road again. With a small amount of mildly aggressive driving I made it back to the exit around 6:45am, 15 minutes to start. This is a big event, with a lot of participants and as I got closer to the event it was clear parking wasn’t going to be easy. I drove around for what seemed like forever until I finally found a spot. This spot was about 8 blocks from the start line. Time check: 6:55am! From here I had to run to the start line, weaving between all of the responsible people who showed for their races early. About halfway to the start line I realize something else, I forgot my phone! So no app tracking of my performance and no music. Not too big of a deal, but they are things that help to make the experience a little more fun. As I am running to the start line the race starts and I am now running in the opposite direction of the first wave runners. Luckily there were plenty of people still in corral and they were still walking to the the gate when I got there so I just blended right into the back of the pack and tried to catch my breath.
Very soon after the race started it was clear I wasn’t in the condition I wanted to be in. I managed to run the entire first mile, but it was a struggle. I checked my watch and my first mile was around 12 minutes, 2 minutes slower than my normal morning runs. I shook it off and walked a bit to try to calm down. Over the next mile and a half it was a bit of running and walking. I also had to stop to use the bathroom. Around 2.5 miles in I was walking and breathing hard; I had to have a serious talk with myself. I tried to put everything into perspective and to get all of the mornings issues out of my mind. I reminded myself that I have been training for this. I felt the only reason I was performing so badly is because I was too in my own head, so I got my mindset right and decided to try again. With my mind calm and breathing in check I started running and much to my surprise things went really well from here on. Not only did I keep running but I actually was able to make it the next two and a half miles without stopping to walk at all. Not only that but I actually made up a lot of time. The first two miles took me just over 30 minutes to complete. The remaining (almost) 3 miles only took me 27 minutes to complete. I can’t deny a big part of that is the massive downhill section that is the last half mile of the race, but still I was pretty proud of it.
I didn’t finish in the time that I wanted to (50 minutes or below) but all things considered I think I did well and I learned some valuable lessons. Any race is a stepping stone to where I want to be. I can still be proud that I completed it and that I never gave up. It is a fun race but I’m not sure I’ll do it again next year, if I get to where I want to be I might step it up and move up to the half marathon!
One last thing I’d like to mention. I had said the last bit of the race is downhill. It’s a pretty steep decline and you are able to get up a good amount of speed. Being that I was trying to make up time I really opened up and took full advantage of the speed boost. I have to say, it felt amazing! It was so nice to run like I used to. To feel the air moving past me, to feel my feet moving quickly beneath me, to be zipping past all of the other racers. It really brought me back to my ‘glory days’ and really reminded me what I am doing all of this for. If nothing else I am very happy to have run this race just to have experienced that!