Friday, July 9, 2010

The Runner Formerly Known As Emily

In an attempt to be more like Prince (because who doesn't want to be like this? *rolling eyes*), I have decided to give up my real name and take on the more mysterious moniker, Unknown Runner. I'm not doing it for the attention. I'm actually just trying to get out of my Nike sponsorship contract through a loophole. True story.

Okay, okay. You figured me out. I don't have a Nike sponsorship. I realize that comes as a bit of a shock to many of you.

The truth is, I became Unknown Runner not by choice, but because of a mistake. Let me take you back in time to Wednesday... *Begin dreamy music and dramatic fade out*

It was just like any other ordinary Wednesday, except that after lunch, I made a quick side trip to pick up my race packet for the Main Street Mile. When I arrived at the packet pickup, I noted that the person handling packet pickup was a teenage boy. That, in itself, is not a warning sign. There are plenty of teenage boys who could handle the task of coordinating a packet pickup for a small race. Unfortunately, this boy was not one of them. Here's how the conversation went. I swear on Prefontaine's grave, I am NOT embellishing.

Me: I need to pick up my race packet. Last name *****.
Boy: Okay. *shuffles through a box and pulls out a bag with my name on it*
Now, let me get your bib and chip here. Let's see... you have number 208.... *flips through bibs which are perfectly in sequence: 205, 206, 207, 209, 210... there's no 208*
Well that's weird. 208 isn't here. Let me check the chips. *flips through the chips and there is no 208* Huh. We don't have your number here. *shrugs*
Me: Okay, so what happens now? Can you give me a new number?
Boy: Ummmmmmm....
*blink blink blink*
Boy: Yes! Here's a bib in the 300's. *hands me bib 307*
Me: Okay, so I need a chip too.
Oh. Well, we don't have any chips over 300.
Me: Well, I'm not going to run the race and not get a time.
Boy: Right. Ummmm...
Me: If someone came in right now to register, what would you do? Don't you have bibs and chips set aside for last-minute registrants? Can I just have one of those?
Boy: Ummmmmm.....
Me: *taking deep, calming breaths and counting slowly to 10*
Boy: Oh, hey! Wait! I have some bibs and chips in the 100's that we can use!
Me: Oh, thank God!
Here, number 107. You'll be special because everyone else will be in the 200's.
Me: Well, I do like to be different. So, don't you need to change the number you have for me in your computer there?
Boy: Ummmmm.... Oh. Yeah. Sure. *hits a few keys on the keyboard*
Okay then. So we're all set?
Boy: Uhhh, yeah.

As you can imagine, I left packet pickup not feeling very confident about getting an official result for this race.

Fast-forward to race time (Thursday evening). I was excited, anxious, and nervous - I had never run a one-mile race before, and I wondered if I could break 7:30. It was awfully hot and humid, so I was doubting myself a bit. This race is run in two waves. The "slow wave" goes first, and when all of those people finish, the "elite wave" starts. This seems backwards, but it's actually a nice setup because all the slower-pace runners and walkers get to watch the super-fast runners finish, which is really cool. I was assigned to the slow wave, which was a-ok by me. I had no desire to run with [get trampled by] the big dogs. Instead, I got to run with some of my most favorite FASTies, Louisa, Cathy and Marge. And hey, look - there they are toeing the line!

When the race finally started, I reined in my pace as several people rushed out ahead. A mile may sound short, but when you're running hard, it feels like an eternity. Better to save some energy for later. By the time I reached the top of the big downhill, I had already passed several people, and I wasn't even halfway.

I had feared the big downhill, repeatedly picturing myself tripping, rolling into a ball, and tumbling all the way down (which may have actually been faster than running, but almost certainly more painful). In actuality, the big downhill was not the scary monster I had imagined. I flew down it as if my feet had grown wings. I felt light, easy, and most importantly, fast. At the bottom of the hill was the 800m mark. They had a race clock set up there and I glanced at it quickly and saw 3:07. Interesting. I was on pace to run a 6:14 mile. Of course, I knew that wasn't actually going to happen, as the course flattened out a bit and I lost some of my speed.

People sometimes think I'm crazy (okay, people often think I'm crazy, but let's stick to the subject at hand, shall we?) because I would rather run a half-marathon or marathon than a 5k or shorter race. But the fact is, short distances hurt. They hurt a lot. People say that running a marathon is largely mental, but I think the same is true of the shorter distances. Every fiber of my body wanted to slow down, walk, or stop, and my lungs burned. But I had to keep going. I kept telling myself "It only hurts for a few minutes." And also "Don't let anyone pass you!"

As the finish line came into view, I pushed harder. I think people were cheering on the sides of the road, but I really didn't hear them. I could see four or five runners ahead of me. Only one of them was female. Unless something catastrophic happened, I would be one of the top three women. Fifty yards to go and I could make out the finish line clock. 6:53... 6:54... I gave it all I had and just before I crossed the finish, I saw that the clock read 7:02. That was much faster than I had anticipated, so I was pretty darn pleased. I celebrated my victory with my friends, many of whom also set PR's.

Fast forward to later the same evening. The results had been posted online, and fellow FASTie, Niki, texted me to let me know. She warned, "You're not going to be happy about it." I pulled up the results and here is what I saw:
See Number 6? Unknown Runner. That's me. The Runner Formerly Known As Emily. I can't say I was really surprised, after what happened at packet pickup. But when I pulled up the awards listing and saw that I did not get the 2nd place status I deserved, I was pretty unhappy. You see, Unknown Runner is sexless (no smart-ass comments from you all!), and therefore can't get credit for being the 2nd place female.

So I did what anyone in my running shoes would have done: I complained. I've been told that the appropriate powers have been notified of the error and asked to change the results and the awards listing. I'm still waiting for that to happen.

Meanwhile, I'm basking in the glory of my one mile PR. Yes, it was downhill, which really really helped. But other people don't have to know that! So shhhhhhhh! It'll be our little secret. The run graph is below, and you can see the wonderful elevation plot (the green line).

My pace, interestingly enough, didn't seem to get any faster on the big downhill. I suspect that since I started out a wee bit too fast, I held back my pace on the big downhill in order to recover a little bit. This was completely subconscious, and for that I give a huge kudos to my runner's brain. It left me with enough energy for a final kick.

With a finish time in the low 7:00's, naturally I'm now wondering if I can run a sub-7:00 mile. Well, I don't know if I can, but I bet Unknown Runner can...

Peace. Love. Train.

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