At 11:30 today I realized that I had a critical decision to make. I had stopped somewhere on Taft Road between Ft. Collins and Boulder to fill our trusty van with King Sooper’s gas. I thought to myself, Do I buy Pringles at the outdoor section of the gas station, go inside to grab tortilla chips, or do I continue to drive home and regret that decision when I’m at home with crossed eyes trying to make lunch.
I was in decision overload at the gas pump because I’d just finished racing The Fort Collins Human Race. In addition to pushing myself to run fast for 13.1 miles, racing is mentally exhausting to me because even when I’m very focused, I’m always making split-second judgement calls. Most fall into the category of how fast should I go out? or who should I follow? This was a smaller race so I didn’t get caught up in the hullabaloo that sometimes occurs just beyond the start mat. Instead, after the gun, I fell behind several men in their twenties who looked like they worked at the local run shop because they miss their college cross-country/track team. Among the lean guys in sleeveless singlets there was another woman. She was obviously friends with them and because Kennett had already pointed her out as probably being fast, I made sure to stay behind her and not pace off of her. However, there was a second woman. Do I stay on her heels or go around her? I went around her which put me in second. That lasted for less than 2 miles. Another older woman came around me. Do I try to stay on her heels? She was a veteran runner and my pace was already slightly faster than I felt I needed to hold so I let her go. 3rd place would still be an overall placing and I needed to focus on conserving for the first part of the race. A few miles later it was a woman around my age who came up around me in a bright pink sleeveless top and navy spandex shorts. I hooked onto her and just settled in, waiting for my chance to prove I was stronger. When I finally got around her I felt I needed to hold a pace that would cause her to drop off. While it worked, it meant I went faster than I intended to and paid the price later in the race. There were five main people around me throughout the majority of the run. Anytime the positioning changed I had to rethink my game. Ideally I’d race my own race, but having others push you is part of the fun of paying $65 to run hard for 13.1 miles.
I grabbed water at each aid station but continued to run as I drank it, so it was more to wet my mouth and throat than to quench my thirst. I emailed my coach, Michael, after the race to tell him that my legs wouldn’t push off the ground the last few miles. He told me that is a classic sign of dehydration. It made complete sense to me in an email after the fact but during the race I didn’t want to pause and give the other girl in pink a chance to gain on me.
To keep the story short – I lost speed the last 5-miles which was the complete opposite of my plan to negative split. I peed my pants twice.I bent over after the finish line and looked up a moment later to see Kennett with my recovery drink in hand. He stayed through to the awards before heading home on his bike. I came in 3rd female overall and won a gift card to the running store. When I go to shop I’m sure I’ll see some of the lean cross-country guys that led the race out this morning.
But I know you are really curious about whether or not I got those pringles at the gas stop. The answer is no. I parked the van and went inside the grocery store despite wearing the same shorts I had peed in hours prior. I tried not to get to near to other shoppers because my sweat was indeed off-putting. And, because I was tired of making important decisions I walked out with chocolate chips, granola, bananas, a dish scrubber, and what I originally went in for – tortilla chips.