On Sunday, April 12th, I set out to run a fast 10K with my dog, Luna. I prepared, trained for 9 weeks, visualized success… and achieved what I set out to do: run fast. As I mentioned in my last race post (Atlanta 5K), I had no idea I wouldn’t be racing for awhile. Even though this “race” was just me & Luna, I wanted to appreciate it just as much as I would a real race.
Race: The Cooper River Bridge Run 10K – Virtual option. Since the race was postponed to August because of COVID-19, I chose to do the virtual option. My friend K was not going to be able to make the trip in August, and I don’t want to go without her. The CRBR folks decided to make a virtual option, where we can still get our shirts and race medals, so my time was submitted to their website.
Goal: I chose several goals, to feel good about hitting at least 1 of them.
- “A” goal was to PR (PR of 48:36 set 3 years ago at St. Leo’s 10K)
- “B” goal was to run between 49-50 minutes, which would be my 2nd fastest 10K.
- “C” goal was to run faster than I did in either 10K last year (RunnerDude, 51:18, and Growler Gallop, 55:44)
- “Bonus” goal was to set a “dog-assisted” PR. Since Luna was running a 10K with me for the first time, we would automatically achieve this one.
- “Bonus” goal #2 was to set a dog-assisted PR for the Salem Lake loop (approx. 6.85 miles).. my PR for this loop was at the race in 2015.
I felt pretty good about reaching some of these goals. Plus, I had made a deal with myself that if I was feeling good, I would run a few extra miles (with a goal of 10 total).
Gear: Oiselle all the way! Arm-warmers, capris, tank, bra. Smartwool socks + Altra Escalante’s for my happy feet. Fuel belt with Nuun electrolytes (the new kiwi strawberry flavor is awesome!) and some Clif Shot blocks.
Gut: I have been very cautious not to eat lots of fiber or fat in the day prior to running hard. I had plenty of carbs in the form of rice and potatoes. I had a string cheese right before bed cuz I was a bit hungry. I think the biggest predictor of an upset tummy though, for me, is being dehydrated. So I had lots and lots of Nuun electrolytes the day prior. That morning, I ate 1 Rice Krispie treat, which I’ve been using in training, and one Huma gel (chia seeds) packet, blueberry flavor, which gave me plenty of energy. Thankfully I had no GI issues at all, not even afterwards–praise the Lord!
Weather: 48* and sunny when I got started right at sunrise (6:48 AM)
Pre-Race: I did my best to take it easy the day prior, but I have a new goal (besides to run 1 mile daily) and that is to walk 10,000 steps daily. So I went for a few easy walks, including a 1+ mile hike at my fave spot with the fam. My legs haven’t been as tired as I thought they’d be, thankfully. I felt pretty rested though… I didn’t get a nap because Asher woke me up, and I didn’t go to bed as early as I wanted because I stayed up to watch Peppermint (I love Jennifer Garner!) with Javi. So I didn’t sleep too well, unfortunately. My recovery score on my Whoop was 31%, quite low, and definitely not a great indicator for a strong performance. THEN both boys woke up early, both were grumpy, and I had forgotten it was Easter so I told my oldest son that I thought Easter was cancelled due to the coronavirus (I mean, I thought it kinda was?! Just wasn’t thinking clearly…) So that didn’t go over well, tears were involved, I thought my heart was breaking, and as I drove to the “race site” I had some horrible mom guilt–thankfully when I returned home, the Easter bunny had arrived, with plentiful eggs and candy–whew! To add to all this, I was not able to get the bathroom needs taken care of before I left the house, so I knew I was going to have to out in the woods (since all the public restrooms are locked). Such is a runner’s life in the era of COVID-19 🙁 At least I remembered to bring TP!
So for various reasons, if you couldn’t already tell, I was feeling quite bad that morning.
I told myself on the drive over to Salem Lake: shake off any physical and mental doubts/guilt/bad feelings, and just go run a great race, with your dog, against yourself. So that’s what I did!
Race: I still hadn’t gone to the bathroom, so after my tiny little 3 minute warm-up, I tried… and failed. I figured the urge would come, so I just got going. I had my Garmin programmed to run at 10K, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about stopping my watch on time, it would just capture the 10K and I’d go straight into the cool-down. Next to the little hill down from Linville road’s parking lot, we started off!
Less than 3 minutes in, Luna stops abruptly and pooped on the trail (ugh!) I had to grab a stick and brush is aside. We got going again… and I tried not to go out too fast. Mile 1, 7:34. Too fast. Goal pace was between 8-8:20, but I’ve never been great at pacing, especially not when Luna is involved. Just back off a little… I was in the zone and feeling good, despite the way things went down before I left the house. Mile 2, 7:48. Still a bit fast, just chill! You have plenty more miles to go. I ate my first of 3 Shot Blocks and washed it down with a few gulps of Nuun. Still no urge for the bathroom.
It’s been awhile since I ran Salem Lake, and I have so many good and bad memories here. The good–I love the views of the lake and the woods, seeing random animals like turtles, birds, squirrels, and ducks. It feels quiet and quaint, and I’ve been running here for 8 years now. Less often, since we moved to our new house 2 years ago.
The bad–I’ve had more than enough GI distress, and on this 7 mile loop, I’ve had it hit between miles 3-5, which means several (or many!) miles of walking back to the car. There are only 2 bathrooms, but plenty of woodline, so if you gotta go… yeah, you know 🙁 Therefore, I know exactly where the halfway point is, in case GI distress strikes and I need to turn around and walk back.
But no distress today… I am feeling strong, fast, capable (shoutout to Ashley Keller!). I passed the little turn-off where I used to take bathroom breaks, and I didn’t have even a smidgen of a desire to go. It’s as if my visualizations have all become true. I’m doing it! Mile 3, 8:07. That’s it, keep the pace right there. Up the little hill, snake down the big hill… cross the bridge. Not exactly Cooper River Bridge, but today, it’s just perfect. Up the big hill towards the main parking lot, and I’m halfway. I did some quick math… I think I can be near 49 minutes for this 10K! I reined in my excitement… just focus on this mile. Mile 4 was my slowest, due to the hill, at 8:22. I took another Shot Block. These things have great energy!
I was now in the familiar section of trail, where the family and I go to picnic or walk towards the little creek. THEN I finally had to go, which happened at a great time, since there’s a little trail up the woods (so I can find a private spot and not be seen!) I was glad for a quick break, and relieved when my stomach continued to feel normal, despite all the exertion.
Within a few minutes, I was back on the main trail, knowing that my 10K trial wasn’t official since I had taken this break, but then I thought, who really cares!? It’s unofficial anyway, since I’m running by myself (no race) with my dog.
Speaking of Luna… she is an excellent running partner, but I have several issues when trying to run fast with her:
- She is way faster than me, so she pulls me along–not necessarily a bad thing, but it does start to throw off my posture, and the leash digs into my lower back a little
- She wants to chase any bird or squirrel she sees
- She wants to meet every dog we pass
Because of all this, I keep the leash short, which means that we trip over each other’s feet every so often. During this time trial, towards the end, I was thinking She isn’t helping me as much as she is hindering me right now… I can’t keep a good pace, she keeps pulling suddenly to the right to chase a squirrel, and I’m tripping over her.
Despite my gripes, I am still VERY grateful for Luna’s company, and her energy and speed. I would like to know how my solo time compares to our time, so I guess I’ll have to go back and do it solo sometime. It’s just hard to leave the house with a whining dog, giving me the saddest puppy dog eyes, that quickly convey Take me with you! I want to come!!!
I digress. After my bathroom break, we headed up the final big hill and back down… I felt so light and so good. My legs were getting tired but I knew I could keep going. Mile 5, 7:53. F yeah!!
With 1.2 to go, I increased my speed and focused on short, quick steps. My heart thudded, my breathing labored, but instead of listening to that, I chose to listen to the birds singing, pretending they were cheering me on. I knew where the 10K was going to end, near this gorgeous clear spot on the trail, so I focused on getting there. Mile 6 was 7:35 but I didn’t even look at my watch. Goooooooo! 0.2 to go, Luna was slowing down when I wanted to speed up. Come on girl! The last 0.2 took 1:27, and I slowed to a jog. I couldn’t tell our “official” time but I figured it was less than 49 minutes. YESSSS my 2nd best 10K, and fastest “dog-assisted” 10K, at 48:45. Goals = achieved! I had no regrets. I could have been a bit faster, by not taking pictures (or a bathroom break!) but I wanted to save my energy for the family’s Easter celebration later on, so this was just the right amount of effort.
I took a picture…
…let us jog for about a minute, then we got back to it. We had a Salem Lake loop personal best to set!
I turned on my phone for music, Jason Derulo’s “Fight for You” (one of my current faves, even though it came out in 2011!) and we ran a tempo pace (so I thought… it ended up being 8:19 pace, pretty close to what I just did for the 10K) and set a new personal Salem Lake speed record.
I did the shortest cool down ever, of 0.1 miles (basically 1 minute), then a super fast stretch, and into the van. Whew… THAT. FELT. AMAZING!!! I had nearly given up on long distance, as evidenced by my sprints at the Masters Meet, and all the 5K’s I’ve been doing. I just didn’t think I could get back to my 2017 fitness. But here I am, and it feels incredible. I am 35 now, and I finally have the confidence to believe that my best times are still ahead of me.
Results: I ran 48:45 for the 10K + 5:25 for the remaining 0.65 miles = 54:10 total for the Salem Lake loop (crushed it, compared to my previous best of 58:57 in 2015). Of course, I did have the bathroom break, and Luna took one too, so our total elapsed time was something like 57 minutes.
Recommend: I definitely recommend Salem Lake, as it’s a nearly 7 mile loop with plentiful views, hard packed dirt on a wide trail, and only a few big hills. I hope to someday do the actual Cooper River Bridge Run (maybe next year??) and then I’ll be able to write a proper recommendation. The virtual race swag will be mailed out in May, so I will revise this post when I receive the medal and shirt 🙂
Next up: I’m doing the Takeback 2020 Challenge by Trivium Racing. There’s 75 total challenges to choose from, in the form of 25 Bingo squares, for the next month. I’m excited to get out of the norm (just running my streak) and try new challenges. Plus, the medal looks really cool! Will you join me? It’s not too late!
Have you run a virtual race?