Last Saturday, I ran the Isle of Palms Connector Run and Walk for the Child 5K. This is one of the oldest races here in Charleston (22 years!), and the funds go toward various organizations that prevent child abuse. I volunteered at the race in 2013, helping out at the TrySports merchandise tent, since it was the Saturday after the Darlington Marathon, and I was recovering from the ‘thon.
I had a really tough week of running last week, with two speed workouts (a tempo run on Monday and an interval run on Wednesday). Adding something new into your workout routine takes time to get used to, and I woke up Saturday morning and honestly didn’t want to “race”. My legs felt fatigued, and mentally… I just wasn’t there.
I got to the Isle of Palms Connector Run early, waited in the potty lines (not too long) and warmed up with my friend and running partner Steve. He hasn’t raced or completed too many long runs since his injury in the Spring, so this was his longest race post-injury. We ran a little over a mile to warm up, but I didn’t have time to do a lot of drills because runners were lining up.
Steve and I ran up behind the crowd, saw the huge crowd, and moved closer to the front. The race really only felt crowded at the start, though- both the connector lanes were open for runners, so everyone spread out quickly. Here’s a picture my friend Donna took.
The Isle of Palms Connector Run had 557 10K finishers and 471 5K finishers. When the 5K and 10K are the same price, most people opt for the 10K. Some want to get their money’s worth by running 3.1 extra miles, but others run the 10Ks to seed for the Cooper River Bridge Run sub-45 minute or sub-40 minute corrals. I can’t run under 45 right now on a flat course, much less a connector with inclines and wanted to run a shorter race so I wouldn’t be as worn out for the next week’s training.
I got caught up in the commotion at the start (always happens to me at bigger races) and went out a bit too fast. My Garmin didn’t even start so I could get splits, but I held the speed for the first mile and part of the second mile. It is an out and back course, and I tackled the first incline pretty well- just beasted up the hill. The connector’s terrain is tough because it’s harder than the road and has those connectors- you know, those gaps on bridges that cause you to go “thumpety-thump” when you drive over it. I was scared I’d trip, and they always seemed to be where my foot wanted to land.
Mentally, I lost it in the second mile. The slight speed boost I got from going downhill on the first incline melted away pretty quickly, and I tried not to look at the incline on the way back. The winds on the connector were crazy at this point and I was ready to be done. I looked out over the side and tried to pretend I was staying at one of those gorgeous beach houses.
I got over the incline and headed downhill toward the finish- it felt steeper going toward the Isle of Palms! A tricky part of the race is that it ends one street back from the start- once you see the street you started on (Palm Blvd.), you have a little further to the finish on JC Long Blvd. I ran side by side with one man at the end, and when we hit the finish he kept telling me not to let him get ahead of me.
I finished in 23:38, got some water and stretched, then ran back up the connector to cool down with a few more miles, cheer on some of the 10K runners and 5K walkers, and run on the Isle of Palms Connector while it was closed and I didn’t have to fear for my life (it’s quite scary for running on a normal day, as there’s no pedestrian lane).
I ran part of the way back with my friend Brian and his son, Lucas, who runs cross country. It was Lucas’ first 10K and he did great! Steve also did great for his first long run back, and my friend Gary finished in 50 minutes even after running 6 miles before the race (he did the race as a part of a long run for marathon training).
The awards ceremony took place at the after party, which had typical race refreshments but unlimited free beer. A couple of bands played, and people just hung out in the streets and had fun. I won my age group (all the fast ladies ran the 10K), where I got a pretty cool medal that I wore all day. Our Sunday morning OnShore Racing run club represented- 3 of the 4 overall winners were even there the next day for recovery runs.
I hated seeing the finish time that starts with a 23- I joke that the 5K Pain Train stops at 22 for me, and I didn’t feel so happy about my time, starting out too fast, or losing concentration on the way back. I talked to the 10K winner, Eric Ashton, at Sunday’s OnShore Racing group run, and he made me feel a bit better. He said the conditions were difficult (he holds several state records, so he would know), and the 5K was a hard race because we had to run over the incline twice, but didn’t get the flat portion that the 10K runners had.
Even when you have a tough race, you learn a lot about your running so you can improve. Saturday just wasn’t my day, but I know this run, those tough inclines, and knowing where I lose it mentally, will pay off in a future race. Plus, I got a great non-flat run in!