Race: Rodes City Run 10K
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: March 23, 2013
Breathing is highly overrated. Not really. But this race just went to prove how important breath control is when you are running. I’m battling bronchitis…and on the morning of the Rodes City Run 10K…the last thing I really felt like doing was running. Every breath I took was a rattling, wheezing mess in my lungs. My nose was stuffed. My body was just tired and worn out, fighting off this nasty bug. The sheer act of climbing out of bed was enough to make me want to climb back in and take a long, long nap.
I felt like death.
No really. I felt…like death. Sort of looked like death too.
It was enough to think that all my attempts the previous night to feel better were a waste of time and money.
After picking up my packet at Louisville Slugger Field after work on Friday, my roommate and I headed out to Oxmoor Mall…for my prerequisite night-before-the-big-race gluten-free pizza. I still had money on a gift card for BJ’s Brewhouse, and since they have gluten-free pizza…it was a logical choice. We kept the toppings easy…cheese, mushrooms, roasted red peppers. And then, as a treat for making it through the week, and because I wasn’t feeling good, we also split one of their gluten-free chocolate chip Pizookies. Which, while calorie content might be insane, I didn’t care…because the cookie was warm, gooey, delicious, and the vanilla ice cream was melty and creamy and…oh…so good. Hey, sometimes you just have to treat yourself, right?
As I was not feeling good, my roommate hauled me over to Teavnana in the mall and had them brew me up a cup of Sick Tea. Which was really good and just what my body needed. Afterwards, we made a few stops at some of our grocery stores while we were out on Shelbyville Road, so we could avoid it on Saturday. I bought a tea specifically for colds at Whole Foods. Then, I hit up Walgreens for Vaporub, Mucinex, and Halls, and hoped my self-medication would knock this out of me overnight so I could at least have a good run.
That was wishful thinking. As I mentioned, despite downing tea, Mucinex, and slathering my chest and feet (yes…my feet!) in Vaporub, I woke up with a deeper rattle in my chest that was a bit more persistent than the day before. My nose was still stuffed. And I felt…like death. Have I mentioned that before?
That being said, I went ahead and got cereal into bowls for breakfast, grabbed a few protein bars for pre-race snacks, and started the coffee maker. While the coffee was running, I went ahead and brewed more of the tea for colds and let it steep. Which meant I had time to drink that down just as my roommate was waking up. So, cereal, I sip of water, and then coffee followed. I didn’t take my Mucinex in the morning because I was reading online that taking cold medicine before a race isn’t the best idea. I decided to slog it out without any and take some immediately following the race. I tucked a bunch of tissues into my shirt sleeves and more into my jacket for pre-race, and we got into the car to head into downtown Louisville to find parking.
That wasn’t as difficult as we anticipated and we ended up parking in an open lot a short walk from the start in front of the Brown Hotel. And…extra bonus…it was only $3.50 to park. NICE! So, we tossed our stuff into the trunk and started hiking in the cold morning air toward where the start of the race was.
We were so early…the start line wasn’t even up yet. And, because this race is held in the midst of downtown…there really was nowhere we could duck into to keep warm. That was something I didn’t need to worry about the year prior, as it was quite warm for that race. I remember being really hot at the finish line. Standing around outside last year was awesome. No problem. This year…I was shivering and fighting my need to stretch. Cold weather means you best be good about your stretching. Get those muscles warm and keep them warm. But I couldn’t get myself warm. So…thirty minutes before the race, I at my No Gii Protein Bar and did a few lunges, stretches, high knees, butt kickers, knee circles and some hip circles.
As I was warming up, a photographer from Brightroom came over, noticing the sign that Cathy has at every race. He said that he sees that sign at every local race and looked at me and asked if I was Karen. I nodded and said I was and he asked if he could get a picture. Of course. So we posed with the sign. And then he reminded me he needed to see my race number, so the warm fleece jacket was unzipped and pictures retaken. The legendary sign does it again. After that…I ended up shucking the jacket and hoodie I had layered over my cold weather running top (I think if I hadn’t been sick…the running skirt and short sleeves would have been on regardless) and removed an extra tissue and a cough drop.
With the start line up, people were already filling the starting area, so I gave Cathy a hug and she wished me luck and told me to have a good race. I looked at her, and practically in tears, I said, “It will be slow.” I, to this very moment, can’t believe how much it pained me to say that. Probably because I have been feeling so good about this race series. I’ve been training through the winter, getting stronger at racing, and just loving the runs. I was loving nothing about running this morning. Fighting back tears, I folded a tissue into my hand and went to find a spot to stand for the start of the race. I found a little pocket that was about 30 feet back from the start line and tucked in there. Lots of people were talking…discussing the race and their strategy to run it. I was just hoping not to die from lack of oxygen.
The National Anthem was sung and we all fell silent and paid due respect to our flag. A minute before the official start, the four wheelchair racers were sent off on the course. It was almost time to go. I popped the cough drop into my mouth in hopes that it might ward off any coughing fits like those I’d been experiencing in my training runs for my upcoming half marathon. The starting area snugged up and then we were sent off with the air horn. At least…I think an air horn sent us off. Because most everything is a foggy memory to me…damn bronchitis.
The crowd I was standing in began the starting line shuffle…slowly moving toward the actual starting gate. It took me less than a minute, I think, to reach the line…and I was off. I started my Garmin and darted over the sensors at the start. I spotted Cathy with the sign and gave a wave, but she didn’t see me. I could tell. And…off I went.
The race starts on East Broadway, which we basically run all the way down until we hit Grinstead. This is a good stretch of downtown Louisville. And…this also had the wind blowing right at us for the first couple miles of the race. You just suck it up and go. Or in my case, wheeze through it. I was running slower than I like…but not taking it easy either. I knew I wasn’t hitting my normal race pace, but I had to push myself a little. It’s race after all. Not that I enter the Triple Crown of Running to win anything. I am not that fast of a runner at all. I enter it because it is one of the best race series in this area and I had SO much fun with it the year before. That being said, even with bronchitis, I felt that while taking it easy I still needed to challenge myself. I told myself I’d listen to my body…and my body was still sounding a lot like Pumba rustling through the African desert for grubs. UGH! Stupid lungs!
I survived the first mile, which was an accomplishment all its own in the cold air. My body was fighting every breath. I was struggling. I could tell my legs were fighting each time I pushed off the pavement. I was pretty certain a lot of that had to do with the fact that it was a struggle to just draw breath…and breathing is integral to running. So…color me screwed!
Mile 2 was up next and I was thankful to have made it this far. I navigated the water stop and continued on my way. The turn onto Grinstead to take the road around Cave Hill Cemetery was ahead. And I remembered that path from the previous year I ran. Little bits and piece of the course were filtering into my head. I guess it was one way to keep my mind off the rattle in my lungs and the chesty cough that I let out every now and again.
Mile 3 meant we were past the “hilly” portion of the race and what remained was virtually flat. Awesome. And I was running through that halfway point before I knew it. I made no attempt to glance at clocks or my watch…because I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to run my race and make it to the finish line. It was the only goal I set considering how I felt.
Around the cemetery I went with a large group of runners and then Mile 4 clicked by. Two more to go…plus the added .2 for the 10K mark and I was home free. I wheezed, I coughed, I gave my all and pressed on through the next mile. One more to go. When I made the turn onto East Main Street, I knew that it was a straight shot down toward Slugger Field, around a corner, and then onward to the finish line at the waterfront. The last mile had me at least entertained by a couple of guys who started singing Wham songs. I don’t know why…they did. And it was what I needed to take my mind off my rough breathing and just laugh (or cough, in my case) a little.
I made the turn and could see that finish line ahead. So, with whatever reserve power I could find, I made the final turn onto the straightaway to the finish line and just…powered as much as I could toward that gate. I ran as fast and as hard as I dared and could manage. My body was just tired and worn out. It was fighting bronchitis. It was fighting the cold. But I really just needed to hit that finish line. I did. I threw my arms up in the air, then gave a wave to Cathy before stopping my Garmin.
And somehow…even with bronchitis…even with feeling like death…I pulled off a new PR, beating my previous 10K time by 4 minutes. I was shocked. I was surprised. I am still trying to figure out how I managed it.
That being said, upon spotting Cathy in the finish area, I walked over to her, saying, “I…I can’t breathe. I…I can’t…I can’t breathe.” I couldn’t. Each breath was a rattle and a gasp. She told me to head down toward the water and she’d meet me there. So, I slowly began to walk that way. I grabbed a cup of water and slowly sipped on it, feeling how fast my heart was beating, how hard it was to even draw in a single breath. I coughed hard a few times. Finished up the water and spotted Cathy as I grabbed one more cup.
I asked her for my jacket…which is something I never do after a race. Even on the coldest race mornings, after running I’m usually too warm to even want my jacket back, even if the temperature is cold. But I was chilled to the bone, and all I wanted was to be warm. As we were standing around, another runner came over and congratulated me on a good race. She said she spotted me at Mile 4 and used me as a pacer for her. We stood around and talked for awhile about races and sparkle skirts (she was wearing one and is good friends with the creators) and all that crazy stuff. We congratulated each other again, then I went to grab a small banana to split with Cathy as we made our way back toward the car. No hanging around this time…I wanted some breakfast and to get warm.
As we were walking to the car, I woman runner noticed the sign and asked who was running the Chicago Marathon. I told her I was and that sparked a conversation as we all walked through downtown toward our respective parking areas about marathons. She ran Boston a couple years back and said that while everyone talks about Heartbreak Hill…the entire course is hilly. This made me laugh…and cough.
I love my fellow runners. We said goodbye to downtown by piling into my car and making our way to Annie May’s Sweet Café for gluten-free donuts and a gluten-free/allergen-free/vegan breakfast sausage and “cheese” sandwich. I changed clothes before eating and did my best to warm up with a good breakfast post-race. It was a good day…and I was actually surprised…and quite proud of my accomplishment. I wonder what I could have pulled off had I been feeling 100%. Maybe I can figure that out next year.
So, as it stands, the official results for the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 47:40. It was a new 10K PR for me, despite being sick! Wow. I was the 523/6572 finisher overall and the 97/3694 woman to cross the finish line. And I was 25/609 in my age division. Not too shabby for a girl running while having a hard time breathing and battling bronchitis. I’ll take that.
Next year…Rodes City Run 10K…I intend to take you on stronger and much, much healthier. But…good race. I might have felt like death that morning, but the race definitely put a little life into me.