Falling in at Fort 2 Base
If you know me, you know I don’t have an overwhelming need to participate in a lot of races. My races aren’t planned out a year in advance. Instead, I’m more the “Oh, that sounds fun, I think I’ll sign up” kind of girl. I pulled one of these on Coach Suzy about six weeks ago. I was at Run Club and Stephanie mentioned that she was doing a race called Fort 2 Base on 9/23/12. It’s a 10 nautical mile race (11.5 miles) from Fort Sheridan to Great Lakes Naval base. While the event sounded fun, what made it more appealing is that I could do it with Stephanie and Tanya. The distance was long, but not overwhelming. I asked Coach Suzy if she thought I could ramp up for it in time. I promised I would only run it “for fun” – no setting unreasonable time goals. So, up the training ramp I went. Most of my training runs were pretty good. I was getting my pacing down and able to negative split for 8 miles. I guess all those track sessions with Coach Joe paid off this summer. My goals for this race were to have fun and “practice” the water stops (they’re a real problem for me). Now…am I the only one who sets goals that I conveniently forget to mention to anyone else? I promised no driving myself crazy with a time goal and I was OK with that. But, the private goal I did set was to run the entire thing. No walking – none. For all you experienced runners this may not seem like a big deal. However, I‘ve only ever done more than 10 miles on three previous runs, so it wasn’t a sure thing by a long shot.
Stephanie, Tanya and I car-pooled to the race start. Larry dropped us off at Fort Sheridan and he headed up to the Naval Base. As we got out of the car, Larry checked the temperature and it was clear up to 42 degrees. It was freezing even with a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Soon Cathy met us there and our little party was ready to get started. Since both Tanya and Stephanie are doing the marathon, the 11.5 miles included in the race was a little short for their long run so Coach Suzy gave them a warm-up run. Cathy, being the over-achiever that she is (just kidding) decided to go with them. Suzy was very specific in my pre-race call that I didn’t need to do this, so I opted to get back in the porta-potty line. What better way to spend your time? The race let us check our gear bags at the last minute, so we wore those warm clothes until the last possible moment. As the start approached, we fell in based on our pace times. With only about 1200 runners it didn’t take more than a minute or two for us to cross the start line. Stephanie and I started together and ran about the first half mile together. She was soon running a faster pace than I wanted for my first mile, so I decided not to try and keep up. I had a long way to go and Suzy cautioned me not to go out too fast. The first few water stations were manned by the Army. How lucky for the race organizers to have “built in” volunteers from all branches of the service. Many of us said thank you to those stationed along the course, not only for helping today, but for their service to our country. I settled in to a nice pace and those water stations were going much better than I expected. Who knew there was an art to them. Everything was going well until about mile 7. I noticed the IT band outside my left knee start to tighten up. I kept running, but tried to kick my heels up to see if it would loosen up. Yikes – more pain, not helping – definitely no more of that. Just keep running, that was my big goal. By mile 8, my knee felt like it was starting to buckle out from under me. This was not good, so slowing down seemed like a good idea. If you fall on your face, that’s not running – plus it’s embarrassing – so keep running – just slower. About this time a group came up behind me. I knew they had to be young because they were singing, “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world.” Then they started playing a game of “Who do you want in your hot tub?” They each took turns naming off celebrities they wanted in their hot tub. I found out that Brad Pitt and Mark Wahlberg are hot, but also very old. I had to laugh. I soon realized this was one of the pace groups. They were keeping me and all of their runners entertained. Soon we ran through the entrance of the Great Lakes Naval Base. As we wound through the base, I made the turn on to the road with the mile 9 water station and heard, “Sherri, Sherri!” I couldn’t believe it! Jim and Cheryl were with Larry to cheer us on. What a surprise!! I only expected Larry and not until the finish line. I was so happy to see the three of them. By this point my knee was hurting pretty badly but they gave me a big boost as I high-fived them and ran on through. I only had 2.5 miles to go, but I knew Hero’s Hill was still to come. Now… I’m not sure why race organizers think it’s a great idea to put a big steep hill at mile 10 of an 11.5 mile race. It must be to torture us. There’s a beautiful beach at the back of the base and as you make a little turn, you can see just the base of the hill. Yep, I knew it was coming. I start up the hill and keep repeating what we learned at the hill running clinic this spring, “Short steps, pump the arms.” It really does work. I looked up and saw the “Hero’s Hill” banner. My first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding. This can’t be the pre-hill leading in to the big hill.” Whew! It was the banner marking the top. Yay…I ran the whole way up – not fast, but it was still a run. My knee was really revolting but I knew there was only about a mile left and there was no way I was walking now. I mentally dug in and kept running. I wish I could say it was the pace I hoped for – it wasn’t. But I knew I was going to meet both my goals: have fun and run the whole thing. I was so glad to see Larry, Jim, Cheryl, Stephanie, Cathy and Alex as I headed in to the finish chute.
I still don’t really know what caused my knee to tighten up and cause so much pain. That never happened during my training (I know, I know…that’s what they all say). I’m chalking it up to the cold weather. Maybe all that cold and shivering before we started tightened everything up more than I realized. I was a few minutes slower than I would have liked (not that I was keeping track, Suzy), but it was still a successful race. Thanks to Coach Suzy for doing an awesome job to get me ready for this race. Beyond the training plan, she made sure that I didn’t lose perspective that my goal was to have fun instead of finishing with a specific time. There’s no doubt that I would have missed my time and really focused on that instead of what I did accomplish. I have more confidence with the water stops, ran the entire 11.5 miles and had a BLAST!! The best part of the day was hanging out with awesome Experience Triathlon friends at the start and finish of the race.