11:00 pm Sunday night: I’m staring at the ceiling, mind racing with anticipation. I laid out all my clothes and gear hours ago. I ate a healthy dinner, and even turned the lights out at 9:00 pm. Yes. I’d been lying there for 2 hours waiting on sleep.
Finally, after tossing and turning, I decide to move to the guest bedroom so as not to keep my husband up all night — he is getting up with me to drive to this event, after all. At least one of us should be well rested.
When the alarm goes off at 4:40 am, I stagger down for my coffee, clutching my mug while foam rolling my calves. Donning my running kit, compression socks, and gold Sparkle Athletic Skirt, I make a few last minute decisions: should I carry water? Yes. Do I need nutrition? No. I spend the last 10 minutes before departure second-guessing everything — my goals, my choice of hat, do I need a change of clothes…everything.
I am more nervous for this race than I have been in years.
As the dark morning hours start to throw off a little light, Dave and I drive north to Fort Collins, home of Colorado State University, and the second annual FORTitude 10k. I have my coffee, and my brain has a running playlist of music I haven’t listened to in quite some time, but it’s like someone else is changing the radio station every 5 seconds. Taylor Swift…bzzt…Boyz2Men…
The closer we get to Fort Collins the more nervous I’m getting. I’ve never been into “FoCo” proper, and even though I did my due diligence and research, I feel like I know nothing about this race or this course. The goals are aggressive: sub-1:04 and empty the tank. This would be a hard effort. I wasn’t sure how much I was willing or able to suffer through what would be one of my hardest efforts in a long time. Given my achilles issues in the last few months, I wasn’t sure if I should even TRY going that hard. There are other races at stake if I get hurt: Seattle’s Beat the Blerch in 13 days, and RunDisney’s Wine and Dine weekend in 2 months.
Upon arrival at the start, I hit the restrooms and did my regular warm-up routine — My husband approaches, and decides to sign up and walk the race last minute! (As a quick aside, I am very proud of him for doing so, and excited that he made that choice) Managing the pre-race jitters was crucial, and required some serious mental focus. The last 30 minutes before the race start seemed to crawl by, so I distracted myself with Instagram and Facebook until I stood literally on the start line, first in corral D, front and center.
My heart was racing. My mind abuzz with anticipation. My muscles were primed and ready to fire. The weather was almost perfect…57 degrees, light cloud cover, clear air, light breeze.
Then the starting pistol…
About 30 people passed me in the first 100 meters. I just let them go, because I had my plan in place. Energy conservation was the key in the first two uphill miles. The kilometers ticked by, and at Mile Marker 2 I knew the hardest part of the course was over. The course would straighten out a bit and trend back downhill.
I had to focus and concentrate on the push. Sustaining an effort like that for the full 6.2 miles was a bit foreign to me, since I spend so many training runs just keeping it easy. I stayed within my projected paces, and even trended faster on the back half of the race. Every once in a while, I caught myself thinking, “I could just slow down to walk for a quick second.” Then I would shake myself, focus and concentrate on saying, nope. Embrace the suck. This is supposed to be hard. That is why you work as much as you do. So I kept running…and I mean running. This mental toughness comes on the heels of the Perform Like a Mother Webinar Series from the Train Like a Mother Club. If it hadn’t been for that, I’m not sure I would have had the mental stamina to keep up the paces. It really was a mental game, and for the first time, perhaps ever in my running life, I realized the mental fitness is just as important as the physical fitness. Check out my takeaways from this series in Part 1 and Part 2.
I skipped aid stations because I brought my own water, keeping out of the way so I could run straight through them — nothing was going to stop me — I felt like a freight train. I was able to keep the groove I had set throughout the race. I smiled, I high-fived kids and volunteers, I dug deep from the well of energy and strength, and I found something I never really knew for sure I had. Fortitude. It seemed fitting that this race was so named. I found my Fortitude.
There was so much elbow room in this race. The field was spread out enough that I could run the tangents and as every mile marker came up, my watch would beep that mile almost exactly at the same time.
As I approached the Stadium and the finish line, I wondered how much more I had to give. I tapped into whatever was left in the tank and burned off the rest I had in me. It didn’t feel like much, but I crossed the finish line, knowing I had nothing left.
When I stopped my watch, it read 1:02:03. I beat my “A” Goal by over 2 minutes. I had to double check, but in all my years of running…
This is my fastest 10k Race.
At almost 45 years old, I can still set all-time PRs. I thought those days were behind me. I was coming to terms with the aging process (well, not really, but I’m trying). The lack of sleep, the nerves, the anticipation, the training, the aches and pains…I pushed so hard on this race, but what was funny was that I had goals…I just wasn’t 100% invested in them. I think I had taken some pressure off of myself to do my best, whatever that looked like…as it turns out, my best was better than I ever could have imagined.
The FORTitude 10k is a hidden gem, and frankly, I hope it stays that way. It resembles it’s older sister the BolderBoulder10k in its attitude, layout, and community involvement, but sets itself apart in other ways. The Fort Collins course is perfect for a 10k PR, because it is flat, fast, and wide open. I hope it remains a secret, but I’m not sure that it will. If at all possible, I’ll run this one again and again. 6.2 miles of perfection, and I couldn’t be happier. The bar has been raised…I wonder what else I might achieve?