The night before: Determined to beat a chest cold before I raced the next day, I went to bed Friday night armed with Nyquil, a humidifier, and a box of Kleenex. I slept for 9 fitful hours. Saturday dawned cold and clear. I woke up, ate a couple of bananas, suited up in black tights, maroon running jacket, and pink skully cap and gloves.Then I downed two Dayquil and two Tylenol. Nothing like cold meds to keep you going.
Ready for action: Within a 1/2 hour my nose stopped running and my head and body aches disappeared. But my arms and legs felt almost numb and my head had that familiar cottony, muffled feel - all symptoms from the cold medication. I told myself that I would not aim for a PR, but instead run the race nice and easy, so as not to get more ill.
My SO and I hopped on the Metro and got to Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington with about 20 minutes to spare before the 9:30 a.m. start. More than 5,000 people signed up for the race, and we jostled one another as we tried to warm up in the chilly 30 degree weather.
And we're off!: I wedged myself in between the 8 and 9-minute milers, and started off at a shuffle when the announcer yelled, "Go!" The out-and-back course was very scenic - down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol, to Union Station and around to Constitution Avenue, past the Smithsonian museums, and back again.
I didn't see any split signs or clocks, so it was hard to know how fast or slow I was running. I guestimate that I ran the first two miles at a 9-minute mile pace, probably a bit more, as the course was pretty crowded that first mile. The pace wasn't enough to overly tax me, but fast enough for me to break a sweat.
What was strange - I could barely feel my legs moving underneath me those first two miles. I knew we 'd hit mile 2 when I saw the first water station (the station were at miles 2 and 4). That's when I first noticed some runners started breathing pretty heavily, folks who came out of the starting gate perhaps a bit too quickly, and were now paying for it.
I cruised along at an even pace. I kept getting boxed in by other runners, so I ran along the perimeter of the course. At mile 4, I succumbed to my competitive demons and pushed it just a little bit. I pumped my arms up a small hill, lengthened my strides, and tried to stay relaxed. This was hard because my lungs - rheumy with the chest cold - were starting to complain.
So I eased off again, and only ran faster at what I guessed was mile 5.5. I didn't sprint, as I still felt oddly disjointed from my body. But I did pick up the pace. At the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum, a small group of kids tried to run across the road - right in front of a bunch of runners, including me. I threw my hands out to either side and yelled, "Hang on a minute!" before I ran over two kids.
At mile 6, with .2 miles left to go, I turned on the few jets I had. My head felt like it was going to explode. I really wanted to walk. But I couldn't quit so close to the finishing line.
I was pacing myself behind a rangy 20-something guy, who kept turning his head to gauge how far ahead he was of me. "Huh," I thought. With about 20 yards left, I surged past him and almost collided with two other male runners as we all hit the finishing mats at the same time.
The clock said 54:03, and it took me at least 20 seconds to cross the start line, so I estimate that I ran the race in about 53:45, an average of 8:39/mile.
I can look at my time in one of two ways: I can be disappointed, as I usually run faster than that on hills every Saturday morning with my 10K group. Or I can be happy that I finished the race, given the state my body's in. Plus, I ran faster in this St. Pat's Day 10K than the other 10K I ran, in which I averaged 9 minutes a mile.
After the race, I felt pretty good. But that apparently was an adrenaline-filled illusion. I made the mistake of going out with friends that night, and I felt so ill I was a zombie. The next day, Sunday, I dragged my feverish self around the house with a handful of cold meds in one hand and a glass of orange juice in the other.
Today I'm still feeling under the weather, though I'm on the mend. Now back to the sofa for a nap.