If I could sum up Cotton Row in one word, that word would be "HOT"! In all caps. Maybe in red print. I did not expect the temps to rise as much as they did so quickly, but by the time we start running, it was a balmy 85 degrees. There were shady spots along the course, but not enough to shield runners from the hot sun, and many had to slow to a walk or drop out because of the heat.
I pushed as hard as I felt I could, but my efforts did not result in a PR. I sort of figured aiming for 45 minutes was shooting too high considering my training up to that point, but I thought it might be possible to land somewhere around my old PR (47:03). It was not meant to be. My finishing time was 48:50 (4:37 chip time). I was a little disappointed, but not overly so. I knew it was a hot morning, that my training had not been in preparation for a fast 10k, and I was having a pretty good time anyway. Sometimes that is the best thing to aim for when circumstances aren't conducive for a personal record race. As far as my age group results go, I was 10th out of 143 females in the 30-34 age group.
After the 10k, I downed a bottle of water, cooled down and chatted with other runners who had just finished. I stood near the Fleet Feet No Boundaries tent and cheered my sister through her second 10k ever. Then she and I walked back to my car where I changed into my coaching shirt and into another pair of shorts as well. My current ones were sodden with sweat and sticking to me with every move. I put on my 5k number and ran back to the start just in time to realize that I now had to find Melinda in the sea of people. I had trained with her the entire No Boundaries season and promised to pace her for her first 5k. I looked for her while trying respectfully to give my attention to my second pre-race National Anthem and prayer of the day (which gave me a lump in my throat both times, as usual). I eventually made my way to the right hand side so I could find her. A minute or two after the race began she found me.
It was even hotter for the 5k than it was for the 10k. I asked Melinda what her goal was and she said under 30 minutes. We were on pace for that but we'd started off too fast, caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the second mile was tough. I told her she had to stick with me for that sub-30 minute finish and she did. Around the 3rd mile, a nagging leg pain that she's been dealing with during training showed up with a vengeance. She was still on pace, but hurting badly and I wasn't sure what to do. Should I push her to reach her goal or should I slow up so she won't get hurt? I could tell she wanted that sub 30 finish, so I decided to push, hoping she'd let me know if it was too much.
I explained what was left of the course and told her she only had 5 minutes left. "You can do anything for 5 minutes." Then 2 minutes. The finish line was in sight (albeit .4 miles away). I could tell she was hurting, but when she saw that finish line, she put her pain aside and ran hard. We could hear music playing as we got closer to the finish and she picked it up even more. With the crowds cheering and the music blasting, I saw the clock and said, "29:40! You've got this!" and we ran through the finish together. It was such an exciting moment.
After that, I downed another bottle of water and cheered in the rest of our No Boundaries runners before heading back to my car and home. It was heavenly to rinse the sweat and salt away in the shower and to finally cool off. Jason made homemade whole grain banana muffins, scrambled eggs and turkey bacon and it was the perfect post race meal. I tried to take nap, but wasn't very successful, so I ended up washing dishes and making blueberry crisp with fresh blueberries. It was a delicious way to end the day of running and racing in the heat.
So the race itself did not provide the PR I was looking for, but the day gave me so much more. I got to see friends and family I hadn't seen in a while and witness a ton of people push themselves to finish their race despite the elements. I had the honor of being a part of Melinda's first 5k, and I think that was probably the highlight. Even without the 10k PR I was hoping for, Cotton Row came through once again, providing for an amazing day of running and I was grateful to be a part of it all.