When I signed up for the 10 Miler, I knew it would fall only a little more than a month after running the Akron Marathon. I figured that in the races occurring so close I would be both well-trained for the shorter distance, but at the same time would have taken some time off for recovery. However, I WAY underestimated the damage 26.2 miles does to the body. After taking the obligatory two-week running hiatus following the September race, I attempted to ease myself back in the weekly mileage routine. All I can say is "OUCH!" It was as if my legs forgot how to run. My body just wasn't bouncing back like I had hoped. It was at this point I decided to change priorities for the 10 Miler.
I sent a text to one of my best friends, Mike, who has been working up to longer distances over the past few years. I knew that this race would be the furthest he had ever gone and I was extremely excited for him. Knowing he was about to take on an awesome challenge, I offered to serve as a pacer for him. He agreed to let me have this honor and I was stoked!
With my race intentions now shifted, I spent the weeks leading up to 10 Miler just getting in the distance with little concern for anything beyond easy miles. I was also able to finally use the jogging stroller to push the peanut for a few miles.
A few days before the race, I made a trip after work to packet pick-up. While the location of the store hosting it was a little out of the way (actually the exact opposite direction to home), I was super excited when I got my bag and shirt. They were so awesome! The dog food that they also included was....different.
Race morning arrived cold but clear. My friends and I headed into town together, which set the tone for how amazing of a day was in store. After warming up a bit (both from the cold and preparing for the race), we, of course, had to commemorate the day with selfies. This picture truly embodies our personalities so well!
As we situated ourselves within the corral, I checked with Mike about the pacing. He had a few different goals in mind with his "super A goal" being 1:40, his actual "A goal" coming in at 1:50, but his most important goal being to just finish. I naturally wanted Mike to meet his wildest expectations, so 10:00 minute miles it was. And with the horn sounding, we were off!
I would not be honest with myself if I didn't admit that a little part of me wanted to surge ahead into full race mode like usual. However, I reigned in those primal inclinations and settled on pace trotting along side Mike as he loaded up Zombies, Run! on his phone (yes, he and I are both that awesomely geeky). Today, I was making my race about someone besides myself and if felt really good!
The day could not have been more perfect conditions for an early November race. With each mile under gorgeous sunny skies, Mike and I were able to stay either on or above our goal pace. We reminisced on how some of the neighborhoods we ran through were parts of the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K we had completed the year before and were looking forward to doing again this spring. We also practiced a very smart strategy of walking through the aid stations to recuperate and not drench ourselves in water (running and drinking at the same time just don't mix).
It was around mile 8 (or as Mike called them, his "Hobbit miles" since it was the furthest he had ever gone) that we slowed. One of the sneaky things about running through downtown Pittsburgh is that each bridge is actually a small hill. In addition, the city itself is peppered with climbs and descents all over. I could tell that Mike was starting to wear down, but the determination to finish was clear. If I found myself getting too far ahead, I would adjust accordingly so that my pacee knew that he wasn't running alone. Mike would always give a smile and a wave when he saw me looking - love that attitude!
For all the uphills that seemed to crop up everywhere, the race finished on a downhill. Mike did his best to give it all he had in the final mile giving us a finish time of 1:40:49. While in some ways I felt like I let him down by not breaking 1:40, he was stoked to have finished and well below 1:50 at that. I was unbelievably proud of Mike for his accomplishment - he is now slated to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May at which I know he will do awesome.
Following the race, we headed for mimosas then off to Diamond Grill for lunch (we had our priorities straight!). On a completely un-race related note, the city was also having a reenactment of a stunt Houdini had performed 100 years ago, so we stayed to watch. After all this fun and excitement, the time had come to part ways.
When I signed up back in mid-July for the Pittsburgh 10 Miler, this was not necessarily the race I envisioned. However, in looking back, I would not change a single thing. If anything, pacing Mike helped me realize that I would really like to pace others to their own achievements. While I have no races on my calendar between now and May, I may just have to keep an eye out for opportunities to serve another role at a race than just be a runner.