Part 2 of 2
I am not just an athlete who knows Heart Rate training works, but a Coach who trains athletes on Heart Rate training, so of all people, I trust the process. And one day, the process clicked over. My walk breaks were less. I was running continuously longer times. My base was returning. Push-ups came off the knees and back to traditional. My strength was returning.
I took a deep breath and smiled one day when I realized that the reason all of this happened was so I would go back to the real ground zero of my running. Back to the relationship I had with running when I first started, I loved it, and I couldn’t wait to run. It wasn’t how far or how fast I could run; it was because I could run.
The Nevada State Games are near and dear to my heart. I competed in the games for the first time in 2012. I won a Gold Medal. I cannot tell you how great it felt. It is an event I hope to participate in as long as I can. It is crazy competitive, but with a twist. The competitors are not there to “pick each other off” but to cheer each other on and reunite like old friends.
The Games were fast approaching. How was I to know that this would be my first race of the year? I was supposed to have a couple Sprints, an Olympic, a Duathlon, a ½ marathon all under by belt well before this “little” 5k just thrown in the mix.
For the record, there is nothing “little” about a 5k.
I had a time goal. I knew where my training was. It was realistic. I also knew I would come nowhere near where I finished last year. I had hoped to medal again, but at this point I was so giddy that I was able to race and see my old friends. I didn’t care.
I know this course. I have run it many times. I know every turn. Every hill. Every point where I have had a success or a challenge, I KNOW this course.
Race week. Taper repeats were hitting my goal time. Mind you I trained, indoors. On a treadmill. The race would be outside in 100+ degrees with false flats.
Race morning I woke up, without the alarm. Funny how no matter the time of a race, I always wake up WELL before I need to, without the help of the alarm? But really, don’t all runners do this?
I had set everything out the night before. Getting dressed was uneventful, I was prepared. I made a cup of coffee and had some GenUCAN protein mixed with almond milk (1 scoop w/ 10 oz. unsweetened almond milk- drank ½). My husband gave me a hug and a good luck kiss and I was on my way out the door. The temperature gauge on the car read 85 degrees until I pulled out of the garage. 99. At 6:15 am. That is ok. This is MY house. Heat, is normal.
This race is unique. There are 2 local races that go on at the same time. A 10k starts first, and then the games run along “inside” another 5k. It is interesting because you really do not know who all you are racing against. As I was pulling into the parking lot…the 10k winner was screaming past behind the motorcycle escort headed to the finish line.
Not many people knew I was racing. I kept it private due to my struggles this year. But some close friends and my teammates knew. I received overwhelming messages of support. One message in particular, lit my fire. They know who they are, because I told them their words were just what I needed. “Remember why you do this….”
I took a deep breath and said out loud in the car “Remember why you do this” looked at the temp of 100 glaring at me and started walking to the start line. Within seconds there were arms around me, hugging. Old friends from the last race. More hugs as I approached. Hugs from those I met at packet pick up. Just all warmth and smiles.
I took a quick trip to the porta john and warmed up. My mind was blank on the warm up. I was watching the 10k finishers come in. The announcement rang out for those in the 5k to gather at the start. I lined up. Shook hands, high fived, then….game face on, face forward.
“Remember why you do this”
I do this so Cancer will have to chase me to catch me again
I do this for those who can’t
I do this for my son
I do this for my husband
I do this for my family and friends
I do this for my athletes I coach who inspire me each and every day
I do this, for me
The gun (air horn) went off and out we all went. I looked at my Garmin and said “Whoa CRANFORD too fast too fast” darn it…that was going to hurt at about 2 ½ miles expending that energy too soon by coming out of the gate too fast.
I hit the first mile marker, was even in stride. Heart rate was right where it needed to be. My pace was a good 20 seconds faster than I needed. I looked up to see a truck pulling in as we were exiting to hit the streets. Back window rolls down “GO MOMMY GO!!!!!!” My husband and my son were there, perfect timing.
Things were going smoothly. I took water at the aid station, not to drink, but to pour on my wrists, neck and top of my head. I could feel the heat radiating off the pavement. The course is a clockwise loop out and back counter clockwise. On the way back, it is a false flat. One of those nice Vegas gradual uphill inclines. Folks, Vegas is not flat. I made the turnaround and at the aid station again I took water to pour on me to cool.
I could hear people around me, breathing labored. Some cussing. Some whining. I started high fiving people who were coming down on their first lap “Remember why you do this”. I made the turn to the counter clockwise loop back, where I have struggled in the past. Even heart rate, even pace, still well ahead of what I needed to meet my time goal.
Then it got hard, really hard. I looked at my Garmin, and laughed out loud to myself “good call Coach” it was 2 ½ miles, I called it from when I came out of the gate too fast. So I set my jaw and kept on. Focus.
Ok, so maybe I focused too much, instead of taking a first left around a loop I snapped out of my deep focus when I realized I was headed the wrong way….OOOOPS! Double back and get back on the course. I laughed at myself. I looked back at those behind me and they had been yelling at me trying to keep me from going off course. It is just funny because I have run this course so many times I can do it in my sleep.
I could see the final left turn to the finish. Mentally reminded myself that I ALWAYS drop the hammer WAY TOO SOON and die off and have to crawl to the finish. The finish line is a lot further away than you think. I did a mental check, took a deep breath and rounded the corner.
The finish was in the distance. I was alone. The people in front of me were far ahead enough I really couldn’t see them, and no one behind me. I had a point in the distance where I would drop it and sprint to the finish. I was struggling. It was HOT, my legs were burning, and my lungs were burning. I was happy, thrilled. I was having, F U N. “Remember why you do this”. I had executed (aside from a slight detour and coming out of the gate too fast) an excellent race. I could hear my dear friend and Coach Rebecca in my head “Smoke it” so I dropped the hammer, and finished with my fastest sprint EVER and my time was 91 seconds ahead of goal.
YAHOOOOwhoa…dry heaves…..ok…hold on…give me a minute…..
I was walking it out after I crossed the finish. I heard feet behind me fast approaching then arms flung around me, my son. He was giddy. He is everything to me. My husband caught up to us, having him there, means more to me than he will ever know.
Then time came when they called all of us in the games for medal presentations. I could have looked at the results, but I didn’t. I had no clue what was to come. We cheered for each other and yelled until we had no voices. My age group was called. They started announcing “In third place, the Bronze Medal goes to Kristie….” I was THRILLED, ELATED, wait….different last name. Oops. Not me. The silver was given out.
“And in first place with a time of ….the GOLD MEDAL goes to Kristie Cranford”. I think the tears were pretty much instant. I won my second Gold. Later I would find out I was 12th overall.
I stuck around, hung out with old and new friends. Sweaty hugs everywhere. My son was taking great pleasure in the “buffet” at the finish. My husband had left to go to work; his boss had let him come in late so he could be there. Again, he and my son being there mean so much to me.
The race, was fun. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt. But that is a 5k. Have I told you how much I hate 5k’s? But it was fun. I smiled so much my face hurt.
And above all the one thing that I did learn from this race: absolutely without a doubt do I ever “Remember why (I) do this”.