Saturday, I ran my first race in California: "Joggin' for the Noggin'", a 10K, in Camarillo. 1st race of the year, 1st race in California, and also, first time I finish first female overall!
I don't really know how to fully manage the 10K distance. It scares me a little. It is short, but still, long enough. For this race, in particular, I knew the course and it wasn't that easy. Also, I didn't know what to expect about American people in race mode. I had this big idea in my head that they were really competitive and fast. I tried to convince myself there was no point in being nervous. I mean, it wasn't my race goal, anyways. But it didn't work. After picking up the bibs, Friday, I realized there were no time chip. For me, it meant: lots of people in the front at the start - crowd - crush - jungle out there. Reality was totally different!
Saturday morning, we arrived early, and we started jogging around to warm up. No crowd. Everybody was friendly. It was well organized even if
it was low key. As race time was approaching, I looked for the start which simply was a line on the ground made from red adhesive tape. We
positioned ourselves on the side, not far from the line.
I didn't want to be too far, but, at this moment, I wasn't really at ease being in front. It was far from crowded and we were not squeezed into each others as I am used to at race starts. I didn't know if it was the right place for me.
We were 130 runners, with one man on a bike to show the way, volunteers along the route and arrows on the floor. It was the first time we took part into such a low key event.
At 8:15 am, after a speech from the race director, the gun went off and it was race time. I am sure I touched the button on my watch. I may have not pressed enough, or the watch may have not worked correctly, but it didn't start.
From the start, gaps were formed between runners. I passed 2 or 3 women on the first stretch and ended up in the leading group, with only one woman in front of me. I was surprised and a little bit scared. I thought about my playboy, behind me, who might be wondering why I started so fast. I read 5:30 min/mile on my watch. My breath was short even before starting as I was nervous. I started panicking. So, I decided the first step to take was to calm down to be able to breathe normally (at least, as normal as it can be during a race). It worked. And then, I noticed the time on my watch: 00:00. WHAT?! My watch didn't start. I guess my watch and I are not BFF on 10Ks.
I knew the course: slight uphill stretch until mid-race and then, turn around, with 2 roads to cross twice from below via a sharp down and up section of the path. I wanted to go easy on the first portion of the race to be able to go faster on the way back.
I would have been able to pass the woman in front of me but I didn't dare doing it straight away. I did a shy attempt around mile 1, but the
road was narrow and she didn't let me pass her. I was wondering if she was holding this pace because she knew I was behind, or if she was
actually going slow... I couldn't know. I was scared to pass her and actually not being faster than her, in the end. I didn't want to look
cocky about my speed and my ability to be in front.
We reached the first sharp down and up section of the path. I am used to it as I run so often there. I climbed up at a fast pace and the woman too. But, I noticed her breath was short. This time, I passed her and she didn't follow. I was now the first female. The men in front were spread out. I didn't hear anyone following me.
It was totally new to me. We were around 2 miles in. Nobody was around to follow. My concerns were to try to manage that as good as possible without going too fast. I was also concerned about listening to people coming behind me.
A volunteer on the course was the first one to shout at me: "You're the female leader!". I knew that and it was scary! As we were running on a bike path, the only spectators were the people of the neighborhood who were taking a stroll. Some of them cheered me on. Gradually, I could see the man in front of me better and better. I couldn't tell exactly as far he was. The turn around point was not too far. I saw the leader on the other side. So fast! One of the men in the top 5 shouted at me "Good job, keep going!". It was nice to him as he had obviously other things to think about!
With the turn around, I realized the man in front of me was at reach. I was also reassured with the distance between the 2nd woman and I. I was doing fine and I knew it will now be a slight decline. I saw the playboy sooner than expected (as usual, he ran a lot faster than during training). Many times, other runners and mostly women cheered me on. It was nice.
I could see I would be able to pass the man in front soon. I didn't know if he would be able to follow me or not. At the water station around mile 4, he slowed down. I didn't and passed him.
He didn't follow. I picked up the pace. A little further, I was able to check where he was. The end was not far. I had to keep going.
The finish was on a football field. I crossed the finish line and thought : "Gosh, I AM the first female. YYYEEAAHH!" The man I passed arrived and came to talk to me. I asked him about his time. With that, I knew I ran faster than 43:10, my previous PR. But I didn't know the exact time yet.
I don't know if it is due to the natural friendliness of the Americans, or due to the low-key kind of race, or simply due to the runner's
community. I have nothing to compare, in France or elsewhere. But, after the race, I felt like a star. The 2 women who finished after me gave
me high fives. Runners came to me to congratulate me and chat.
I do that again, ANYTIME!
Here are the official results. My time is 42:28. I am the 1st woman and 7th out of 129 runners. I received a gift certificate from a triathlon store. Let me tell you it will be at good use!
Obviously, I am really happy. It was a local race, but, still, it is nice to be the first woman. It is quite funny to have a tiny glance at
what it is like to run in the front pack. Actually, it is comfortable to be in the middle, surrounded by other runners!
Now, I am wondering if I handled it right. It destabilized me and I may have been too cautious. At the finish, I was fine. It may be a good thing... or not. Should I have pushed more? On the first mile, the runners could see the ones in front. The playboy told me he wondered what I was doing as he saw me and thought my stride was too relax compared to normal. Clearly, I slowed me down at the beginning, but I will never know if I would have been able to go faster and keep the pace all race long. It's done. I did beat my personal best for the 10K distance... and I am now rich and famous!