Thursday, May 13, 2010

Boriana Bakaltcheva: Twilight Race Recap

As part of our blog, the Charlotte Running Club would like to welcome race recaps from other members of our club. If you are interested, please email us at and we will publish your writing!

Thanks to Boriana for agreeing to be our first featured race recapper!

I wouldn't think to write a race recap about "just another" 5k... but when CRC asked me to do so about this year's Twilight 5k race, I was quite glad. Although this would ordinarily have been "just another" 5k like all the others, some recent unfortunate circumstances made it quite different for me.

My colleagues continually wonder at and admire my running. They ask each Monday how that weekend's race or long run was, they inquire about when the next important race is, and so on. Twilight, of course, is extra intriguing to them, because I stay late at the office, change into a running singlet after work, and run my race uptown. (This is fascinating to them. "How are you even coming to work when you have a race tonight!? Don't you need rest!?")

On this particular Friday, something was very, very different. My dear friend at work, mentor, coach, etc., Debbie was not there to ask about my goals for the race and get me pumped. Debbie was a star triathlete and runner herself. She first mentored me at work for 2 years and helped me to quickly excel into a new role. But we also immediately hit it off and became close friends, exchanging training stories, motivating each other, always glowing to share about a recent race. Eight days prior to the Twilight race, my dear friend Debbie suffered a spontaneous rupture in her femoral artery... doctors were unable to save her. She was 42. I will never know why this happened - none of her family, friends or colleagues will ever know.

I think about Debbie each day since then, including today, and including the day of Twilight. The shock is still sinking in. The day of Twilight, all priorities had shifted, all emotions were in a new zone. Any emotion you could imagine, I felt. The past eight days had been a tremendous roller-coaster. It had hit me, just how much I had admired her, learned from her, relied on her, and truly loved her. And boy, will I miss her. The fact that a race was approaching that night was only reminding me that she was gone.

At the start line, I was angry, passionate, ebullient, focused, and apathetic all at once. What did "just another" 5k matter, anyway? Life is fragile, short, unjust. Debbie was gone (just like that!) while I was decked out in racing flats and sunglasses as if this race meant something at all. Instead of feeling "guilt," I tried to extract something positive: Debbie had such a beautiful spirit, loving laugh and sunny attitude. She was always proud of my accomplishments, but extremely tough - I had to earn her respect/admiration and she never let me off easy. So, I knew I had no excuses and had to perform at this race. My recent 5K's were "okay" but I knew my body was able to do better. I had a feeling Debbie knew it, too.

We were off!

Starting with a slight downhill and a nice breeze to cool things off, I felt relaxed and focused. I would take everything in pieces. Just one mile. Make Debbie proud - just for one mile. Everything was comfortable and the time was 6:00. I was only marginally alarmed. I had typically been running 6:20 miles in my 5Ks, so this was fast. But my body felt fine, and frankly, the race did not feel physical at all - all of it was in my mind.

I didn't think much of the first fast mile. Now I had to make Debbie proud in the second mile. Repeating in my mind were the words "consistent," "relax," and "comfortable." I felt a harsh sudden cramp in my left side but did not let my mind write off the rest of the race. It subsided fairly quickly. Through at 6:10. I was surprised - I had felt fatigue and believed I had slowed down more.

Two miles down, but the race is far from over. I can't claim any sort of personal victory yet. The third mile was a special character all on its own. A steep climb up Ceder, curving hill from 4th to Graham, and a final slow ascent towards the finish. My body was fatigued, but I couldn't lose focus and declare the race over when it wasn't. I believe this mile was around 6:35.

A quick climb up the last hill, and there I came through at a 19:37, which is a 4-second PR from several years ago. That's not killer fast, I know. But I think I have it in me to drop a good chunk off that time in the coming months. Debbie had challenged me to break her high school PR of 19:08, so much work lies ahead.

Debbie had a knack for being able to read me, and easily knowing whether I was truly proud of or disappointed in myself. I was proud of Twilight, but I am hungry for more. She would have patted me on the back for the PR with her big smile and then promptly asked me how I planned to build and improve the next time around. Debbie never stopped chasing goals and I think of her every day as I continue chasing mine...


  1. Truly inspirational race report and great race despite your heavy heart.

  2. b, your race recaps are always awesome... you are such a great writer. this one brings tears to my eyes. love you.

  3. I love that running is always there for us regardless of the circumstances. So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend...she would have been proud of how well you ran a tough race.