When I last raced, it was my fifth race in six weeks. I wasn't burned out on racing, BUT I was sure glad to get a good three week break before last Saturday, and the 5-miler at the annual peach festival here, which was also scheduled to have a companion 3-mile race that went out and back on part of the 5-mile course. I purposely reshuffled my week so that my last day running would be Wednesday, giving me two full days of rest before the race. This wound up being a good thing as my achilles started bugging me on my Wednesday run out of nowhere and I just wanted to nip any trouble there in the bud.
It was a cool morning and I made it out to the other side of town quickly. I was having one of those "I don't care" days and wasn't feeling race-y as I said hello to all the usual suspects, and also finally got to meet Blue Earth (Kevin) from the RWOL forums for the first time after crossing paths at a handful of regional races, but never actually getting to meet. He's a really nice guy, and it was fun to finally chat. After speaking with him about his first-time Boston experience last year (he's a 50-something guy who also took up running for the first time just a few years ago), I'm now even MORE excited about Boston if that is at all possible. I got chills hearing talk about getting chills making that last turn onto Bolyston Street.
We got off to a somewhat late start and as we lined up, I saw that my my husband and kids had indeed made it out to the race. I always repeat that no-pressure mantra to them that I don't expect them to be there and never want to push them in to coming to my races, but that if they do come, I really do love seeing them there, especially at the finish. I found out later that it was one of those mornings when they got up asking if they were going to Mommy's race so that made me all warm and fuzzy. :)
I positioned myself a couple of rows back and just wasn't really gung-ho on being near the front. The countdown (or count-UP, since he went "one, two, three") started and off we went.
I immediately realized I shouldn't have sat even a few rows back-I was fairly well boxed in and couldn't seem to move one way or the other at first. Who knows, maybe it was a subconscious thing to fire myself up for racing but I finally broke out of the box and started moving along, passing a lot of people in the first mile and finally settling in right behind a petite woman or teenager. I wasn't sure if she was running the 3- or 5-miler but I couldn't get anything else on her for the time being. I could see another woman up in the distance.
Mile 1: 7:09
The course was changed a bit this year, and it seemed like we were utilizing more paved path and dirt roads...and that tree that we used to leap over? I realized after the fact that I never leaped over it in the second mile. Haha. Can't believe I didn't notice this.
Halfway through that second mile, the girl in front of me takes the turn back-oh good! She was a three-miler. I can see a tall woman with a red shirt and ponytail well ahead of me. I mean way up there. Beyond that I could not see any other ladies.
Mile 2: 7:14
Now we're making our way to what was the turnaround point for the out-and-back the past two years. I see the leading woman as I approach. I think she's a cross country runner at the local college, very speedy, looking good. As I get closer to the turnaround the only other woman is the tall red shirt lady. Instead of a single-track dirt trail through grass as we ran last year, we're now heading up a two-way dirt and gravel thing to another turnaround. The leader is really adding to her lead at this point but I was pretty sure that I'd made up a bit of time on number two. This is kind of a tough mile out in the sun that seems to go on forever. Another obstacle course element in the third mile of last year's course where we slid down a muddy slope is noticeably absent this year.
Mile 3: 7:27
Okay, now I know I'm coming up a little on that tall woman. We're not close yet but my gut said "you can catch her if you want it bad enough." I know I'm fading a little but she's fading more rapidly than me, so I stick to trying to stay relaxed and running the mile I'm in.
Mile 4: 7:37
I think I passed one or two guys now in the beginning of the fifth mile as I start to pick up steam and kick it into high gear. I inched in very small increments closer to that woman and keep thinking she's going to see/sense me and just put me away. It doesn't happen, though. I am finally almost upon her, and just think okay-here goes nothing. I pass her and am headed straight to the only uphill on the course.
We're about 4.5 miles in now. I had no plans to turn around and look but was sure she was going to pick it up and reclaim second but I couldn't hear her coming. I pounded up the hill and really went into high gear, accelerating up the road to the school, turning into the parking lot and then sprinting across the grass, holding on and not losing my position.
Mile 5: 7:15
Last .03 mile (pretty much on the nose as far as Garmin measurements go): :06, final Garmin time of 36:48, a new 5 mile PR of about a minute, good for second overall female. My youngest two rushed over and were jumping up on me and I was just spent so I flopped down on the ground in the shade to catch my breath. I was really stoked because I played it a little more risky early on with pace and again when I decided to go after someone who seemed to be too far ahead by the halfway point to catch for someone like me who normal is not successful in passing late in a race. This was also my very worst race of 2007, but I'd improved last year and didn't think I was really going to take off any more time this time around.
Now, here's where things get funky. Upon checking out the results that were being posted on a wall by the finish area , I was confused. I could very clearly see the only two women ahead of me in the five mile at the turnaround, and then, as I previously mentioned, I eventually passed that second woman. When I looked at the results, I was listed as third overall, and when they did awards I was officially third overall, and the person they named as second place in the five mile was not there. My DH said that person came in at an easy jogging pace (not that there's anything wrong with that-just that it was clearly about a 12 minute mile, give or take), and coupled with the fact that I had not seen her anywhere at the 5-miler turnaround, it seemed pretty clear that whoever the person was ran with a five-mile bib but probably changed their mind, ran the three-mile, did not report this to any race officials, and took off.
I got a great goodie bag with some fancy sodas, peaches, and a $25 gift certificate to the running store. I really hesitated, and almost didn't want to say anything about the person who they named second overall, and how they didn't run five miles because it was no biggie to me, and didn't want to sound like some ingrate who thought the snafu was their fault since they can't do much when the runner didn't tell them they didn't really run five miles. I finally did mention it to the timer, just because I could clearly see which woman/women were ahead of me at the two twists/turnaround on the course, NEVER saw this woman my husband saw finish, and felt bad for the woman who really finished third and left empty-handed. They did not do any age groups this time so I figured I'd say my peace even though it wouldn't change things since the runner in question had left. Maybe next year they can at least make an announcement to inform them ahead of time of any race changes, or after the fact if they didn't race the distance they'd planned.
Oh well-just one of those things that happens sometimes at a local race! Not the end of the world by any means. I'm still super-stoked to take some time off of last year's PR, and think I'm continuing to make progress at really going for it and racing all-out.
Our old camera died on us about two weeks ago, and we have a brand new camera now, so my husband got a couple of photos of my finish. My race photos are usually somewhere between terrible and looking like someone who is being stabbed or thumped with a blunt object, and I have to say that these might be some of the best race photos I've ever seen of myself. Like I said, though-that's not saying much since I my face and body are usually contorted, looking like I'm having some kind of seizure or in extreme pain. Anything's an improvement from my usual race photos.
Just around the corner
Don't look back!
Here's a view of Mount Garfield, with the kids and I posed in front of it following the race. Would you believe that we actually have a "race" up and over it here through the running club? I'm too scared to try that one. I'll readily admit that's probably stupid on my part, since my next race is that little climb over the hill from Ouray to Telluride.