This is a race in which I've participated twice before, held in honor of a cross country runner at a local high school who was killed in a car accident on her way to practice seven years ago. Sounds like something that could be horribly depressing, but it's really a feel-good type of deal-and I'm not routinely a feel-good type of girl. Her family and friends have always been involved, and the high school cross country race that follows the citizen's race is a big home meet for her high school. The entry fees go toward scholarships for student athletes at area high schools, so it's an event where I don't groan too much about shelling out for it.
When I first ran this race two years ago, it was the first race in which I'd ever placed in age group, and last year I paced my daughter. I was just getting started with serious training in 2007, and running less than half of my current mileage with very limited race experience, so it was sort of a question mark day for me this year as far as what to expect.
The weather was pretty fantastic for racing-cold, sunny, no wind. I'd taken the day off yesterday, and had a good mileage week before today so I was feeling optimistic about running, and had already decided I was not going to psych myself out over the inevitable slew of fast women who all seem to turn out for this race. I said hello to Carl and JoAnn from my neighborhood, as well as other usual suspects, got in a brief warm-up, and lined up near the front.
I planned to use the strategy I employed earlier in the summer that seems to work for me of going out as hard as I can, and just push and hang on to that as long as I can. I think I spent two years trying to hold back slightly and then have a big finishing kick in 5K's, and was never able to have much success with that. I seem to actually be kicking harder these days at the finish with the harder starts I've been trying, so the plan was to go with that today and not preoccupy myself with what everyone else was doing. After two failed attempts to get the air horn to sound at the start, our starter just gave us a "Ready-GO!" and off we went.
There was a small pack of men that launched pretty quickly, and what seemed like a short string of us ladies, probably six or seven of us, trying to stay near the front from the get-go. After initially trying to jump out front, there were two women who easily moved ahead of me but I just kept running hard and didn't think much about it. There were a few other ladies who just kind of eased past me, but not blowing by either, as we approached the halfway to the first mile. I stayed relaxed and felt that good burn in the lungs of being about where I should be pace-wise as I finished the first mile.
Mile 1: 6:33
The second mile contains a lot of twists and turns on both paved and rocky/gravel paths. Here, a woman passed me while still on the paved section. As we moved to gravel, though, I could hear her struggling with her breathing and body language didn't look good. A runner just a little bit ahead of me flew past her, and then I moved on ahead as well. This to me is the hardest section of the route. It's fairly flat but has sort of an uphill feel as we wind around the lake and start heading back to finish the first loop on the course, and set out for the shorter second loop.
Coming to the end of the first mile, I see that my husband and kids have arrived to watch. My husband hollers out my name, and the girls yell "Go Mom!" My son, ever the comedian, almost made me bust up laughing when he shouted out encouragement, calling me by my first name. Not now, son-mom is having enough time trying to breathe and put one foot in front of the other.
Mile 2: 6:56
So, OUCH. I am feeling it now. But, I think I'm decent at mentally toughing through that last 1.1 as the body starts to tire. Somewhere along here I think "what is that feeling?" as my compression sock seems to be NOT compressing and sliding down my left calf. I must've accidentally tucked or flipped it funny or something, but I was not about to break my momentum to monkey with it. As we were hitting about the 2.5 mile point I could feel it sliding all the way down to my ankle. Oh well. It can just stay there now. This was all after I talked to a friend pre-race who has an upcoming leg surgery about how great these socks are, and how welll they stay put. Oops.
We make a turn through a wooded, curving section of trail that meets up again with a stretch of parking area, and I charge with all I've got to the three mile point, and last turn toward the finish.
Mile 3: 7:06.
I can see the finish but it looks REALLY far away. Okay-best way to get closer is to run fast to that point, right? :P I pick up the turnover as much as I can on the straight shot in to the finish.
Last .1 (measured .12 on Garmin): :50 seconds, 6:51 pace, final time 21:26 which is more than a four minute PR from the last time I raced this for myself two years ago (I think I felt WORSE during that race too! ). Good enough for 22nd overall, and 1st in the 30-39 AG. I'm not sure but I believe I was 6th out of all the women-I might be off a spot or two, though. My prize was the traditional ceramic banana medal, made by students from the race namesake's high school, with a number one painted on it.
This wasn't a 5K PR for me but I think that was about the third fastest I've run, and on a XC course I'm really pleased with that. I've done SOME speed work this summer and fall but not a ton-mostly just trying to log the miles and spend time on my feet, so I think this was a decent result given that I haven't stuck to strictly regimented training lately.
So that's it! Thanks for reading. I had a lot of fun at this race today and it's giving me confidence for my half in a few weeks.