It was nasty cold (for here, in December, anyway) this past Saturday when I headed down to Moab with several fellow runners for the traditional season-ending 10K race. Normally, we can count on it being slightly warmer down there, and it was-but this is not saying very much when it was five degrees in our fair city when we headed out at 6:30 a.m.
After picking our race packets, we were trying our best to hang out inside the high school and ride the second of two waves of buses to the start, but the race crew shooed all of us out and said they had to have people on the first wave of buses and then come back for the other half. So, we took the first buses up. I was in seventeen layers of warmups (okay, not that much-but it felt like it), not really wanting to remove them, and was not really feeling racey at all which was oddly comforting. When we lined up, though, I was still telling myself I was going to take some chances and see what happened. When the gun went off, there were some amazingly fast ladies-at least a dozen-who were out ahead of me from the very start. I thought, oh, no shot for an age group today with all these people but any kind of PR would be very fulfilling.
I got passed by several people in the first three miles but also passed a couple...so that seemed like a wash. I passed a couple more folks in the middle miles but again it seemed like I was being passed by the same number. This was harder than I ever ran the race the first two times I did this race...no "comfortably hard" here at any point. It was just plain hard, and a little part of me was tempted to kind of do that 90% effort where it is a little bit comfortable just to catch a slight breather here or there. The other part of me said go all out for the best PR possible, you can't control results but get a good PR. So that I did, and I tried to give extra kick *just in case* I was close to age grouping and/or had anyone right behind me. Splits looked like:
7:31 (the hilly mile)
last .2 on a 7:02 pace, Garmin time 43:46, official/gun time 43:48. This was a PR of almost 2:30, so I was thrilled with that. I couldn't have picked it up any more today than I did and felt like that is the best fade-fighting I've ever done late in a race. My friend and regular race buddy Jen looked great coming in too. I could see her checking out the time clock and pushing it right to the finish, and it resulted in about a three minute PR for her.
I really and truly didn't think I was going to nab an age group award, though. I saw how many ladies were ahead of me and my age group (a ten year group) is always strong, and represented 20% of the entire race last year. So, when they called my name for third I was truly taken by surprise, and I said "I'm shocked!" before going up to collect my cool looking medal with the KoKoPelli engraved on it. I figured there was absolutely no way and was watching to see which ladies in front of me had placed. When I checked the results later at home, I was the 12th female out of 416 total, and the luck of the draw for me this time was that five of the women ahead were 20-29, three were 40-49, and three were 30-39-BUT the overall female champ was in my 30-39 age group so I was "lucky fourth" and slid up into that last age group slot when they pulled her out for her overall win.
Besides that, I picked up my guaranteed entry form for Canyonlands, got a tote/duffel that all "Triple Crown" runners got (if you run Canyonlands, Winter Sun and Other Half in the same year), and got a door prize of pizza and an appetizer from a Moab restaurant. So-I guess my moral of the story is-it paid off to not take breathers or cruise easy anywhere. The next person in my age group was twenty-one seconds back, so I absolutely would have been out of age groups with any letup any time in the race.
Another nice surprise and twist this year was that the Taiko Dan drummers who I love so much from the half marathons in Moab on the 10K course for the first time! I wasn't expecting to see them at the 10K and they are always a pick-me-up, no matter how well or poorly you're running. They were in a residential area near the bike path, and it didn't seem to be the full group of drummers that they have on the highway. The pick-me-up that I got from the drumming was the same, though! And, going back to that female champ whose win allowed me to place in age group-she obliterated the women's course record with a 35:XX run, finishing fifth in the combined male and female results, barely a minute back from the winning man. When she went up to get her award she was holding her baby, and I was duly impressed that someone who is still in the night-waking phase of parenting was also finding a way to make a little time for her own running and training.
That completes my 2009 racing schedule. It's been a lot of fun, and the training time for those races equally so. As I post this, I'm about sixty miles short of 2000 miles for the year, so it's my final goal to make sure I finish out the year and hit that mark. I probably would've said "you're crazy!" if someone had told me five years ago that I'd be running 2000 miles in 2009, but today it seems like a totally normal thing to just get out the door on a regular schedule, and have it all add up. Shoot, there are lots of other runners who put in slightly higher mileage consistently, and they wind up at 3000 or 4000 for the year, so I look forward to that being my "normal" a few years from now. Here's to running toward the new year, setting, and working toward new goals in 2010.