Race-day dawned chilly and damp – perfect conditions for me and my lackluster ability to perform well in the heat. I drove out to the course and got to enjoy the sight of the early morning fog settled around the hills along the highway. I arrived in plenty of time to do a little shake-out walk (skipped the usual running/drills warm-up routine since 13.1 miles was already long enough to push my luck on my still-healing foot and low fitness level) and do the whole pee-a-billion-times thing.
Pre-race view of the course (those hill up yonder ha ha).
Pre-race walk (can you spot the bluebird?)
At start-time I stripped down to my capri-tights, singlet, and arm sleeves and met one of the other racers (a speedy girl I know from the series last year – and the to-be race winner) to line up at the start. The horn sounded, and we were off!
The race director had warned about the mud, and man was she right! In the first 200m my shoes collected enough mud that my legs were struggling to swing my feet back in front of me each time I took a step. The course gradually turned to gravel and the clods of mud gradually got flung off (a girl I was running next to called these mud clumps “dingleberries.” Not exactly the reference I would have gone with, but it made me laugh). We headed up into the hills and got ready to hang in for the long haul.
I felt pretty good the first 3 miles, and then hit a rough patch from 4-7. I’ve been struggling with some stress/anxiety stuff lately, and apparently my problems followed me on to the course. I can usually block out “real life” stuff while on the run, but kept thinking about all the work I need to get done and all the stressful things that I’ve been struggling with. This led to some near-hyperventilation and was extremely distracting from my actual goal of racing. Luckily, I fell in with a nice little pack around mile 6 and the steady rhythm and break from having to focus on my own pace/ankle-breaking-rock-avoidance let me calm down and get focused back in on the race. Around mile 8, the girl ahead of me and I took advantage of the aid-station slowdown and to break away from our little pack and pick up the pace.
I had a great time running with my new-found pace buddy for the next few miles. However, my lack of training hit with a vengeance at mile 11, and I hit the wall hard. I fell back from the lady I’d been running with and even took a couple walk-breaks on the hills. Even though I knew I had less than 3 miles left and was trying to motivate myself to finish strong, every 50 meters had begun to seem like an eternity, and my hips were cramping up enough that I started to worry about pulling a hip flexor. A younger guy in front of me was coming back (and also taking some walk breaks) and I managed to hold it together long enough to catch up with him, allowing us to work together and hold a decent pace for the last 800m.
I have never been so relieved to see a finish line in my life.
Looking back, I wish I hadn’t walked, but I just didn’t have the willpower today. Lack of sleep, and a stressful and emotionally draining week left me lacking that extra competitive flame this morning. However, I managed to finish as the 4th female overall, and did enjoy the muddy, XC-style course for all but a few miles. For my fitness, I held on pretty long and pushed the pace more than I had expected to be able to. Last year I experienced similar problems (drastic drop in energy the last 2 miles) and took 1 pause-and-collect-myself break, going on to win the women’s race and place top 10 overall. This year, I ran slower, walked a few times more, and finished further back, but probably did as well, or better, considering my low mileage (20 MPW, 12 miles for longest run).
Best parts of the race?
1) The mud,
2) the post-race weather- sunny but gorgeous clouds (and yummy Nuun to go along with the warm sun) 🙂
3) and the swag – got a pint glass, a medal, and won a hat for my age-group placing!