I awoke to overcast skies, but not so overcast that I was bothered. After all, the weather had been predicted to be sunny that Saturday with a high of 80 degrees.
It had been a pretty good training cycle. I survived the early winter months with my discovery of Peloton Digital's on-demand treadmill workouts and surprised myself with how much I was able to push the pace. By the time regular outdoor running was bearable for me, my average easy run pace had slipped into the sub-12's, which was a pleasant surprise. I suppose that is what happens when you take classes where standards are generalized and the trainer has no idea of who you are or what you personally think your limitations are. Always aiming to be the perfect student, I often tried to match what the instructors were suggesting, although as I got more comfortable with myself, I would be more humble in some of those runs. In other runs, especially the outdoor ones, I was less humble. Or perhaps I was simply realistic. This is the advantage to being told to run by perceived effort, rather than a specific pace. More often than not, my perceived effort resulted in a faster pace than I would have otherwise set for myself.
I managed two long runs of 10 miles, whereas previously I had only gotten 1 of these in. This was in spite of catching my annual spring cold, and missing nearly an entire week of running due to wedding (!) planning. I've never had a perfect training cycle for any race, but I've never been more pleased with how this one went.
The race was set inside a state park, along trails that I regularly ran when I was marathon training. I was pretty excited to run these trails again, as it's been forever since I've ran them.
Back to race morning. I found myself among the lots and lots of runners who thought arriving in the car around 6:30 would be plenty of time in advance for a 7AM start. So, when I finally parked around 6:50, I had just enough time to connect with a friend who was also running, wait in line for the porta-potty and then head to the start line. By the time 7AM rolled around, it was starting to noticeably sprinkle, and I was wondering how in the heck this race would go.
My friend is considerably faster than me, so we started in our respective pace groups. I found myself falling in step with a group of 3 ladies, one of whom regularly paces half marathons. They were going at a pace that felt comfortable, yet slightly challenging, so I quietly shadowed them and by mile 3 or so, the rain had stopped and I eventually joined their conversation. As each mile ticked off, I checked my watch, pleasantly surprised at how good the reported pace felt. The course was rolling hills and the group was running by feel, not by pace, and I enjoyed this approach, keeping an even effort.
Mile 1 - 10:40, Mile 2 - 10:53, Mile 3 - 11:08, Mile 4 - 11:38
The next few miles were one of the tougher sections of the course - with some nasty hills. Hills are the one thing I'm good at though, so while the ladies slowed to a power walk (even effort), I stubbornly bounced up the hill, considering that this may bite me in the ass later. I also figured this meant that eventually, the ladies would catch up with me again.
Mile 5 - 11:37, Mile 6 - 11:22, Mile 7 - 11:43
Now, I have to say, the nice thing about corporate challenge races is companies get points both for having participants and for having spirit squads. So, during what may have been a very lonely race, it was filled with people who were cheering and encouraging you on, and that really makes a difference.
By Mile 8 or so, the ladies had caught up with me again, and we enjoyed the downhill after all the climbing. I was really enjoying the race, chatting with people I didn't know about anything and everything. By mile 9, it was just me & the pacer (who's name I wish I could remember), as the hills had caught up with others. It was also around this time that I started to recognize that, if I keep this up, I will get a massive PR.
Mile 8 - 11:03, Mile 9 - 11:06, Mile 10 - 11:10
As the race continued, we encountered the gradual uphill that had been our initial downhill. In running, what goes down must go back up, and we were paying for those nice, easy miles at the start. My quads were protesting, my hammies asking me 'WTF?' and I was thankful for my new running buddy who was encouraging me to keep my head in the game. About this time, the forecasted rain made its appearance - in full force. We are talking soaked to the bone, water dripping off your elbows and race hat, rain. But, we pushed onward (and upward), climbing to the finish and encouraging other to give it a solid run (neither of us were down for much more) into the finish
Mile 11 - 11:03, Mile 12 - 11:41, Mile 13 - 11:26
I stopped my watch, looked down and was instantly happy: 2:26:34. A 5 minute improvement on my unofficial PR and a 7 minute smashing on my official PR.
After the race, while it was continuing to rain harder and harder, I stretched and guzzled chocolate milk & water under one of the parks' shelters. When it became evident the rain would not let up any time soon, I slowly started walking to my car. Thanks to the hard work of Mythbusters, I knew it would be pointless to try running to the car, as I would get just as wet. I had brought a clean shirt to change into, but recognizing just how wet I was, I simply took my race shirt off in addition to my sopping socks and shoes, and placed my windshield sunguard on my seat, and drove home half dressed. <-- probably an unnecessary detail, but it's important for me that you know that I was so drenched that I didn't want to keep the wet shirt on or put on a dry shirt. *shrug*
Wish I had photos, but sadly, there are none.