Happy New Year!
I, of course, started off the year the same way I ended it. Running! What else would I do?
Yesterday’s race was a late 10am start so you could party the night before and still make it to the race. Partying for me meant falling asleep in the last few minutes of the late football game and my buddy waking me up at 11:58 telling me it was super important that I was awake. So I watched the ball drop and went to bed. We are hardcore here.
One of my friends told me about this trail race last year so I did it and had a blast so decided to do it again. I like that there is a 10k option. I’m not as interested in 5ks right now and I love that it’s on trails. A group of friends decided to do it this year. We met at the packet pickup bright and early …probably way too early. Packet pickup was super easy. My bib had a timing chip that I’ve never used before. It was weird because it had foam and was much thicker than other chips.
Last year the race fee included a cotton t-shirt which I was not very excited about. I might have worn it once but it doesn’t fit well, isn’t super soft, and has made it to the bottom of my t-shirt pile. This year I was really excited to see they were giving us technical shirts. And I liked the simple design of it.
The packet pickup is in a nearby parking lot because the race site has limited parking. After staying warm in our cars for a bit we walked over to the race site. We hung out there until the start and ended up seeing other people that we know. There were not many people so we didn’t go to the start line until about 5 minutes before the race. I noticed that the start was in a different location than last year and we were heading in the opposite direction. They also separated the 10k and 5k start even though it was the same course (2 loops for the 10k). The 10k started first. There were two of us doing the 10k while our other two friends were doing the 5k. There was a very short section of road and then we were headed to the dirt. As we started, it fully hit me that we were doing it in the opposite direction and I kept trying to reverse the course in my mind so I would know what was coming up.
We started with a downhill and pretty quickly hit a rocky section.
I think I took the hard way through the rocks but it was fun anyway. Because there were so few people running, the race shook out quickly and I had my own space. At times it felt like I was running alone and I was ok with that. After the downhill, there was a low section with some mud and a few little log bridges.
And then the most beautiful section of the course – a trail lined with pine tree. That was my favorite part last year too. It is flat and absolutely beautiful. The next section is relatively flat and has a few twists and turns. I was running fast and wondering if I would ever hit a hill so that I could walk. I finally hit some small hills and took a few short breaks. And then the last mile was pretty much uphill to get back to the area where we had started. It wasn’t steep though and most of it was runable. There was a “creek crossing” that I remembered from last year. This year there was not any water and gravel had been added making it not notable. If I hadn’t remembered everyone freaking out last year about getting their shoes wet it wouldn’t have stood out at all this year.
I made my way through the final turns and could see the finish line and the turn for the second lap. I went through the area as fast as I could and started my second lap. The good news was I really confident that I had not been lapped. I was running pretty fast and was pretty sure the winner would not have been fast enough to pass me.
After the first lap I knew I had set myself up pretty well for a PR. I knew if I could hang on it would be a big PR. I also knew I had run fast, maybe too fast and I was going to have trouble sustaining that pace. I had to balance all of those thoughts swirling in my head. I kept moving as fast as I could through the downhill section.
I saw my buddy at one of the bridges and got a little boost from seeing him. I don’t think I even said anything to him. He knows things are usually going well when I’m not talking. If I’ve already blown a race then I will be chatty when I run by.
I was following two women at the time and I was mostly annoyed that it was hard for him to get a picture of me by myself on the bridge. Right after that section one woman fell. I would throw away a PR for someone who needed help but despite screaming that she hit her head she looked ok. She also had a friend with her. I decided to pass them and keep moving. I was planning to let a race organizer know if I didn’t see them running again. Great decision because despite the screaming she was up and running again and they passed me. I followed them for a bit until she fell again and then I decided to keep them behind me. My second lap was much slower but I was keeping my total time in mind and making sure I was maintaining enough speed for a PR.
My buddy appeared out of no where in a rocky, hilly section somewhere in my final mile.
As I passed he said see you in 10-15 minutes. I told him it better not take me that long. He quickly explained that he had to walk the course and I was definitely going to beat him to the finish line. I hiked a portion of a hill with him right behind me but then when I started running again I quickly got ahead of him. I was struggling to keep running but I kept moving.
As I made my way through the final turns I tried to speed up as much as I could but I didn’t have much left. Seeing the finish line gave me a little boost. Right after I crossed I pretty much dropped to the ground. My friends that had done the 5k ran over to see if I was ok. I told them that I was fine but had run a big PR….and didn’t even have the brain power to calculate it yet. After a couple minutes I realized it was an 8 minute PR! More than a minute per mile faster!! I was super excited. I grabbed some snacks while we waited for our other friend to finish the 10k. We ended up walking back and running the last half mile with her. It was fun and we found a bunch of people along the way to cheer for her.
I’m hoping this PR is a sign of good things to come this year. 2016 had some really, really great moments and some of the worst moments of my life. I’d like to focus on the great stuff and build on that.
My biggest running goal for 2017 is to have fun. I won’t complain if some PRs happen along the way but enjoying it is more important to me right now.