The wind... my nemesis... greets me with what felt like a two handed push that almost knocked me to the ground as I stepped out of the parking deck. A fellow racer says "Whoa! This is going to be tough!" I respond, "Maybe it will be at our backs and we will all run really really fast!" and I smirk. He asks me if I ever ran this course before, which I had and the course is a modified figure 8 shaped course. We will be running into these gusts it at some point.
The thing about this race is that it feels like a slow course but it produces some fast times. Every time I looked at my watch, with the exception of the first part of M1, it confirmed that I was, in fact, running as slow as I felt I was running... but by the end of the race, my time wasn't as bad as I thought. The distance still ended up as 6.25, so the certified course is not short... it is just rolling and that makes it potentially fast. The uphills are slow, but the down hills are fast. If you can handle those inclines and up hills, you will do great at this race.
I havent been feeling great the last few weeks. I feel heavy and sluggish and puffy. I have been riding out my immune system crashing on and off for a few weeks now, as evidenced by the inflammation of the entire left side of my face that comes and goes, and my in ability to feel rested ever lately. On this day, my face swelling wasn't as inflamed so I thought maybe once I started running I would feel ok. I never really felt strong but I didn't fall apart as badly as I feared I would. So today was a good day.
Today was also another race where I met Joe and Andrew who along with me make up our very small running club which Andrew named Triskelion Arwen Runners. He did some research and explained "Triskelion is a greek term meaning 'three legged' and thus this sign looks very much like three legs running. The Celtic symbol meaning here is appropriate because this symbol stands for competition and progress. The Arwen symbol's first and third rays represent male and female energy (respectively). The middle ray represents the balance of both energies! So the understanding is that we are united as a team." I love that Andrew has thought so much about what a running team is all about. I love watching these guys race. They are improving so fast and really learning how to navigate the racing world, which isn't very difficult, but it is still knew to them.
Joe was incredible, despite a hiccup where he ended up off course. This really only gave him the opportunity to pass me TWICE in one race! :) Give him a few more races and he is going to be a phenomenal long distance runner. Andrew is doing amazing and ran his 10k faster than the pace he ran his first 5k at a few months ago. That impresses me. But he really needs to be at a track meet where he can shine as a sprinter... and then he needs to be sent off into the woods to run 100 miles. I am sure he will do it without even realizing how hard 100 are supposed to be. For now I get to watch him kick in to the finish like a crazy man and that makes me happy to watch.
This race is the USATF-NJ Masters Women's Championship. There are about 600 runners in the 10k and 400 in the 5k. The 5k and 10k start at the same time. The course is shaped like a butterfly. We start by running downhill down the center of the butterfly's body... At about .7 miles we turn left onto the wing and hit a steep uphill. M1 6:31
That hill took a lot out of me. The major incline was over, but we were still going uphill for this mile as we headed left and back towards the starting line to complete one wing of this butterfly shaped course. I had trouble finding my flow and just focused on those running around me. I noticed that I was just behind that group of runners I have been finishing just ahead of in other races. This made me feel better. The mile 2 marker was knocked over, but I saw the 2 on the ground and I was so glad to only have 4 miles left. M2 6:57
I am so grateful to get to run back downhill (the body of the butterfly) as we pass the starting line and repeat the fast downhill section that is almost a mile long. I try to open up a little because I know what is coming next. At this point I am not even looking at splits anymore because everything feels so hard. M3 6:36
At the bottom of this hill, we swing a u-turn and run back up to the top of the hill, (up the body of the butterfly again... did I mention that I really don't like butterflies anymore!). Ugh. I remember last year hitting the wall really hard here. I recalled dipping into the 7:15-7:20 pace on the way back up. I glance at my watch and I am glad to see it hovering at 7:00 pace. I felt like I was crawling. It is funny how sometimes races feel so hard and others feel so easy when paces are similar. M4 7:03
Once at the top of the main hill, I have a lot of trouble catching my breath. We are headed out the second wing of the butterfly and still gradually going up for a bit. My chest hurts and I feel like I got my butt kicked. I gather myself and start to find some spring in my step again especially when we start to go down again. M5 6:51
We finally hit the down hill part of this side of the course. It feels great to open my stride again. I am grateful for gravity and hope the last mile will not be so painful. But I know we have to head back up part of the center incline one last time.
There are about 2 ladies in front me that I think I can catch. I pick up the pace and think about when will it be time to make a move. I am not sure if I have the strength today to finish strong. The wind had been gusting through out the race, but I can't say that I found it particularly obnoxious. Gusts are more manageable than that constant steady in your face wind I faced for 18 miles at LBI last month. Today wasn't too bad in comparison.
A gust kicks up and blows around some leaves. One fall towards me. I tell myself if I catch that leaf, then I have to catch the ladies ahead of me. I catch the leaf... A promise is a promise...I pick up the pace... I squeeze the crap out of the leaf and kick. M6 6:38
I pass one and hope it wasn't too early. She has time to respond. But I need time to catch the second. I am working hard and she is moving fast. I feel like giving up but I still have the leaf and I know I will feel so defeated if I let it drop from my hand, so I run harder... and I catch her.
I am running as fast as can muster and just as I turn into the finishing stretch, the wind kicks up so hard I am almost blown over. I am forced diagonal across the course, trying to propel myself towards the finish shoot and hoping I dont get passed back. I make the finish 10th female and drop my crushed but lucky leaf. Thank you leaf :) Last .24 (6:16 pace).
Time: 42:15 (6:48)
Age Group 1/37
Prize: Mug and $25 gift card.