I ran my first race of 2007 this frigid and frozen February morning. The great thing about this little 10K was that I could actually jog to the starting line - about a mile from my house.
And the bad thing? Well ... actually a good thing for the race organizers, but the GW Birthday 10K was pretty crowded. While I love seeing fellow runners - and there were tons of us skinny people in tights and fleece caps, shivering so hard our heads vibrated - there was no room, at least in the first 1 1/2 miles, to stretch out and really race on the narrow two-lane road.
The race also was not chip-timed, so if you got hemmed in in the back of the crowd, which is what happened to me and E., there was not a snowball's chance in hell to PR. But these are minor grumblings. All in all, the race went off without a hitch.
And ... we're off!: As I was trying to synch my race watch, a starting gun and an old-fashioned musket (!) sounded. One advantage of being in an area full of Civil War re-enactors. E. and I didn't cross the start line for about 15 seconds.
Then we got stuck in a sea of Lycra. We had to jog that first mile. I tried to squeeze through groups of people, but I almost inadvertently (?) got elbowed in the ribs, so I backed off. I glanced at my watch at the Mile 1 mark: 9:32/mile. I needed to run a 7:49/mile or better in the first mile to PR. My hopes of running a fast race faded for good. Ah, well.
Huh?: As the trails had a good 3-4 inches of snow and ice, race organizers re-routed the course. So instead of an out-and-back course, we did two 3.1 mile loops. I didn't realize that at first, so when I saw the top 3 men sprint by me going the other way, I thought, "What the hell? I know I'm going slowly, but I'm not crawling."
I lost E. after Mile 2. As I wasn't going to PR, I decided to do a good tempo training run (about 8:00/mile) and enjoy the scenery. I clapped for the top male and female runners as they flew by and cheered on the ones at the back of the pack. I was the only one yelling encouragement to the other runners, but I didn't care.
The two-loop course also meant we climbed and descended a hill four times. I passed a good number of folks on the hill, though my stomach hurt from the coffee I drank this morning.
Breathing room: Once the roads opened up around Mile 2, I breathed a sigh of relief. I kept my tempo pace and steadily passed some folks. Many of the races I run have few spectators, and this was no exception. Besides a few chilled and bored-looking cops, nobody stood on those windswept, icy sidewalks. Not that I blame them.
At the Mile 6 marker, one runner who had already finished cheered people in the home stretch, which I was extremely grateful for.
"C'mon No. 6XX!" he said. "Good pace!"
I flirted with the idea of sprinting to the finish. There was nobody around me for about a dozen yards. Or so I thought (foreshadowing!).
The pitter-patter ...: Before I decided, and with about 30 yards to go, I heard the sound of rapid footsteps behind me. The dozen spectators on the sidelines perked up and started cheering. In the corner of my eye, I saw a woman come alongside me. She was my size and Asian-American, like me.
I sprinted. In reply, so did she. Our ponytails flew in tandem. It was the battle of the 5'2" China dolls. I picked up my pace even more. So did she. I was only one step ahead of her. I started smiling, appreciating her hubris, and almost laughed. We had the same competitive spirit.
In either a display of generosity or a sign that I lost my killer instinct, I stopped surging in the last few feet. I glanced at her and said, "Go girl, you got it!"
Her final time: 50:55.
My final time: 50:56.
I congratulated her afterwards on her good kick. She said "Thanks! I saw your red jacket ahead and you helped pace me to the finish."
Note to self: Do not wear red jacket next time, lest you want to be a target. E. came in four minutes later, shiny-faced and happy.
Feeding frenzy: Afterwards, I was ready to run another few miles. But I decided to do a longish run tomorrow instead. E. and I jogged the mile back home, where I fixed and ate a huge mess of eggs, soy sausages, and rice. After I finished, I gazed at my empty plate.
Still hungry. I rooted around in the fridge. Found a mini BBQ sandwich. Inhaled it cold.
Hey, at least I didn't eat a doughnut.