The weather more or less behaved, although it was humid and warm (solidly in the 70s) and sunny. The course was pretty much as hilly as expected. I didn't find it brutally hilly, or even quite as bad as I'd imagined from the elevation profile, but definitely not easy, either.
I had actually managed to completely forget about this race until about two weeks ago. Somehow, it hadn't made it on to my training plan calendar, and as a result, I'd scheduled an 18 mile run for this weekend. Once the A10 forced itself into my consciousness, I decided to split my long run (8ish miles on Saturday, race on Sunday) and really not worry about the race. I just wanted to have a good hill training run. So I was easily more relaxed about this race than any other I've run.
I met up with one of my friends (one of the two who talked me into this) before the race; she had very graciously agreed to pick up my bib the day before and save me from standing in line this morning. We got our numbers pinned on and then chatted until it was time to start. The start was dense and slow; it took us 6 minutes to get across the start line, and then the first mile consisted of a lot of dodging and weaving. Having my friend to chat with definitely helped me keep a reasonable pace for the first few miles, especially since they were relatively flat/downhill. One of the more entertaining moments of the race was around mile two. St. Anne's Episcopal Church had set up a water stop and had it labeled the "Holy Water Stop." We laughed pretty hard.
|Me and my enabler about half a mile in; you can tell because we aren't sweaty yet.|
My friend and I separated somewhere around mile 3.5, about the time we started to get into serious hills. I make a point of running hills pretty regularly, and it's apparently paid off. Going over the bridge the first time (the big climb starting right after mile 4) hardly phased me. I didn't feel like I was going particularly fast, but I was passing people pretty steadily, so maybe I was going faster than I thought. Going down the bridge, I just let off the brakes and let gravity take me for a ride. As I got to the bottom, the lead runner was just starting his return crossing; he was moving at a genuinely impressive pace.
After the bridge, we took a right turn and headed off through some neighborhoods. It was great to see people out in their yards cheering. A couple even had their hoses out spraying water for us to run through if we wanted (75, sunny, and humid makes for an awful lot of ineffective sweat). My favorite, though, was a couple of women who were blasting the Beach Boys. I had Fun, Fun, Fun pleasantly running through my head for at least half a mile. Another of my favorite moments was at an intersection where a woman was informing us all that we had "20 feet of flat, right there." In some ways, it did feel like the only 20 feet of flat in the whole course.
The last bit in the neighborhood was a rather long out-and-back leg. The out part was all downhill, which meant the back part was all uphill. Fortunately, it was quite shady and really not too bad, even though the hill was about as long and steep as the bridge that soon followed. After the out-and-back leg, we had a nice downhill back to the base of the bridge. I really opened up my stride and flew down the hill, which was both fun and a little terrifying. At that point, it was out of the neighborhood (and out of the shade) and back on to the bridge. The sun was at my back, which was better than being in my eyes, but I almost immediately missed the shade.
Going back up the bridge was much harder than the first crossing had been. My legs were tired, and much more annoyingly, the right side of my neck/shoulder was getting really tense and rather painful. I made it up the hill with reasonable form, though, and didn't collapse at the top like at least part of my body wanted to. Instead, I let gravity carry me down for what was probably my slowest descent, but I was still passing people. The last mile was theoretically mostly downhill, but my awareness of my surroundings was pretty minimal at that point and I don't remember the difference between flatish and downhill. I do remember, though, the last little bit. To get to the finish line, we had to run across a stretch of wet grass (my feet, ankles, knees, and hip flexors did not appreciate this at all), along a narrow wet walkway, and then uphill through the parking lot to the finish. I'm told I looked good going up that last hill, but I felt like my legs were just toast.
In the end, I finished in 1:25:38, which turned out to be a new personal record by 5 minutes! I'm still stunned by the 5 minutes thing, given the difficulty of this course. My mile splits were: 9:13, 8:45, 8:39, 8:49, 8:20, 8:39, 8:37, 7:55, 8:00, 8:36, which makes this the first race where I've run a real negative split! Strategically and technically speaking, I think this was the best race I've ever run.
And to top things off, both my enabling friends had good races, and we managed to find each other after the race.
Oh, and then there was an awesome brunch at an Irish pub. The only down side was that I had to drive home, so I decided I should skip the mimosas.