So, like I mentioned before, I went out to the Benbrook 5K and Half Marathon yesterday to pace my friend Jason. We had hoped to get a few more of our friends out there to run it, too, including my husband, sons and a few of the kids from the hockey team. But, when it became clear that it was going to be cold, very cold, in fact so cold it was the opposite of Africa-hot, we knew it was going to be just us. My younger son doesn't have the right kind of clothing to run in 23 degree weather, and while the older one does, he was spending the morning on a 7-mile hike with his Boy Scout troop, and my husband wasn't going to make it to the race start in time once he dropped off the older one. So, it was just me and Jason (Actually, in a twitter/text conversation earlier in the day on Friday, the question of whether it was even going to be us was in up for discussion. But, it was decided that the work had been done, the registration fees had been paid, and it was time to belly up to the bar and make it happen).
Race morning was very, very cold, but really not any colder than the run I did a few weeks ago when it was 17 degrees at the outset. The difference yesterday is that it was kinda moist out, with very light flurries threatening, and the skies were very gray. Plus, at the lake where the race was, the wind was picking up pretty nicely, making it seem much colder than it was. Once I got up and dressed in my layers I'd laid out the night before, I fueled up with my usual PB & honey on toast, grabbed the water bottle and headed out.
Right before I got to the start area, Jason called and let me know he was there and had picked up his bib and shirt. I came into the lot a few minutes later and headed over to register. The race benefitted the local baseball and softball organizations, so they were lucky enough to have the race volunteers in the concession stands at the ballpark, out of the weather, and the line just formed at the counters, just like on a warm summer evening at the baseball games. Except not. 'Cause it was COLD! I signed up, called Jason and headed out to his car to get bibbed and chipped up, and get out of the cold. He hadn't gotten a chip, so I sent him back to get it and we spent as long as possible in the car, because it really was just too cold to stand around outside. With about 15 minutes to spare, we started to head back to the start line, but made time for a pit stop; of course, with the usual gender inequality, Jason was in and out way faster than I was, but I have to say standing in line for a real facility with running water, soap at the sinks and hand dryers is a hella lot better than standing in line for a porta potty! With about five minutes left, we headed over to the start and found a spot to the back and right of the pack. I took a pre-race photo of Jason, then we found a couple of folks to take a picture of the two of us (the first lady ended up taking a very blurry photo of herself - it was pretty funny, actually, but we had to move to the other side of the pack and ask someone else to retake it!). Then, it was go-time. We had agreed that I would run the race at my pace, then double back and find Jason to run him in at the end. With his pace averaging about a 17:00 minute mile on the treadmill, we figured I could catch up to him for the last half-mile or so, maybe more.
The course was a Y-shaped out and back - we headed up for about half a mile before splitting with the half-marathoners, and heading out to the left. About a quarter-mile past the split, there was standing water and ice on the path, and a volunteer was directing us off the path into the grass on the side. Except the grass on the side was in standing water, too, so my feet got a little squishy when we ran through it. After that patch, a couple of people went out onto the concrete too soon and didn't notice the thin layer of ice on it, and I saw one person go down hard when they slipped and a a few more recover nicely from an almost-fall. I stayed clear of it because even though I've had my fall this year, I didn't really want another one. After that, there was a little turn onto another road, with the water stop at the corner. I stopped and took a quick sip even though it was well before the one-mile mark and I didn't really need it. Then, it was straight out to the turnaround right back to where we split off. Right past the turnaround we passed the one-mile marker and I hit my lap counter, then glanced down at it, amazed to see 9:15! Wow. And I thought I was working because of the hills.
A little further on, I passed Jason, and he was looking strong. I passed the water stop again and actually walked with it for a few steps before moving on. Then I came to the icy spot on the road and went through the grass again. But this time, I guess from all the people before and after me stepping on it, the grass was saturated even more, and when I stepped on what I thought was a drier spot, my foot was soaked through. And of course it was too late because the other foot went down right when it registered on my brain so both shoes were soaked and I really felt the cold! Argh! But, whattyagonnado? Move on, girl! Before I knew it, the two-mile marker was up ahead and I hit the lap counter again. Time for mile 2 was 9:37 - hmm, still faster than I felt! Good deal, especially since the icy spot did slow me down a little more the second time through.
The last mile went really quickly, mentally, if not physically. I really felt the wind and the rolling course on this one, and distinctly remember thinking "uphill AND into the wind - NICE!! NOT!" a few times. But I knew it was almost done, so I just kept moving. Soon the finish and three-mile marker were in sight, and I crossed the mile marker at 9:36. Time to bring it in. I had been running neck and neck with another lady for about the last quarter-mile, and at the last minute, she turned on the jets and I couldn't keep up, so she passed me right within sight of the finish. But then I heard someone else coming next to me, and I couldn't let him pass me, so I turned on the jets and juked him right at the timing mats. I didn't really pay attention to the time, since I was really mostly concerned about heading back out and finding Jason. I let the volunteers take my chip and then headed back out onto the course.
I got to the split right when I had expected Jason to come by, at about 33 minutes in. But I saw no sign of him. I lingered for a little, and ran back to the first part of the course for a bit, but then realized he wasn't back there, and if he was, he was in trouble. I turned back around and headed to the last out and back, and sure enough, here he was, moving along quite nicely, holding his outer shell. I met him and took his stuff from him so he could focus on running and we chatted briefly about how he was feeling. I asked him if he wanted me to run in front and get him going a little faster or get to the side or behind him and let him set the pace. He said behind, so I took the opportunity to let him be my windshield, because by now, we were headed right back into the wind toward the finish! As we passed the three-mile marker, I sprinted out in front to get a photo, but missed him on the approach since I couldn't operate the touch-screen on my camera with my gloves on - doofus! I did snap one of him crossing the line, a full five minutes ahead of his expected pace! Way to go, Jason!
After a few post-race-glow photos and catching our breath, we got in line for hot chocolate and cookies. We stopped so I could admire the age group medals, then we were on our way to the parking lot when we happened to walk by the results. I stopped to check them out and was stunned to see my name at the top of the 40-44 women! What?! I won? I have never won an age group! Cool! And to think, I was only going as fast as I was because I wanted to get back to Jason when I got done! heh. Of course, I think it was rigged because most of the other runners that would have normally wiped the floor with me were on the half course, but I will take it! That meant that we had to stick around for awards, naturally. That was exciting, but also a little painful, as my feet were still wet and starting to go numb. I found myself thinking about Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild and how long you have before you start to get frostbite!! While we were waiting, the first two half-finishers came in, just a little more than an hour after the start of the race - those guys were speedy! And wearing just shorts and a singlet, too - brrr. Hardcore, I tell you!
Anyway, so that's the story of my first age group win! I owe it all to Jason, because if not for him, I'd have been out there the half course, being cold and hating life! Instead, I had hardware that I may or may not have worn to the grocery store on the way home!
By the numbers:
Mile 1 - 9:15
Mile 2 - 9:37
Mile 3 - 9:36
.1 - don't know because I forgot to stop my watch!
Official finish time: 29:34
1st place out of 16 AG