We chatted with a lovely woman who was wearing a bib with the name KEVIN on her back, which I thought was a bit odd. Turns out, she had her own bib on the front. Her husband, who was standing next to her, was injured and couldn't run so this was her way of running with him. I thought that was pretty cool. Finally, it was go time. My goal for this race was to try and run steady between 6:35-6:40 pace and finish around 1:26. Up to this point, I'd been feeling strong, hitting my workouts right on target, and really enjoying my training, so I was fired up and ready to rock. Eli had told us that the course we fast and relatively flat, with a few gentle rollers, so I had a good chance of hitting my goal if all went well. I started right off with a group of about 10 people, crossing the first mile at 6:38. Perfecto. The group hung together, taking turns leading for a few miles, everyone smiling and incredibly friendly. Only in the running world. I love that. The miles passed quickly and I was feeling good. 6:42, 6:36, 6:35, 6:37....and so on. I've mentioned this before, but when you've recently run a marathon, my latest having been Boston in April, thirteen miles can feel insanely short comparatively. Getting to mile 5 and knowing I only had 8 to go rather than 21, well, you get it, right? So, I kept at it, hitting each mile right on the nose. Until mile 10. I'd been running solo for most of the miles up to this point. I was getting tired and my mind started to become my opponent, which is never a good thing. I had three measly miles to go and without realizing it, I kind of zoned out a little and lost track of my pace. Mile 10 was a 6:46, not too far off, but then mile 11 was a 6:53. Oops. Thankfully, I caught up to a young chap who I decided to try and stay with for the rest of the race if possible. Between having someone to run with and knowing I was almost done, I was able to get back on pace for mile 12 and then to eek out a 6:35 for mile 13. Remember the dirt road in the beginning, the one I didn't think we'd have to tackle? Yea, that was the finish chute. I was really excited to be done, but I was also scared to death that I was going to trip as the path was downhill and there were rocks and ruts everywhere. So, I kind of pulled back on the reigns and danced around the potholes to finish without falling, crossing the line in 1:27:24.
I'm not going to lie, it was really fun to break the tape. The guy I'd run neck and neck with for the last couple miles offered his hand for a high five which I gave him and then returned with a hug. You just can't put a price on the support you get from your fellow runners out on the course and I know, whether he realized it or not, that this guy was a big reason behind the fact that I had been able to get myself back in check for those final two miles. Two young kids were handing out medals and this one little guy said, Yay! You're the first girl. You can have TWO medals. I laughed and thanked him but told him I was all good with one. He's my new favorite for having referred to me as a girl. At this point it was starting to rain so I bundled up and headed back to the line to quietly sit under a spectator's umbrella and wait for Kirsten. And though she had planned to "take it easy" she still came across the line in a killer time, just seconds off from her PR having just run a 20+ miler and a hard workout earlier that same week. Did I mention how strong she is these days??!! We slowly made our way over to the snack table....that's right. Snacks. Each runner got a tote bag full of snacks. What?? We also saw people eating ice cream which looked insanely delicious. We found Eli and thanked him for the awesome race and all that he'd done to make it run so smoothly. The man is good at what he does.
He let us know that we, too, could get ice cream as we had a ticket on our race bib that we could trade in for the sweet treat. Hot DOG! There is something about seeing a table like this after you've just run your brains out. I found myself thinking how delicious it looked while at the same time noting how soft and fluffy it seemed, ideal for laying down and taking a rest. I might have been a bit overtired at this point. Not to worry, though, I did not, in fact, lie down on the ice cream table.
After our sugar fix, we wandered over to the results table to see how Kirsten had placed. Not only did she find that she had finished in the top 25 for women, but that she'd placed third in her age group, thus guaranteeing her the cool trucker hat. BOOYAH! We checked in at the awards table to see about our prizes. For taking first overall, I was given a Greenstride backpack AND a trucker hat. I also received a cash prize, which doesn't happen very often and for which I was beyond thrilled. Kirsten was quick to note that I would be buying our post-race coffees on the way home. Fair enough. We were almost stupidly fired up about our new hats, but we'd earned them fair and square, which is definitely part of the reason we were so psyched to be taking them home.
Eventually, we made our way back over to the car, both of us now sufficiently frozen and eager to make a much-needed stop at Starbucks. Kirsten was very pleased with her race. I'll just be honest and tell you that I was very happy about my win, but I really wished I'd run a better time. I'll also come right out and confess that I was simultaneously annoyed with myself for not being able to separate the two and just be proud of what I'd done. Come ON, Rebecca. Kirsten and I got our mochas and headed home, both of us a bit punch-drunk by the time we got back to Winchester, especially Kirsten who was throwing out zingers like nobody's business. I was dying, almost in tears it was so funny. And that's the thing, really. These races...the training, the drives to and from, the swag and all the good stuff that happens in between including the race itself, all of them are such a blast when we do them together. Sure, I was a little frustrated, but by the time we got home, I was laughing my ass off and already thinking about our next adventure. And, later that night, I went back and read this post, yet again, giving myself that much needed remind that I do love to run and that every success, big or small, ALL of it matters. #TEAMBACON
Listen to this:
PRAY - HÆLOS