Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dirty Spokes Xterra 5K Trail Race...Alabama Series

My traditional (yes, goofy) pre-race pose!
Since packet pickup was at the race site just prior to the start, and I was paranoid about being late, I decided to go to the race alone and let my husband come a little later.  I was really hoping it would be a small turnout so I would at least have a chance of placing in my age group.  When I got there I started looking at every female face in the crowd, trying to decipher ages!  The only problem was, there was a 15K going on at the same time and all the race bibs were the same; there was simply no way to size up the competition!

When I picked up my packet, I was just a tad disappointed to see the shirt was a MEN'S medium, meaning it was going to swallow me up.  There was a really cool little sample size of Degree deoderant in the's as well.  Don't these people think women run trail races, too???? (*See note below.)  But, although slightly annoying, these both felt like clues that maybe there really wasn't going to be too many other women runners to stand in the way of my (age group) VICTORY!!  However, as the race time drew closer, I saw more and more females, dashing my hopes.

My goals:  don't get lost, and finish fast enough to get home, shower and make it to church on time!  Anything else would be gravy.

I decided to warm up by taking a look at the start of the course--a section I had never even seen before.  As I was trying to figure out exactly where it started, a couple of women who looked about my age came up with a map.  We all started out together, but they decided the course turned at a point I decided it went straight.   I wasn't sure, but I felt confident the pink ribbon in the trees wasn't there by chance....  After about a half mile I headed back toward the start where I was delighted to see my husband!!
I'm much further back
I saw several friendly faces and had the chance to get a few good luck hugs and smiles of encouragement before the start.  Since I had been out on the beginning of the course, I really couldn't understand how it was that all 200 of the runners were going to "RACE" on a single lane trail.  (I'm not a good judge of numbers when there's a mob crowd, but there were quite a few of us there; the 5K and 15K racers would be running together for the first 3/4s of a mile or so.)  I quickly found out we wouldn't...we just basically fell in line like trail horses and you moved ahead any chance you got!

I passed several people early on who I hoped I wouldn't see later on passing me, but most of them had fuel belts, which I took to mean they were "15Kers".  I chatted with a couple of people here and there, and before I knew it, we were at our first road crossing.  My sweet husband was there to smile at me and cheer me on!  (It is amazing to me just how much it means to me and how encouraging it is to see him when I'm racing. ) 

I was overjoyed to see the majority of runners taking the split off for the 15K..but dismayed to see the 5K course take a decided incline!  I tried, but couldn't hang on to the fairly aggressive pace I set and had to walk a bit.  A couple of men passed me, but I didn't see any women moving in front.  I was keeping my eye on a short dark haired women who had been ahead of me and was relieved to see her walking as well.  She must have heard my foot steps quicken because when I started running again, so did she.

They had cautioned us before the race to stay on the marked course.  They said there were markings, but if it didn't say turn, DON'T TURN.  I think that's why short dark haired lady kept straight, even when the arrow on the post pointed left.  I called out to her and said the marking was on the post to turn left...but she said, "Oh no, we have to keep straight."  I saw the same pink ribbons (the ones they told us to watch for) up in the trees, so I knew I was right....

When I realized I was now ahead of HER, I picked up my step, knowing it probably wouldn't take her long to figure out she was wrong and I wanted to put some distance between us!!  When I saw racers up ahead, I called back to her, but I never saw her again.  (She could still be lost in the woods for all I know....)

I started losing steam a bit so I pretended Daisy was beside me!  I decided she was running very strong, and I didn't want to let her down by walking again.  I could hear her telling me, "YOU GOT THIS!!"  That worked for a while, until I hit an all too familiar section of the trail---the part that goes steeply up!  I reminded myself the best part of the trail was just after that, but the anticipation didn't keep me running.  As I was making my way up, I was passed by a couple of men and a very young woman.  The Daisy in my head told me that was just fine because I was going as fast as I could make myself go at that point!!

When I got to the section of the trail I really love, I realized I wasn't going to be on it for long when it took an unfamiliar turn....into another section I had never seen before.  I came to a fork in the path that, from what I could see, wasn't marked!  I looked up ahead to the right and saw some pink ribbon!!!  But, at the same time, I could see runners who had made a left turn.

Would I follow the pack, or my instinct??  I paused to take a second to decide until I heard someone coming up behind me, and I then charged off to the right.   The ribbons don't lie--that's why they are there!!

I realized I had just made my way in front of all those people who had run off to the left!!!  But, then for a very long time I didn't see any pink ribbon....and the trail got progressively more technical....and narrow.   I was about to panic, thinking I had made a bad choice, when I saw some hikers coming toward me.  I asked if they had seen other racers up ahead and they said yes, about 25 or so.  I knew I only had about a half mile to go, so I told myself to try to speed up a bit because I'd been keeping about an 11:30ish pace; I didn't think that was going to win any awards...but I just couldn't make my legs go any faster.

View from the finish area!
About that time I woman passed me and I told her, "you're doing great!!"  She said, "YOU'RE doing great.  I've been following you the whole time, come on!!"  ...That's all I needed to hear, I kicked my legs back into run mode, and fell in line right behind her.

We made our last road crossing before the finish, and in doing so, I kicked a big stick with one foot right into the back of my other leg!  OUCH!!  It immediately starting stinging....but I didn't let up.   I had decided I would NOT let this woman beat me, but there was nowhere to pass her.  As we got closer to the finish, I knew it was about to open up.  I told her, "I just want you to know, I'm going to do everything I can to beat you!!"  About that time, it did, and I kicked in my killer sprint.  We raced neck and neck to the finish mat!!  (Thankfully, my neck was a little longer than hers!!)

I thanked her profusely for encouraging me, and apologized for wanting so badly to beat her!!  She laughed and said I had kept her going and it was great to race.

After I caught my breath, I looked around to see who all might have finished before me....but I didn't see as many as I expected.   I asked my husband if he knew how many there might have been, specifically how many women who looked my age!!  I saw some ladies I know near the finish, but I couldn't tell if they just came in, or if maybe they had already finished their post-race bananas and were just chillaxin before the awards ceremony.  (They are all three much faster than I am so I figured they had been there a while.)

Since my A goal was to make it to church on time, I wasn't overly interested in the awards ceremony, unless there was a chance I would be in them.  When we found out the preliminary results had been posted, we went over to check them out.  My husband was the first to see my name on the sheet....


Yeah, that's right, I WON my age group!!!  The woman I came in with was younger than me; she won her age group, too!  My official time was 36:05--not a great pace, but not too bad all things considered.  Let's not forget, it was good enough to WIN my age group....and I was the sixth place woman (out of 25)!!!

Not a bad finish for my first trail race!!  I took a look at the 15K finish times; there were only two women in my age group, so I would have placed no matter how long it took me!  (But, again, I wouldn't have made it to church, which was certainly part of my "A" goal.

McKay Hollow Madness, here I come!!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!

*By the way...let me just say...they did exchange the men's medium for a men's small t-shirt--and it's an AWESOME tech shirt-probably the nicest race shirt I've ever gotten.  AND...they had better goody bag booty than the "ultimate goody bag" from the Women's Half!!  (In addition to the men's deode, they had a Bluebeerry Pomegranate Roctane Gu, an Xterra temporary tattoo (I'll wear it next time), $10 off at Sports Authority, and $2 off RoadID.  Not bad as far as I'm concerned!)

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