Last Saturday, I was running the Rootbeer Ridge loop with Ken, and he mentioned that he was racing a 5k tomorrow. The racerhead in me thought that sounded like a great idea, so I agreed to race too. Then we continued to run through thick, hilly, muddy, brambly, hilly trails for another hour or so, because if you want to race fast, you have to train for it. The day before. The loop wasn't actually that hilly, or long, but just taxing enough to take out a little oomph from my legs for Sunday.
It was hot even at 6:30 when I got up to go to this race. I did my best to hydrate, but my stomach was hurting from too much time in the sun on Saturday, so putting too much food or water (or coffee) into it would have been a bad idea. Luckily it was just a 5k race, those are short. I booked it over to Saxtons River and found them setting up for a big ol' party, with food vendors and trinket vendors and firemen and all the works, even a policeman. Golly gee! Ken and I jogged parts of the course to check it out, it started with about a mile loop in town, then the next mile was mostly uphill, gradually, and the last mile was downhill and flat along the [sunny] river.
101 people registered, and about 20 of them looked marginally serious (no ipods), so I lined up near the front. I was hoping that my tired legs would miraculously disappear, but for whatever reason, magic didn't happen when I expected it, and I started off feeling just as slow as I had in the warmup. The field spread out quickly; there were one or two short punchy hills in the first mile that spread things even more, and I soon found myself trailing behind a guy in untied sneakers (not a good sign) and an overweight middle-aged dude (OWMAD). By the time we'd finished our parade loop through the village and started climbing out of the valley, OWMAD and I had passed the untied-sneakers kid. At this point, a kid in those Vibram 5-finger shoes (basically socks) came by, looking determined, but OWMAD and I hung strong up the gradual climb on the dirt road. I could see the top two women ahead of me, one of whom happens to be an SMS skier, so I was hoping to catch her. The heat was starting to take its toll on me, however, and every time I looked at my heart rate monitor I got bad news.
I tried to stay nice and relaxed up the hill, and as we crested the top, I could see a downhill reaching in front of me that was steep enough to let gravity do its thing. I opened up and dropped OWMAD, passing the barefoot guy too, but the downhill was unfortunately way too short. We then turned onto VT121, and the torture commenced. My head felt like it was going to explode, with the sun bearing down and the heat reflecting right back into that mirage-like surface over the asphalt. I started concentrating on keeping my cadence up, trying to keep up with the barefoot kid who'd passed me back. OWMAD was still behind me, but I wasn't making up any ground on Gage Fichter and the other woman, either. As I crested the last little hill before the finish through town, I was starting to see stars, and all I could think about was stopping running. The finish line took forever and a half to appear, but finally I was across, in 22:15.
Pre-race, I'd said that I'd be satisfied with a time under 22min, happy with 21:30, and ecstatic about sub-21. So I wasn't super pumped to have finished in 22:15, but at the same time, given the heat and the hike yesterday, I'm not going to whine about it. I'll just have to do another 5k to get that sub-21:30 time. And I beat Ken, so at least I'm in the position to do a little trash talking. I wasn't able to stay for awards, but I was 3rd woman, and first in my age class, 12th overall. Not too bad, although of course I'd like to be faster.
The best part of the day was definitely the swimming hole after the race. I was itching to get back to Weston, but I just couldn't pull myself out of that cold water.