I’m rather convinced that Mother Nature is really cranky with Iowa this year. There’s really no other way to explain the horribly cold, windy, and long winter, which has been followed by a ridiculously rainy, windy, and hot spring/summer. Ok, so perhaps global warming might have something to do with it…you know, if you believe in that sort of thing. Personally, I think I’ll stick with Mother Nature. Whatever the cause, I’ve done my best to adjust my running to meet the whims of the weather. This past weekend was yet another exercise in weather patience and flexibility, with a few races thrown in to keep things interesting!
As I’ve mentioned previously, Midnight Madness was my first 5K race and thus holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve run it every year since I started running, and I continued the tradition again this year, along with the 10K race afterwards. However, don’t let me get ahead of myself. First, I need to back up and begin in the morning. I had a long training run planned for the morning, and I was intent on completing it regardless of the evening race. When my alarm when off at 4AM, I was already half-awake because of the thunderstorm that was currently occupying the area. Now, I love to run in the rain as much as the next person, but I’m not so much a fan of dodging lightning bolts. In light of Adam Campbell’s lightning encounter at the Hardrock 100 this past weekend, I’m glad I decided to reset my alarm! I woke up again around 6, the rain had moved on, and I was out the door by 6:30 to meet the group at 7AM for our weekly Saturday long run. I was able to get in a solid 10 miles with everyone, and it was a great start to the weekend as always. I waved goodbye to everyone and continued on for the additional miles I needed. It was a smooth, uneventful morning run, even if I did get a bit of a later start than I had planned. I still managed a solid 27 miles, and was back before noon for a late lunch and the all important coffee boost.
I had enough time to relax for a bit, and then the epicurean and I headed down to packet pick-up to volunteer for a few hours. The best part about local races is that you are a part of the community, and they become as much social gatherings as events. We had a blast welcoming other runners to Ames, talking with friends about their goals for the evening, and making plans to get together after the race for the block party to follow. It was also great to see so many first-time runners and be able to explain how things worked and share in their excitement as they prepared for their first 5K. In some ways, volunteering made me wish I could work full-time organizing races and talking to other runners about strategy, goals, and gear. I’d say that sounds like a great way to spend my days, wouldn’t you?
We headed back after our shift ended, caught most of the Brazil/Netherlands game, and made a quick dinner. The epicurean decided to bring Looper down to spectate along with some of our other friends, so we walked down a bit early so they could take up their position along the course. I made my way over to the starting area prior to the 5K start at 7:30, and mingled about with everyone. I was so busy talking, even after we lined up, that I almost didn’t realize the race had started until the gun went off and surprised me. I took off with no expectations after my long morning run, much like last year, but knew I’d still push myself and see what I had in the tank. There’s just something about being surrounded by other runners that never gets old and never ceases to make me go faster and push harder than I intended. I hit the first mile in 7:01, and was feeling pretty good but I knew I couldn’t hang onto that pace, as much as I wanted to try. After the first mile, I stopped looking at my watch all together and just let myself run and enjoy the rush. I had a huge grin on my face and couldn’t have been happier. Sure, my legs were a bit sore and I was breathing hard, but the more adrenaline I have pumping through my body, the more alive I feel.
I crossed the finish line in 22:58 (7:23 average), which was good enough for 16th (out of 56) in age group. I’ve certainly run faster in unofficial 5K distances, but this was, ironically enough, still a PR for me :) One of the best things about increased endurance is a faster recovery, and I was breathing normally within minutes and enjoying welcoming in other friends and chatting about the race. After a bit, I headed back towards the starting line to get ready for the 10, which was set to start at 8:30. I had plenty of time to relax and hang out, and had already told myself I was going to take it easy for these last 6.2 miles. As in most cases, this was easier said than done.
When the gun went off for the 10K, I actually managed to hold myself back this time and went out at a relaxing pace. After the first mile, I picked things up a bit but was still very conscious about not pushing too hard. My legs actually felt much better when they were moving anyway, so it made the race that much more enjoyable. I found other runners to chat with along the way, and soaked in the environment once again. The route for both races is the same every year, with the 10K simply completing the 5K course twice. In the middle of the route is a small hill, however, that always seems to get bigger each time you run up in (in either direction). This was definitely the case each of the 6 times I ran up during the two races, but I was always able to find plenty of energy in a large group of friends waiting at the top to cheer everyone one. Looper was definitely a bit overwhelmed by all of the noise at the top of the hill, but she hung in there like a trooper and it was a great opportunity for socialization for her. Slowly but surely, we’ll make her a city dog!
I crested the hill for the final time and rounded one final corner for the finish line. I had a bit of a kick left so I let it go and it felt good to stride out at the end. I crossed the finish line in 53:06 (8:33 average), which was again not my fastest time by far, but still a great end to the running events of the day. I was rather pleased with the 36 miles I had logged for the day. We made our way home to drop off Looper, and then the epicurean and I headed back down to the block party. For some reason, free beer always tastes better after a race, no matter the quality. Spending the evening with great friends and making new memories doesn’t hurt, either. Ok, now that I’ve got my story down, I think I’ll go for a run. It’s a beautiful, breezy 70 degree day in Iowa today :) Go figure!