Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Esprit de She

I'm not sure what I was thinking signing up for an evening race in June in North Carolina (I think I was swayed by the offering of nice swag and post-race bubbly), but as one would expect, it was ridiculously hot and humid.

Temp in my car on the way to the race.
Fortunately by race time, it was "only" 92
I met up with Sara, Donna, and Kelley to carpool out to Cary, and we arrived with over an hour to spare, despite my concerns about RTP rush hour traffic.  After picking up our packets and race bibs, we checked out the vendor offerings, dropped the rest of the stuff in the car, and hit the bathroom one last time.  One nice thing about this race was there were actual restrooms (rather than porta potties) and the line moved really quickly.  This was helpful since I'd been so conscientious about hydrating all day because of the heat (it's funny how much you come to appreciate toilets plumbing after racing for a while), and could probably be added to the list of race perks ;)

Over the last month, I've been steadily increasing my training volume, with about 14 hours of training in the week leading up to the race, including a workout on the bike that morning, so I wasn't sure how my legs would fare.  That, combined with the heat and humidity, had me questioning my ability to run even remotely fast, but I decided I'd just shoot for something around 7-minute mile pace and see what happened.

Sara and I ran a 10 minute warm up (not sure about the accuracy of that phrase since we were sweating just walking around) out and back on the first part of the course.  After about 5 minutes, my Garmin said we were running just under 10 minute/mile pace and even that felt challenging.  Probably not a good sign, but the weather was the same for everyone and I can imagine 90+ is pleasant even for the really fast runners.

Based on the results from the last 2 years, we figured we'd finish fairly high in the standings, so we found a spot a couple of rows behind the line.  While we were waiting, I chatted with Kim (who recognized my BCTC singlet) and Pauline (who must race at least as much as I do, because I see her everywhere!) and tried to stay as cool as possible by hiding in the shady spot behind the starting arch.  After the National Anthem and a few announcements, we were off.

I settled into what felt like a decent effort and counted about 10 women in front of me.  There was a bit of a hill approaching the one mile mark and another shortly after, but nothing crazy.  After about a mile, the 5k turns left while the 10k continues straight, and about half of the leaders continued on.  By that point, Sara was a good 10 seconds ahead of me, and I could see her running straight rather than turning left.  I yelled for her about 8 times to let her know she was going the wrong way, but unfortunately she was running so fast that she didn't hear me and by then there was nothing I could do, so I made the turn and headed onto a greenway that runs along Symphony Lake.  As I passed the woman in front of me, I asked if we were in fact on the 5k course, just to be sure that I hadn't been mistaken in not following Sara.  After confirmation (thank goodness), made my way by a few more runners, most of whom said "Good job!" or something similar as I went by, and I noted how friendly everyone was. The trail was scenic and offered some shade, but the humidity by the water was awful and I suddenly found myself completely alone, which seemed really strange in a 5k with almost 1,000 runners.

When I made the turn back onto the road that led to the finish, I could see Kim way up ahead of me.  I knew I had no chance of making up that kind of ground and didn't hear anyone behind me, so I struggled to find motivation but finally was able to summon a little sprint and heard the announcer say I was third as I crossed the line in 21:48.  I was happy to have finished in the top 3, but felt bad because I probably would have been 4th had Sara not taken the longer route.

I ran pretty consistent splits (7:08-7:05-7:09) and kept my effort well below red-line, though not at all a walk in the park.  I felt pretty solid and overall was pleased with the run.  And when I plugged the time into a running calculator, the 65-degree equivalent is 20:56, which is currently my 5k PR, so I feel pretty good about that!

I waited for Sara to finish her 6k and then we headed over to the car to change and then went back to the post-race party for some bubbly and snacks.  The lines were pretty long and I think a different layout could have made things more efficient, but overall it was a really nice finisher celebration, and you really can't go wrong with free wine :)

Of course my vote would be to move this to April, but the folks at Esprit de She have been great and I will be back again next year one way or another!

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