I can't imagine a colder day for a race than Dec 12th was. OMG, freezing is an understatement! I wore tights, several layers on top including fleece, and my Santa hat and I was freezing. I missed getting the last good spot in the parking lot closest to the number pick up, so had a short jog over to get my stuff and it was so cold I really felt so sorry for the people volunteering that day. I grabbed my shirt and number and then headed down to the starting line to get my chip. I quickly ran back to the car to drop stuff off and warm up for a bit (no not run to warm up but sit in the car to warm up!).
I ran back down to the start after waiting as long as I could to discard my jacket. I saw Jeff from RTR festively dressed in red long johns (with shorts over them). Lots of elves and festively dressed runners were there. I found out at that point that the starting line was just one big long line across the grassy (really frozen muddy) field and that there was no recorded chip time start, only chip finish. So the goal was to run as fast as possible across the field because after that the path narrowed and you could get stuck if you didn't get out there fast. Gee no pressure.
As the race started, I thought two things...one, I am not liking sprinting across a field that had deep frozen muddy trenches in it and two, it was a bad day to find out that the new tights I had on that didn't have a draw string really could have used one! Jeff took off and I couldn't even see him at first. I was busy for the first part of the race pulling up my tights and also worrying about falling into a muddy ditch while I tried to sprint which by the way is really hard to do when you can't feel your frozen feet. Once we got off the field it was a bit better but I could tell that I was still having that heavy chest thing that I had the week before in the Jingle Bell Run. The air was so cold it was painful to breathe. I knew I was going slow and since it was a trail race I knew I would be slower but I figured I'd speed up eventually after warming up. I ran the first mile in 6:55.
The second mile had a hill and some single track so that really slowed me down. I never realized how different trail racing was from trail running (and I have to say I much prefer the running over racing). I felt limited to how fast I could go because I was afraid of my footing which I don't have a problem with in road races. The second mile pace was 7:28. By the third mile, as in the last race, I was really wanting to be done. All the resting from running made a 5K seem pretty long, whereas when I was training for the marathon a 5K seemed over so quick. I have never been good with races that finish in open fields, I am not sure why but for some reason it's intimidating. But this time I was so thankful to be back in the field and to be close to done. There was a woman just ahead of me but I didn't even have the motivation (maybe had the energy but not motivation) to try to catch up with her. I was cold, tired and again a bit nauseous like the last race. I could have taken a nap right at the finish line if there was a bed there! I finished the third mile in 7:09 pace, so I really never did warm up and speed up much in the end.
I finished the race in 21:45 chip time. According to my Garmin the course was actually less than 3.1 miles this time (guess that made up for the 3.32 mi course the week prior). Even with it being a trail race I didn't run as well as I usually would have and again didn't feel great after the race. But I accomplished my goal of running 6 of the Second Empire series races. And I came in 3rd in my age group and got a very nice award, a Christmas ornament that says 26.2 on it (see picture above). The race was well run and well organized but I have to say I likely wouldn't run it again because I am not sure trail racing is for me. I like to run on trails for fun and I think I may reserve trails just for that.
This was the last of the 6 races I ran in the Second Empire series. In the end I came in 5th woman overall in the series, so I was pretty happy with that. I am looking forward to going to the award lunch in January. They have a new spring series coming up but I think I'll pass on that one and focus instead on getting back into the longer distance races. Next big race coming up is the Myrtle Beach half marathon and then the Tobacco Trail half, all leading up to the Boston Marathon in April. I need to really get back in gear if I am going to be ready for that one. I don't expect to run as fast as NYC since it's a much harder course, but I do want to be back in shape enough to feel confident that I can finish well and have an enjoyable race.
After Boston, not sure but I may go back to focusing on shorter races. We'll see what the spring of 2010 brings! Who knows what that will be. As I sat at my laptop on a cold Jan 1st 2009, I never really expected to have accomplished so much. I ran 15 races this year and placed in my age group in many of them. I also had several PRs this year in distances from 5K to the marathon, which is pretty cool considering I've been running since I was 13. On Jan 1st, I set a goal of running a half marathon in 2009. In the end I ran 2 half marathons and one full marathon, which just happened to be the one I had always dreamed of running. And I qualified for Boston. I couldn't really have asked for more!