Race Report: Icebreaker 8k

I feel a bit silly writing this race report. Generally, this sort of non-goal race would barely even get a mention in my running log, much less an entire post. However, in an effort to keep up the blogging habit I’ll give a brief rundown of my first win of 2014.

I do not like short races. I have gravitated to marathons and ultras for a reason. I do not like winter weather. I run midday in August for a reason. Yet, I found myself at Lake Conestee Park on Saturday morning registering for an 8k race in 21F with a wind chill of 11F weather. For people that live in places with “real” winters, I understand that it wasn’t so terrible. For me, I was in actual pain from the cold before the pain of trying to race 5 miles even began.

I think I’ve impressed upon you how cold it was. Now, for the race itself. The course was a winding mix of trail and paved path that was sort of an out and back, though only parts of the “back” were the same as the “out”.  (Why am I using so many quotation marks today?) I lined up near the front, and as the race director blew the start whistle, I found myself just outside of the top ten overall and in first place of the women. I didn’t know how close any other lady was behind me, and I’m not one that ever looks back during a race. I have enough nerves and self-doubt about my running abilities without the added stress of knowing what lurks behind me.

The up side of the trails is that we were largely sheltered from the wind and the ground was frozen solid. I’ve run probably a thousand miles on the trails at Conestee over the last couple of years and it can get very swampy and muddy at the merest hint of rain, so I was happy that I didn’t have to worry about sliding all over the place. Additionally, given the amount of time I’ve spent out there, I was feeling pretty confident about my trail running ability. These are not at all technical trails, but the added bonus of knowing every single turn and root and washout definitely helped.

During the first couple of miles my hands were utterly frozen. This was annoying, but then my core started to warm up. I was still the first place woman and I’d settled in to a decent pace, but suddenly the feeling started coming back in my fingers. The stinging, stabbing pain of my hands thawing out was enough to make me consider dropping out and taking a shortcut back to my car. It HURT. I wasn’t even thinking about running anymore and I know I slowed down a bit. Luckily, my hands finally stopped throbbing and I closed up the little gap that had developed between me and the guy ahead of me. About this same time however, a woman and man passed both of us. This was exactly what I needed to shake me out of my complacency and get me back in race mode. I immediately fell in behind the woman, realizing that I felt fine and wasn’t struggling at all now that I wasn’t worried about freezing.

We were coming up to the turnaround point. The u-turn was actually at about mile 3, since the way back was only two miles, and essentially downhill or flat. I stayed behind the woman, trying to decide if I could go again. For some reason, she took the turn around really wide, so I stopped planning on going and just went. There was a small downhill that we’d just come up and I bombed down it, thinking that I should probably get a gap as quickly as possible. There was an added bonus in that during this section I would be passing the slower runners still heading to the turnaround point. There is definitely something motivating about hearing, “You’re the first woman!” and “Go girl!” I tried to smile and give a wave to the cheerers, but I was also concentrating on widening my gap. This section of the course was paved, and knowing that I’d soon be back on the slower trail section, I tried to push as much as I could.

I was also hoping to catch one or two of the men in front of me, but they were all too far ahead of me. I ended up 12th place overall, and 1st place woman. This is cool just because I don’t really ever win races, and this race was actually the first in a whole trail race series they are doing this year. If I run and place well at 4 of 6 events, I could potentially become the series champion. Clearly, this isn’t a huge series, but it’s kind of neat to think that I could win a thing. I like winning things.

I was so cold after finishing that I was really rude and didn’t stick around for awards (it always takes FOREVER before awards ceremonies start!). I just wanted a hot shower and coffee!

If you are interested, the results are here: http://book-events.com/results/

My next race is on February 8th, but I just got a pair of running shoes that are a whole new model so I’m planning to review them next week once I get a few more miles in them. Until then!

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