1. It was a 5-mile course, making it my longest race to date. After the mishegas over the Tufts 10K, I was excited to finally race a distance longer than 5K.
2. I'd be running with friends. The race was in Fitchburg, Mass., certainly not a jewel in the Bay State's crown, but a city in which I and my friends all worked together over 10 years ago. It would be cool to be back in the area with them, all doing something fun together.
We headed north and got to the race area, which featured two things I had never experienced before:
While we were trying to escape Mr. Microphone, I spied a runner with a fuel belt. I thought it was kind of odd. Five miles isn't that long, why would you need a fuel belt? Foreshadowing.
Soon my friends and I lined up, finding our respective places in the pack and we were off. Now, I used to live in the neighborhood where the race started and I knew it was hilly, so I knew we'd be up and down. And we were, but that's OK because I know how to run hills and do it often enough they don't freak me out anymore.
I wasn't worried about the hills, but I was a tad wary of the combination of them and the weather. It was 60 degrees when the race started, so I knew it would be warm.
I used the "add 20 degrees to the race temp" rule of thumb to figure out how to dress. Earlier this week I thought for sure it would be a fleece-hat-and-gloves race, but go figure. I wore a short-sleeved tech T and my magic pants - I'm not running 5 hilly miles without them.
I got to the Mile 1 marker and saw the clock, it had me running a 10-minute mile. Whoa. Very fast for me. I wasn't trying to run fast or keep up with anyone, I just tried to be comfortable and efficient and run my own race. Mile 2: 21 minutes. Wow, still steaming along.
I felt good, but the sun was out, bearing down and I was hot. Surely a water stop will be coming up, right?
Mile 3, had me at 32 minutes. If this was a 5K I'd be PRing it for sure. I felt good and thought I could register a very fast race. Going in I thought if I was really chugging I could get in at around 55 minutes. I didn't know the course well, but I knew there would be at least one more substantial hill because the race ends where it began - up a hill.
I tried to conserve energy and run smoothly. Where the hell are the *@&364% water stops?
When we hit Mile 4 I realized: There are no water stops. Seriously, this was the 31st running of this race. 5 miles and no water stops? Unreal. Especially on a warm day, running-wise.
But, hell, I was almost done and hauling. I wanted to try to get in under 55 minutes. At 4.5 miles we all took a right and stared up at a nice, steep, 50-yard incline. I slowed down, kept my eyes at the top and employed my best hill-running techniques to chug up.
It did help that we were very close to the finish, and the spectators were really encouraging when we really needed it. I got to the top of the hill, took a left and saw the clock (but not the time, too far away) and the chutes.
I looked at my watch and read 51 minutes. Whoa. Time to sprint. I had enough left in the tank to really pick it up the final 50 yards. I spied my friend Jeremy, who had already finished, hollering from the sidelines: "You're doing great!"
I crossed the spray-painted finish and hit Stop on the Garmin: 52:25 for a 10:33 pace. Wow. Not only my longest race, my fastest yet. Very, very cool.
Seriously, just about a year ago I was getting the running bug again. I weighed in the 240s. Now I'm at goal and deciding which half-marathon to do next year. Unreal.
Anyway, we weren't chipped, so we had to tear the strip off the bottom of our bibs and wait in the chutes to hand it over. Water! Where's the water?
Back there, said the volunteer, pointing 25 yards in the opposite direction. I hit the water table, grabbed 6 16-oz bottles and started rehydrating.
That's me and Sandy. I snagged this screencap off her Facebook wall. Look how many water bottles I had in my arms, and I think I had already had 3 by the time this picture was taken.
I found my friends and we shared race stories, listened to more Scorpions and figured out where to go for a post-race beer and catch-up session. Then I started to get cold, like, teeth-chattering cold. My husband lent me his hoodie, so I felt a little better, but I was still crazy cold. I think I was either dehydrated or rehydrated incorrectly. I wasn't lightheaded or dizzy, just cold. It was weird.
All-in-all a really fun afternoon. A great race and the opportunity to run with friends, which makes racing, an already fun event, even better. And I don't think I'll ever be able to hear "Rock You Like A Hurricane" again without laughing.