A few months back, I signed up for the Footzone's 2nd Dirty Half. The Footzone does a remarkable job coordinating their races ... there is frequently a cap on participants due to the logistics of running on the trails within the national forest ... their shirt designs rock ... and the finishers receive cool mugs as opposed to a medal that is draped around our necks and then tucked away in a drawer or hanging in some remote location collecting dust.
As the race came I didn't know what to expect. I had not been as sedulous with my training as I have been in the past. I was thereby unsure of my condition and I had not previewed the course, though I rarely do. I had signed up to assure that I would stay on track with training ... without the proverbial carrot, I tend to slack off and talk myself out of runs, preferring to stay curled up in bed with a book or engage the kiddos in lessons.
Come race day, it was cold. I don't recall the exact temperature but I believe it was about 20 degrees or it at least felt that way. I found myself wishing that I had worn a tights and a long-sleeved shirt rather than the shorts and capped sleeves I donned. I figured I'd warm up within the first mile or two so I didn't worry too much. Instead, I allowed my sons exhuberance to distract me ... we had purchased his Halloween costume just the day before and he insisted on wearing his fire-fighter uniform to the race. "There might be a fire, Mommy. You never know."
I am comfortable in the middle of the pack and had no high aspirations other than to enjoy myself. I knew I wouldn't PR and really didn't even have a finish time in mind. My thought was to start slow not knowing the course and only hearing that the first 6 miles climbs up then you come down. Most of that was right and it was a slow steady climb for about 6 miles. I just got into an easy groove trying to keep the pack within reach.
I continued in my groove and once we made the lollipop and started heading back down I picked it up. I like the deep steep technical stuff but since I have suffered two scary falls in the past (one that curtailed my training for my first marathon and one that resulted in a severely broken wrist) on these Central Oregon trails, I have also learned to take it easy. I had to stop around my 7 to re-tie my shoe. The tongue had slipped and the lacing was now causing the top of my foot to really trouble me. As a result of my delay, I lost the pack I had been clinging to and was alone for several miles.
I was passed again around mile 10. This time I vowed to keep the young woman within my reach. Though I went into this race promising myself I wouldn't let competition carry me away, I found it impossible to adhere to this while the adrenaline ran through me. As we came up to mile 13 there was a nasty short steep hill to climb. I had had a feeling we would encounter another killer hill ... it had been eluded to in the course description. The woman ahead of me and I both walked a significant portion of this hill and resumed our pace on the crest.
With just a little more than 2 miles to go, I began to slowly increase my pace to diminish the gap. I was right on her tail for a few tenths of a mile ... waiting for the trail to widen as I didn't feel like hurdling the sagebrush and knew that breathing down her neck would take a little zest away from her psychologically. I finally passed her with about 1/2 mile to go. It was a struggle to hang on ... my legs were so heavy.
Rounding the corner at the Seventh Mountain Resort, I saw my family awaiting me. They turned just as I called out and began cheering loudly. The kiddos ran alongside me for a moment and I tried to put in a little kick but I didn't have much in me for once ... 2:18 - not a PR but I'm pleased. I truly had given this race my all.
So ... what next?