Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rain Fest 10k

2+ mile w/u + strides
Target: win the 10k
Actual: 36:55 chip time, 1st place ($200)
Results (scroll down for 10k)
2 mile c/d
Total: 10-11 miles

Going into this race, the weather predictions were ominous to say the least. Tornadic winds, rain, hail and thunderstorms were all projected to arrive in the Charlotte area around midnight and prevail for the majority of the day Saturday. Race Fest participants received several emails detailing various contingency plans in the event of inclement weather. At the worst case scenario, the race could be delayed or even canceled. Best case would probably still involve a good dousing of rain and wind but hopefully not preclude an on-time start. Jordan and I went to bed early on Friday night having no idea what to expect when we awoke.

When the 5:30 alarm sounded, my fears about the weather were hardly assuaged. I could hear a torrential downpour slicing through the trees outside and knew that we would indeed get very, very wet. I won't lie; a tiny part of me hoped to find a cancellation email waiting in my inbox so that I could roll over and immediately return to my delightful slumber. Instead, the message read: "The race is on!" Sigh. It was time to get up and get moving.

Once Jordan and I arrived near the start in Southpark, it appeared as though the skies might actually be calming down. We stayed dry during our warmup with John and made it almost to the starting line before the rain began to fall again. Approaching the start I saw some familiar faces like Alice, Rebecca, Michelle, Aaron and the Greenapple Sports & Wellness crew. A quick scan of the starting line indicated that Alice would be my primary competition, which I'd already suspected would be the case. She's in great shape right now, coming off a top American finish at Cooper River 10k and a respectable 2:55 finish in the rain-soaked Los Angeles Marathon, and I knew that given my current lack of fitness I could realistically lose to her on a bad day. With that in mind, my race plan was simple: go out hard from the gun, establish a big lead in the first mile and (hopefully) hold off any of her late stage charges. The notoriously hilly course, compounded by the rain and wind, meant that none of us could expect blazing fast times, but the sharply downhill first mile meant that a sub-5:40 opener was perfectly reasonable.

At 7:30 sharp, anxious to start the races before the weather deteriorated further, the announcer sent us off. True to plan, I shot out to the front and settled in not far behind the lead pack of men that included Jordan, Aaron, John (who was competing in the half-marathon) and several others I didn't know. I came through the first mile marker in 5:35 and was confident I'd distanced myself from Alice and the field. My confidence eroded slightly as I struggled through the next two uphill miles, barely managing six minute pace and frustrated by the heaviness in my legs. At this point I was in no-woman's land and fading quickly. Somewhere during the fourth mile I spotted my buddy Dean Otto who had braved the weather to come out and cheer for us. Seeing him definitely boosted my spirits, as did the sight of Alejandro slowly coming back to me from his 15-20 meter lead. The fourth and fifth mile offered a forgiving downhill and a chance to slightly pick up the pace. Unfortunately for me, Alejandro had the same idea, so despite my sub-5:55s on these miles I could only watch helplessly as he distanced himself even more. By the end of the fifth mile my physical condition had upgraded from "terrible" to "potentially not bad," and for a few naive seconds I had hopes of really tightening the screws for the final mile. That is, until another minute passed and my spirits were crushed by another long and gradual uphill. Whether or not the entire final mile was uphill is debatable, but it certainly felt that way to me. All time goals were tossed out the window as I desperately just wanted to be done and back in my warm bed. Approaching the finishing straightaway I tried to put together a semblance of a kick which may or may not have been successful, somehow managing to cross the line just a few ticks under 37 minutes. It certainly didn't set the world on fire, but it was good enough.

Alice came in shortly after, so we high-fived it up in the finishing chute and then went off to find out the results of the men's race. Turns out my newly healthy boyfriend also brought home the W, followed by Aaron and a graduate student at App State. Rebecca hung on for third place in the 10k despite a bizarre yet highly entertaining incident involving a woman who thought she was running the half but somehow went off course and found herself approaching the 10k finish. Jordan and I cooled down just long enough to see the half-marathon winners come in as the skies opened up yet again. John destroyed the field on the men's side and Michelle hung on to finish as the second place female. Solid performances all around. At this point the weather appeared to be taking a turn for the worst, which I took as our cue to head home and hunker down with some coffee and flapjacks and a nice nap. Gotta love relaxing post-race Saturdays!