Saturday, June 18, 2011

Running of the Bulls 8K

2+ mile w/u + strides
Target: 8k race @5:45 pace (28:40) or faster
Actual: 28:14 (5:41 pace); 2nd female, $300
4 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

I'm so tempted to take the easy way out since Caitlin just penned a great recap of yesterday's race, but she already told me that such laziness is unacceptable. Thus, I will try to share some of the action from my perspective without completing rehashing what she's already written. (Okay, and because I'm just a little bit lazy.)

For starters, while we're on the subject of Caitl
in, I award all the credit to her for running such a tough, smart race and for keeping the pace honest throughout. There were several sections during the middle miles where I would've gladly slowed down to return to my rapidly diminishing comfort zone, but she forced me to stay focused and on my toes (literally) for the better part of 30 minutes. Without her efforts we surely would not have had five women finish faster than the time Caitlin ran to win the darn thing last year. While during the 2010 race Caitlin pretty much ran solo from the gun, today we had an amazing group of five women who stuck together through the first two miles, then three of us who continued to battle it out all the way to the finish. This speaks volumes for the current quality of women's running in the state of North Carolina and also for its breadth, as today's top five hailed from Charlotte to Wilmington and nearly everywhere in between.

Two of those ladies, Heather Magill and Lucinda Smith, were familiar faces from last month's Capital City Classic 10k in Raleigh. They were tough competitors then and proved to be just as much so today. The third place finisher, Jackie Kirby, is the one I knew the littlest about and also the one who gave me the biggest scare! Once the three of us began to separate from the rest of the pack midway through the race, I tried in vain to shake Jackie from my shoulder. She kept falling back slightly on the uphill sections--at which point I would breathe a sigh of relief that she'd finally been broken--only to see her doggedly fight back into contention with each corresponding downhill. Finally, with about half a mile to go, I was convinced I'd finished her off. Caitlin, one of the strongest hill runners I've ever seen, was in the process of pulling decisively away from me but I was convinced I had second in the bag. As I accelerated down the final hill leading into the former Durham Bulls stadium (which signaled roughly 250 meters to go), I casually looked over my left shoulder only to make sure my position was clear. To my chagrin (or, more accurately panic), Jackie was practically close enough to reach over and give me a love tap. For the remaining minute I was literally running scared, convinced that she was going to come sprinting past me and my pathetic attempt at a kick at any moment. Mercifully that dreaded moment never came and I managed to barely beat her to the line, but it was no easy feat. Though I hated it at the time, in hindsight this is exactly the type of competition that we need here on the regional racing circuit! (And just in case you're wondering if we are all arch-enemies, in reality Caitlin and John and I enjoyed a lovely cooldown jog with Heather and Jackie and Molly Nunn and several other racers. I can't imagine there are many other sports where your heated rivals turn into casual buddies as soon as the competition is finished.)

Almost being (unknowingly) caught on the final hill

Despite being handed my first defeat in quite some time, I was quite pleased with today's result. There's nothing I could've or would've done different from a tactical standpoint to change the outcome.
Simply put, Caitlin was just too good. And, quite frankly, if anyone is going to beat me I'd prefer it to be one of my closest friends and teammates. In the process we smashed our time and pace expectations on a humid--albeit relatively cool--morning, which says more about our current state of fitness than a high placing necessarily does. For me, this race also quantifies some significant improvements over the course of recent weeks. On April 30th Caitlin and I ran 29:30 for five miles (and took our now infamous hand-holding photo) at the Heart & Sole Five Miler. If you extrapolate today's 8k out to a full five miles, we bested that time by a solid minute on a comparably difficult course. I also learned that my near-nemesis Jackie ran 16:34 on the track this spring, which is also an encouraging indicator of my current fitness level. Finally, deep down I'm just relieved that I've apparently been able to shake any lingering effects of the heat and dehydration from 13.1 Chicago a fortnight ago. (Sorry, but every year when Wimbledon rolls around I get the urge to incorporate "fortnight" into my everyday conversation.) After a full week of feeling sluggish, fatigued and just generally exhausted, I'm finally on the rebound and feeling like my normal self. There's always room for improvement, but the Running of the Bulls 8k shows that I'm on the right track.