Monday, September 2, 2013

Run the Goose 7k

AM: 2.5 mile w/u
Target: 7k race @sub-26; win
Actual: 26:17; first place female
2.5 mile c/d
PM: 5 miles easy
Total: 14-14.5 miles

As Jordan, Jon and I awoke early on our holiday Monday to prepare for the race, the sky looked ominous at best. Sure enough, no sooner did we hit the road for Gloucester than the clouds opened up and unleashed an absolute deluge. Had I not been committed to the race for work reasons, I would've probably lobbied the two of them to turn around. Instead, we continued northward, and by the time we reached our destination (a middle school parking lot) the downpour had stopped. Instead, it was replaced by thick, heavy, humid air. I'd been bragging about our early fall weather to Jon nonstop for the past two weeks, but this morning felt more like what he'd left behind in Nashville than anything I would expect for early September in New England. Not for the last time, I felt relieved that I'd opted for the 7k instead of its sister race, the Cape Ann 25k. At least there was one silver lining to this storm cloud of a morning.

About 45 minutes before race time, Jordan and I warmed up along with Jon, our coworker Alex, and Jordan's nemesis/friend/training buddy Patrick Rich. Patrick is having a heck of a racing season and recently bested Jordan at the Beverly Homecoming 5k, after which they struck up a friendship and have begun running together every now and again. Having done this race several times, Patrick offered to lead us on a mini course preview. We traversed the first mile (which would also be the last mile), a gently rolling stretch that meandered down to a cove or nature preserve of sorts. The middle miles would take place inside the cove, which Patrick warned us would be quite hilly as well as possibly muddy and slick. In other words, slow. Upon exiting the preserve, we would return from whence we came on the same section of road. Simple enough, albeit challenging. Exactly how challenging would only be determined once we set foot into the back cove and assessed its condition.

Sooner than later, I had my chance to do just that. The gun went off at 9am and I quickly found myself chasing Patrick, Jordan and a handful of other guys down the now-familiar street. I split the first mile fairly comfortably in 5:40 and entered the cove a minute or two later. Although the ground was mostly paved, I was greeted about 20 meters later by a mucky, muddy puddle that sprawled across the entire path. Tiptoeing gingerly around, I proceeded another few minutes only to encounter a stream that could only be crossed by a group of rocks. With nothing to gain other than some serious soreness if I tripped and fell, I opted to walk across the rocks to the other side. I was growing frustrated with the conditions and lack of rhythm, but fortunately from that point onward the terrain grew much more manageable, all the while continuously rolling. I told myself to relax and view that section simply as a comfortable tempo; once I hit the road for the final mile I could try to open up the legs and get back on pace. The back section of the cove had a few steep, somewhat slippery descents, the last one followed by a sharp turn that plopped me right back into the huge puddle I'd tried to avoid on the way in. This time I charged straight through it, eager to return to the street. From that point on, with no one in front of me as far as I could see, my only objective was to finish strong and hold off any challengers. Any time goals had gone out the window and into the swamp several miles back. I rounded the final turn into the school parking lot and charged for home, tired and muddy but overall pleased with my effort. The 7k is a random distance, but I think I like it. If nothing else, I'll have to keep this race on the calendar for next year so I can chase a new PR.

Finishing strong or just finishing? Either way, thanks to Jon Gugala and Instagram for making me look hardcore.