Okay, so I am a bit late in posting my report for Saturday's race. Things have been ridiculously busy in and around Stately Wasser Manor, but it's all good, as I am about to take off for several days of turkey and pie.
I got my first inkling of what the race was going to be like on Friday night when I went to pick up my packet. The place was so crowded that I couldn't find a parking space and wound up just parking across the street at Starbucks. The line went out the door and wrapped around the building, and Internet? It was really, really catlicking cold. I was afraid my tauntaun would freeze to death before I reached the north marker.
But although temperatures were low, spirits were high. (Did you like that transition, that cute juxtaposition?) I struck up conversation with the other runners shivering in line. We talked about how absolutely crazy we must be, what to wear, whether or not our shoes would survive the experience, and what other races we enjoyed running. Inside, I grabbed my t-shirt, which has a very cool design on it and a minimum of sponsor logo clutter and saw Kent, who clearly volunteered just so he could get his hands on a bullhorn. Not that I blame him. I also got a running log, which was a cool giveaway.
Race packet secured, I decided to enjoy the sweet, sweet freedom of being all by myself with no husband or kid to take care of. Specifically, I thought, "Hey, I could go see a movie," and so I did. It may not sound like much, but it was great to just do that on the spur of the moment. And I am pretty sure that popcorn counts as carbo loading, right?
I woke up bright and surly on Saturday morning and got ready. Race gear included my Des Moines marathon winter hat, a long-sleeved tech tee I'm not too attached to, the Washington & Lee University sweatshirt that still bears mud stains from last year's race, tights, socks, gardening glove with grips on the palms, and a pair of old running shoes that were ready for a hero's send-off.
Outside, I found it once again to be ridiculously cold. I started shivering the minute I got out of my car. I knew I'd be all right once I started running, but I had an hour to kill. The solution was obvious - I went to 'bucks and got a gigantic latte. Aaaah!
While I was there, a fellow runner asked me about my sweatshirt, saying that he was a professor at Virginia Military Institute, which is right next door to (though in another world from) W&L. He and I realized that the world is not just so small that we both have a connection to the tiny town of Lexington, Virginia and ran into each other in Iowa, but that we had met before, at around mile 19 of the Des Moines marathon last year. Running is magic.
Back outside, the latte kept me warm. I immediately found Runner's Lounge co-founder, running angel, and all around ass-kicker Amy, there with her brother-in-law Dave. We met up with Kent and his daughter Tasha, as well as Mary and Steph. We resisted the urge to cuddle for warmth, and instead checked out all of the cool costumes around us. There were people in suits, superheroes, princesses, people in flannel jammies, Care Bears, Harlem Globerunners, and best of all, about 10 women all wearing wedding gowns.
Just moments after I finished my latte, it was time to go. It was slow moving across the starting line, an issue that in theory would have been solved by the fact that the race was chip-timed... except that there was no mat at the start of the race. As Vanilla has pointed out, that makes the chip fairly worthless. I can just go by the clock if I want to see my gun time.
I ran for the first few miles with Amy, Dave, Mary, and Steph, and sure enough, once I started running I was no longer cold. Instead, I had a new problem, as that latte whipped right through my body and created a screaming need to pee. I probably lost a good 10 minutes in line for the port-a-potty, but that seemed like a nicer prospect than exposing my bare butt in a cornfield.
I felt MUCH better after I peed and took off like a shot, racing up hills and passing so many people that I actually caught up to where I was before.
We entered the woods, and the race got interesting. That first creek immediately froze my feet. The mud was slippery, so I used whatever I could to scramble up hills or across banks - trees, roots, rocks, and so on. Running down the hills was exciting and risky - luckily I didn't see anyone get hurt. Several of the hills going up were so steep that there were ropes to help you up - hence the need for the grippy garden gloves.
Amid the carnival-like atmosphere of the costumes, the mud, the people yelling, "Whee!" as they slid down hills (that last one might have been just me), there was some absolutely beautiful scenery. Cornfields, frozen ponds, old barns, and thick forests gave us plenty to look at along the way. I saw a deer running across the field, and even more interestingly, an owl. I don't think I've ever seen an owl in nature before, and there he was, awake and watching us all curiously. I wondered what the owl thought of all of us. He wasn't threatened, or he'd have flown away. Instead, I like to think that he was wondering what all of us other animals were running to, and why we were waking him up on a quiet morning.
Because the chip timing wasn't really effective, I'm not sure how I did, time-wise. I didn't wear my Garmin, since it's not that kind of race. I do know that I felt strong, even on the long hills at the end. Having fun and feeling strong is really the best I can do in a race like that, so I'm happy.
After I crossed the finish line and got my medal (awesome), I headed right for the hot cider. It had just started to snow, and I was freezing. I passed up a lot of food that sounded really unappealing -yogurt and chips - grabbed a doughnut, and headed for my car. It was too cold, sadly, to hang out.
I changed clothes in the backseat of my car, miserably cold and blowing on my fingers to get them to work. My shoelaces were actually frozen shut, but once I had on a clean, dry pair of sweats, clean shirt and sports bra, and warm socks, I felt much better.
I think that will be my final race for 2008, and what better way to end the season?