One sure way to kick those winter running doldrums is to sign up for a race. I ran the Chili Chase two years ago and had a great time, so I decided to run it again. And as an added bonus, this was my first race as a member of the Cornbelt Running Club Racing Team! I felt very proud to put on my uniform and was determined to do my team proud.
I arrived early to help out with registration. I helped give out the technical socks that the race director offered in lieu of t-shirts. It's always great to have another pair of good running socks, plus these had a very cool bright green band on them with a little chili pepper. As an extra, we also had running gloves to give out. People loved the gloves, a simple lightweight cotton that are perfect on a day when it's cold, but not too cold. Volunteering was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with a cool group of people, plus I was able to say hello to lots of my fellow runners.
Fifteen minutes before race time, I said goodbye to the other volunteers working the table and went outside to warm up. The temperature was cold, in the 20s, but I was careful not to over dress for it, wearing tights, wind pants, a long-sleeved technical t with my team singlet over it, and my team jacket. For the first time, I pinned my race number to my leg, rather than to my shirt, in case I needed to unzip my jacket. It snowed later in the day, but luckily there were no weather obstacles on the course, save for one tiny patch of packed snow - with a volunteer whose job it was to tell everyone to be careful.
All the runners gathered at the starting line, which went down a long medium-steep hill. The race director warned us that what goes down must go up - in other words, enjoy this downhill, because you'll be running up it to the finish line.
I wasn't sure how the race was going to go. I have struggled to get in quality speed work this winter. The tracks aren't clear, and it's hard to do speed consistently on the road because the combination of ice, packed snow, loose snow, and slushy mess makes footing unpredictable. I am training for a half marathon in April, and I know I'll have the stamina, but I don't know how fast I'll go. So, I decided to relax, work hard on the hills, and see what happened. I put Paula Garmin on under my jacket so I could look if I wanted to, but not be distracted by my pace.
We took off, and it was a great time. There was an out and back portion of the course, so my fellow runners, friends, and team members and I cheered for each other as we went by.
In the last mile, things started to get interesting. I could see several runners ahead of me who were struggling with the hills. I have been training on hills all winter, but even without that advantage, I always try to pass people on hills whenever possible. It's a psychological thing; I can see other people are having trouble, and I tell myself (whether it's true or not) that I am strong on hills and can beat people.
I picked off three runners who were slowing down, then set my sights on more and more of them. I probably passed five or six runners in the last mile. In the end, I crossed the line with a time I was very happy with: 35:32.
The post-race party for the Chili Chase is always fun. There's great food - bbq sandwiches, chili, and beer. I had a bite to eat and hung out with friends. Out of curiosity, I checked the results to see where I placed. To my surprise, my effort was good for 34th place... super cool because the race director doesn't do age group awards for this race, but rather gives out awards for the overall top 35! I just made it. Better still, instead of a trophy, I got a bright green travel coffee mug with a chili pepper on it.
It was a great way to spend a Sunday and has me feeling good about the year of racing ahead.