Saturday morning was race number two in the 3W Races Westminster Six Pack series, and I was pretty excited for it. Last time around it had been so snowy that it was really difficult to run, and while it was still not going to be super warm this week, it at least wasn’t going to be so freezing that I thought my fingers would fall off!
After the last race I had sworn that I would wear my big puffy ski gloves for any future winter races, but when I saw that temperatures were going to be in the high 20s/low 30s that seemed practically balmy compared to the low teens that they were in for the last race. So I simply brought a new pair of Mizuno gloves that are specifically made for running in winter, and hoped they would do the trick.
I did a whole bunch of work/cleaning in the morning before the race and suddenly looked up to realize that it was 8:15am and I needed to get going for the 9am start, so I jumped into the car and headed out on my way. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I made it to the race parking lot in less than 15 minutes. The start of the race was closer than I had thought! Although I love where I live, I always feel like it takes me forever just to get out of my big neighborhood and to the highway, so it was nice that this was just a short jaunt on the highway and then basically right there.
The parking lot was jam-packed compared to the last time, and I assumed that meant we were drawing a bigger crowd because of the nicer weather. We turned out to have 30 more people racing than last time, but the reason for the extra cars was actually a dance competition of some kind going in on in the hotel next to the course. I parked my car back in the corner of the lot and headed to the starting area to collect my bib. Packet pickup was a lot faster this time, which was great, since my legs were a little bit chilly in the running tights I was wearing. But I reminded myself that my legs would definitely warm up during the race; it was just my hands that I needed to worry about staying warm.
Since I still had about ten minutes until the start, I decided to head into the hotel lobby to stay warm. There were a bunch of other racers doing the same, and it was a great venue to wait! But finally it got close to 9am so we all headed to the start. The race organizers had announced beforehand that they would be starting the two mile race first, before the 5K, which I was kind of confused by. Generally the shorter race is going to have people who are a little bit newer to running (especially since we were talking about a two miler versus a 5K where there isn’t going to be a huge speed difference), so I was surprised they weren’t starting the 5K first. We started about four minutes after the two milers started. With the crowds ahead in mind, I lined up pretty close to the front in an attempt to avoid a lot of weaving. When it was our time to go, we took off – and I quickly noticed that there was only one girl ahead of me. I was squarely the second-place female, and hoped that I could keep that place up as the race continued. It would be really exciting to move up one place from where I had finished in the last race!
The course on Saturday was so different than the last time around – the pavement was basically dry in most places, although there were a few short little sections of ice to either go around (doable in most cases) or step carefully over (one section of about 50 feet around mile 1). Yippee! This made it so much easier to just run and relax rather than trying to figure out how to pass people in ankle deep snow.
The Mizuno gloves I was wearing were thin, but did a good job keeping my hands warm. The index fingers had little patches that were touchscreen compatible… but my phone is locked with a fingerprint sensor, so that did me no good to get it unlocked! (And my company-required password that I would otherwise type in is 8 characters with capitals, numbers, and symbols… not the easiest to type.) The easiest way to get access to my phone was to take my glove off entirely, but that was kind of a pain so I ended up not looking at my time until the end of the race. I need to remember next time to wear my Garmin on the outside of my jacket so it’s easier to see how I’m doing and pace myself!
Instead, I just watched the girl in front of me as she got a little bit further and further ahead, until the course got so windy that I couldn’t see her at all. This course is definitely not a straight shot, and I found myself thinking about Adam and his constant reminders of the importance of running the tangents on a course like this. I did my best to follow his advice!
At mile 1, the two miler runners turned around, and the course got a lot emptier. But I reminded myself that it was just “one song” until our own turnaround at mile 1.55, and then it felt like I was really close. Does anyone else break a race course up into how many songs it is till the end/a certain mile marker? Of course, songs are all different lengths, but I always assume 3-4 minutes and then round in whichever direction makes me feel good 🙂
And sure enough, less than a song later, I started seeing runners coming back the other way and knew I was getting close to the turnaround. The scenery started to look familiar (maybe one of these races I’ll learn the course?), and I tried to see all the way up to the turnaround to figure out where the first place female was. She was way ahead, but I had a clear view of the turnaround itself, so I watched for her to turn and then counted the seconds until I reached the turnaround in order to figure out how far behind her I was. I got to the turnaround about 20 seconds after her, which meant that I was 40 seconds behind. I was fine with that, and didn’t anticipate trying to catch her.
I spent the next few minutes checking out the people behind me carefully (now that I was turned around). Were there any women who seemed like they might catch up and pass me? The closest one was about thirty seconds behind me, which I thought meant that I was safe… but I did keep checking over my shoulder every few minutes for the rest of the race, just in case 🙂
The way back to the start wasn’t easy (even though I wasn’t really pushing myself to go fast), but it was quick. Despite the fact that I haven’t run a marathon in three years now (!), I still have a marathon mentality where telling me the finish is a mile away feels like I’m basically there. Even when I counted it as “three to four songs from the turnaround,” the time passed pretty quickly. I was really happy to see that this time around, my hands weren’t super cold… though my feet were definitely a little numb. What kind of socks do you all run in when it’s really cold out? I stick with my basic Feetures or sometimes Smartwool socks, but I’m wondering if I ought to change it up to something warmer.
Finally, I rounded a bend and saw the three mile mark – which meant it was just over a bridge, around a bend, and I’d be at the finish. Yippee – I was going to be the second place female! I sped up just a bit to come through the finish chute, and was excited to hear race announcer Jaymie’s voice as I got close. My college friend Claire is an ambassador for 3W races, and I had gone to church once with her and Jaymie, so it was fun to have someone I know welcoming me back to the finish 🙂
After finishing, I was definitely out of breath (probably more from that final sprint than anything else), but not lightheaded/dizzy/dying like I was the last time – so I considered that a big success. And then I went on the app and looked up my time: 23:42, or a full 1:45 faster than my first go around! That’s quite an improvement just from not having to race in the snow, even though I didn’t really try to push the pace to go super fast. I still have been too lazy to actually do some quality training runs (vs just adding on a few easy treadmill miles before or after a gym class), but I’m pleased to have an average pace of under eight minutes per mile even without doing that. And I think my running is going to get a lot more serious in another week or so, when I start hitting the road for work again.
However, when I went to go get my photo taken with the other race podiumers (that seems more honest than “winners” if I came in second, but sounds weird), I learned that part of the reason I had come in second place was that last race’s second place winner switched to the two miler and so wasn’t competing with me. Bummer! But this race’s first place winner and I chatted a little bit at the finish, so now I feel like I’m starting to know her… and will be trying hard to beat her in at least one race in the series 😉 Maybe I can get second place even with those two speedsters on the course? I’m hoping!
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: 23:42 (1:45 faster than Six Pack #1)
Overall place: 8/129 (up one place with a field 20 bigger than Six Pack #1)
Gender place: 2/88 (up one place with a field 7 bigger than Six Pack #1)