Speaking of returning to “the new normal”… this weekend, I was thrilled to convene my friends for my first “party” in over a year. Normally, Cinco de Mayo is a great excuse for me to host dozens of friends to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas. This year, I scaled it back to a party of eight people instead of eighty, but still made all the same dishes. And it was a lot of fun!
I was able to intersperse some party prep into my work day – particularly since I’ve gotten my menu for this party down to a science. I made guacamole while on a conference call in the morning, then baked the chocolate cake (to be the base of the guacamole cake) on another call midday. By the time I wrapped up my work calls at 4pm, I was feeling pretty good about the cooking I still had to do… and feeling great about getting to host my friends!
As I mentioned, I invited a small group of eight friends, most of whom had been a “quaranteam” seeing each other throughout the last year anyway. Everyone was fully vaccinated, which helped ease any concerns, and there had just been new guidance issued that vaccinated people were free to gather. I had a really fun time overall, though I drank a little too much of this super strong sangria… and probably shouldn’t have participated in the round of tequila shots one of my friends handed out toward the end of the night! (In funny news, it’s been so long since I’ve had a shot that I forgot the order of how you’re supposed to do salt, tequila, lime.) But we were all in bed by midnight, with two of my friends staying over in my guest room so they didn’t have to worry about driving.
Although I wish I could have slept in after going to bed at midnight, I instead woke up far too early at 6:30am. Since I always think it’s the sleep you get two nights before the race that really matters, I was annoyed – I wanted a much better night’s sleep than that before my race on Sunday! Oops. After my friends headed home, I spent a while cleaning the house, and then drove around the neighborhood garage sale… but wasn’t really motivated to actually stop at any of the sales. I really didn’t know what I was looking for and I somehow wasn’t very much in the mood to browse. Next year, I need to plan ahead to have friends join me for the bargain hunting; it’s always a lot more fun with friends! Instead, I stopped at a realtor friend’s open house and chatted with her in between visitors.
My afternoon found me picking up my race packet and running some errands, before returning home to read on the couch. Poor Sadie was very confused why we weren’t going for a run, but I was trying to really rest up my legs to have them raring to go on Sunday! I was surprisingly not very hungry for dinner, but finally forced myself to make some fried rice as a way to carb up, before going to bed at 9pm. I hoped this lazy day of rest would pay off on race morning!
I woke up on race morning feeling… unfortunately not great. Although I had gotten a solid nine hours of sleep Saturday night, I believe it’s always the sleep you get two nights before the race that matters, and I had not done well on that front. Luckily, since I had gone to bed at 9pm on Saturday, I easily woke up at 6am, so that gave me plenty of time to wake up and get myself ready for the 8:15am race start.
I made decaf coffee immediately, which helped me hit the bathroom before the race… but I actually ended up hitting the bathroom multiple times before I left. Uh oh… my stomach was definitely not happy. Meanwhile, instead of feeling rested and jazzed up, I felt kind of tired and weak. While I often don’t eat anything before a race, I had a piece of baked oatmeal (plus some TJ’s banana fruit spread) to try to give me some extra energy. Unfortunately, it was… rather tasteless? Yikes. Today might not be my day. After catching up on a bit of work for Monday (so glad to have it done before the race instead of after!), I finally got ready to head to the start.
Since 3W Races are dog-friendly, I had considered bringing Sadie and running with her. (Her first race! Exciting!) But I was torn between doing that and wanting to run on my own, as fast as I could. While Sadie definitely sprints when I take her to the dog park, the majority of our runs are at a 9-10 minute / mile pace. And recently, I’ve been throwing a few pickups into our regular runs, where we’ll do a 0.35 mile loop around Wildflower Park at a 6-7 minute pace, and there have been a few days she’s struggled to keep up with me on that. So for this race, I decided to leave her home and really race it to see what kind of shape I was in, so I can use that to baseline the running season ahead. But poor Sadie was so confused when I put on all my running gear / headphones and then left her at home; I felt really guilty closing the door to the house and leaving her behind 🙁 When I wasn’t feeling great, it then made me reconsider my decision, and perhaps bring Sadie and take it easy, but I decided I would regret it if I didn’t try to race it and see how well I could do.
I listened to old school (2002) Rascal Flatts on my way to the start, since for some reason, “Mayberry” had been in my head all morning, and drank a cup of caffeinated tea as I drove. (I didn’t want to overcaffeinate and be jittery, since I was already feeling weird, which was why I did decaf coffee and then a cup of caffeinated tea rather than just having all caffeinated coffee.) I got to the race about 15 minutes before the start, which was perfect: enough time for one more stop at the porta potty, and then I headed down to line up.
The race announcer said that anyone racing this for placement should start toward the front, but when I got down to the start area, it seemed like everyone was already lined up without there really being socially distant room for another person, so I started about 30 people back. We had been asked to distance ourselves at the start, and were reminded that there was chip timing; however, when the race actually started, I found myself weaving through a bunch of people to get to others at my pace. I ended up being in about third place by the time I made it to where I wanted to be. However, I also knew that I always tend to go fast for the first mile, so assumed I wouldn’t stay there long.
Sure enough, while I hit the first mile in 7:00 exactly, I then settled into a 7:30 pace, finding myself in 9th place from about mile 1.2 to mile 4. (Yes, in small races I count the people ahead of me, but it’s definitely in my head and not out loud!) My splits were 7:28, 7:26, and 7:33… so pretty steady! The turnaround for the out-and-back course (with a little lollipop loop partway through the “back”) was at mile 4.2, and that gave me a good opportunity to see exactly how many people were ahead of me – nine people ahead of me, but one was just barely ahead of me, and I passed her within a quarter mile of the turnaround, giving her a “great job, keep it up” as I did.
That was a sentiment I got to keep repeating a lot, as now I started getting to see all the people who were behind me. I didn’t have a ton of extra energy, but I was able to cheer on at least half of the runners behind me. When I felt too out of breath to verbally cheer, I made sure to at least smile and give a thumbs up to each person I saw. Honestly, it’s kind of selfish too… cheering for other people always puts me in a more positive head space and makes my own running easier!
One mile past the turnaround, we turned right onto the lollipop loop around Metzger Farm Open Space. This was a challenging part for me, and I definitely slowed down – both because of the slight incline we faced going up to the far corner of the loop (Strava says only 21 feet but I swear it’s more than that?!), but also because the terrain changed a bit and wasn’t quite as smooth. To be totally clear, this was definitely no trail race, but even so, I was considerably slower on the dirt track around Metzger Farm than on the paved path of Big Dry Creek! I clocked mile 6 in 8:06, which ended up being my slowest mile of the race. Meanwhile, I hit the 10K mark in 46:52 – pretty respectable, but also about 90 seconds behind where I hit the 10K back in 2019. My goal was to match (or come close) to that time, but I was unfortunately a bit behind.
On the bright side, with the hill behind me, I was able to start picking up the pace a bit – and it was also a nice mental boost to know that I was on the home stretch. Four miles left felt reasonably doable, and I switched my music from a Rascal Flatts country playlist (which I used to listen to in my 2009 marathon days) to a Billy Joel playlist (that has been my racing playlist in more recent years). Mile 7 ticked by in 7:48 and mile 8 in 7:52 – in spite of a 49 foot climb in that mile that I knew would be the last big one of the race. Two miles to go; it was time to throw down and finish strong.
Mile 9 was a good one for me, as I sped up a bit and ended up clocking it in 7:39. Now, it was the final mile, and while I knew I wasn’t going to beat my time from 2019, I also knew I wouldn’t be too far behind. With only two songs to go, I started getting pickier about my playlist. I was skipping forward not really knowing what I was looking for, when I hit on “Summer Highland Falls” – possibly my favorite Billy Joel song of all time, and a great one to help me push the pace while keeping a strong cadence. I was running with a huge smile on my face, and with half a mile to go, I told myself to start pushing now – and ended up with a 6:30 pace for that final half mile. That gave me a final finish time of 1:17:26, or 7:44 / mile – about 10 seconds per mile slower than 2019, but not bad given that it hadn’t felt like it “my day” to race! I was really proud of myself.
I collected my medal and flower (3W Races typically gives a flower to all finishers at this race), but decided I didn’t really want the mini cupcake… or really any food. It was unusual that I ate before the race, and it probably led to better performance, but now I was finding myself not at all hungry (even though I knew I should probably refuel). Not good, when I had my friend Amanda coming over for brunch in just a short while!
But before I could go home and start getting ready for brunch, a check of the race results led me to realize that I had won second place in my age group! So I needed to stick around for a little while until the awards ceremony. I passed the time chatting with two other runners who were waiting for the awards, and we ended up having a lot in common – so we exchanged numbers to perhaps meet up for a run together in the future. I love that it’s starting to be possible to meet new people again!
Distance: 10 miles
Overall place: 8/88
Gender place: 6/85
Age group place: 2/26
Although I still wasn’t hungry after the race, I put together the fixings for avocado toast with radishes, plus some cut fruit – a simple breakfast that was relatively healthy, and that I felt like I could stomach. I had a great time catching up with Amanda, though. She is one of those friends I don’t see often enough, and it always ends up being tricky to find the time to get together, but when I do, I’m so glad and want to do it more often!
I closed my weekend out with some Southeast Asian food for dinner – what was originally supposed to be a Thai night at Busaba became a Vietnamese night at Chez Thuy when Busaba was closed. It was yummy, though, and I think the pho was just what I needed to settle my stomach and warm me up on a rainy and chilly night!